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The art of listening to what your tummy is telling you

Even though there’s much debate over whether women can really “have it all,” let’s face it: we’re always going to ignore the naysayers and go after exactly what we want. It’s how we roll.

However, our enthusiasm often gets the best of us: wanting it all translates to wanting it all at the same time. While donning our Superwoman capes we overextend ourselves, putting our health (and sanity) at risk. The line blurs between what we really want and what we feel obligated to want, and we lose touch with our instincts.

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“One of our biggest sources of stress is the proverbial mouth says ‘yes,’ stomach says, ‘yikes,'” says Tamar Chansky, Ph.D., author of Freeing Yourself from Anxiety: 4 Simple Steps to Overcome Worry and Create the Life You Want. Your brain and gastrointestinal system are closely connected, so when you’re feeling anxious or stressed it will often lead to an upset stomach. Eventually, it becomes a vicious cycle: your anxiety will cause you to focus on your tummy troubles, which will further amplify your anxiety.

Consider your stomach a built-in alarm system that’s telling you to stop taking on so much. If your day-to-day routine and obligations are making Gravol your most prized possession, it’s time to literally start “going with your gut.” Here’s how:

1. Say “I’ll get back to you” instead of “yes”

The most important first step is to stop saying yes to everything. However, you don’t want to hastily say no if it’s an opportunity you might sincerely be interested in. By saying, “I’ll get back to you,” you’ll be able to calm down after the ambition-related adrenaline rush, and make an informed decision based on your time limitations.

Picture what your life will be like if you accept the opportunity/offer: how do you feel? Are you feeling pleasant butterflies or unpleasant queasiness? Now picture letting the opportunity go. Are your gut and mind agreeing with each other? Keep ruminating until they’re on the same page. As you get into the habit of doing this, your boundaries will become clearly defined and immediate answers will no longer be challenging.

2. Make a time budget

Much like a financial budget, create a monthly calendar that dedicates “units” of time for exercising, socializing, relaxing, working and spending time with your family. Put your gut into practice as you’re creating your ideal time budget: if you feel panicky and nauseous about how it’s laid out, it’s likely you’ve made a budget based on your obligations, not on your instincts.

Keep listening, keep tinkering. Your gut will act as a trigger, helping you to avoid making the same mistakes. This exercise will help heighten your awareness in real time — when someone tries to add something to your plate and it conflicts with your budget, the relief in your gut after you say no will become a welcome reward.

3. Initiate a “give and take” sequence

We often say yes to so much we don’t factor in the time we’ll need to eat, sleep or rejuvenate. This makes it difficult for us to listen to our gut and create boundaries, since feeling tense, uncomfortable and queasy becomes our status quo.

Use mindfulness and remain in the moment as you tackle your daily to-do lists: what are the tasks you look forward to the most, and which ones cause you the most dread? Over time, give up the tasks you dread and take on more you love. As much as you think you don’t have a choice, especially with work-related tasks, the opposite is true. There’s always a solution — your gut says so.

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