Well, that’s just it. It’s our lives that are out of whack - really. Thankfully, our bodies are remarkably resilient - adapting to the many fluctuations and stressors our modern lives present. Until they don’t.
What if I told you that the early warnings of depletion and too much borrowing from “Petra to give to Paula” can be seen visually long before the body sends us a message via ‘symptoms’ of distress. (Hello, PMS, perimenopausal symptoms and more! ). Im not talking about hormone tests or x-rays or MRI’s. Im talking about a low tech ‘visual aid’ that allows you to see and discern, on a daily basis, if your body is functioning just as it should.
And here’s the kicker: in the process of learning to create this visual aid (yes, it’s self generated) you develop skills that support your health for the rest of your life. You don't have to wait for your body to start malfunctioning to begin.
So what is it, this ‘visual aid’?
Simply put, it’s charting your body’s ‘events’ to get a remarkably accurate and detailed picture of your current (and future) health. You do this by generating a visual of your hormonal profile (and thus overall reproductive and general health, too). The beauty is that it’s not a one time snapshot (like hormone tests) but an ongoing, interactive, biofeedback tool that simultaneously deepens your relationship with and understanding of your body.
This tool, aka body literacy*, is designed to grow with you as you move through the different stages of your hormonal life.
In the ideal world, body literacy
So in the ideal world, body literacy would begin at puberty, support a young woman through the her first hormonal transition through adolescence, setting her up with an understanding and appreciation of her body. As with all the hormonal phases of her life, she will learn what she can do to have ease in her monthly cycles (PMS needn’t be endured, and in fact is a distress signal from the body).
In the reproductive years
Body literacy in the reproductive years (20-35) allows a woman to maintain optimum health as reflected in regular periods, smooth pre-menstruation and menstruation, healthy skin, stamina, restorative rest, balanced emotions and the like.
It also gives her an intimate knowledge of her fertility - so she knows where she is in her cycle, when she ovulates, when her cycle deviates from her normal pattern, and why that’s happening. In this way she tracks her health and fertility, so that she’s not surprised later to learn that she has been depleted hormonally without knowing it.
In addition, and this is a HUGE one, she develops confidence in knowing at any time when she’s fertile and when she’s not. She then has the option of using her body literacy to practice natural birth control, avoiding hormonal birth control options that suppress her endocrine system. (At best they can make her feel crappy and lower her libido and at worst they can compromise her fertility and reproductive health).
She’ll also have an embodied awareness of her fertility to make important career/family decisions, avoiding the regrets that so many modern women feel when they haven’t tended to their reproductive health and/or arrive at perimenopause without warning.
A smooth perimenopause is possible
In our ideal scenario, a body literate woman notices she is perimenopausal somewhere between 35-45 - when her hormone profile begins to change, usually long before her period starts changing or skipping. If she hasn’t already tended to her hormonal balance, her body will begin sending her messages in the form of symptoms.
Our modern lives are stressful. I know this is ‘normal’ for many of us, and many of us feel there is no way around all these stresses. We have demands on our time and energy from our families, our relationships, our jobs - we are ‘on’ all day until we collapse in front of the TV or in bed at night, only to start over the next day.
From our hormones' perspective, as the stresses continue, our bodies need to produce more and more stress hormones to maintain this state of ‘chronic’ stress and it starts to ‘borrow’ from our sex hormone production, as well as overtaxes our thyroids and adrenals. If we are ‘lucky’ enough to make it to perimenopause without visible signs of depletion, you can expect, as our hormones shift into non-reproductive mode, for these symptoms to call for your attention.
Body literacy at this time can mean the difference between enduring symptoms that can make us feel crazy and/or disrupt our lives and having a smooth transition through perimenopause into a healthy, sustaining menopause and beyond. Charting our symptoms and what’s happening in our bodies shows us the dietary, lifestyle and stress management adjustments we need to make. They also serve as a powerful biofeedback tool that inspire us to actually make these changes.
Having empowering choices
As we know, if a woman doesn't want to rely solely on consultations with her doctor but wants to take a more pro-active role with her health, she has to sort through a lot of confusing and often conflicting information.
Charting and body literacy empower her to understand the causes of hormonal imbalance she finds, and give her non-invasive, restorative, sustaining and natural options that affect her physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.
Here's what I find, with others and myself: charting is good, clean fun. Staying attuned to your body as an investment in
the future, hmm, it doesnt get better than that, right?