Our bodies are trying to communicate with us, but are we listening?
By Ariel Yokota MACN
Women’s health is a vast subject, and yet something that women themselves pay little attention to. Our bodies, right from the time we’re born, are constantly undergoing major changes. Puberty, pregnancy, childbirth, menopause and so on. These changes don’t just affect women physically, but mentally and emotionally too, and often bring with them women-specific illnesses or health issues.
As a woman, I know the way I choose to live my life affects my health, directly and indirectly. I want to live a life where I am not only healthy, but I feel ‘well’. To do this, I consider my health status from a holistic approach and look at every area, i.e. physical health, mental health, level of vitality, relationships, family life, personal life and work life. All these aspects of life are intertwined with what I eat, how I exercise, what I do for self-care.
Proactive versus reactive
What I’ve observed in my time working as a nurse is that women tend to have little consideration of their health status until an illness or ailment comes to their attention, like acute or chronic pain, extreme period pain, a diagnosis of endometriosis, polycystic ovaries, a tumour, a sexually transmitted disease – the list could go on.
So, the questions I’m asking are: Why don’t we make conscious efforts to live well so that we can feel well most of the time? Why, despite being the most intelligent species on the planet, are we the only ones who knowingly choose eating or drinking habits that have an adverse effect on our health?
Most importantly, why are we reactive rather than proactive? Why wait until an ailment becomes a reality to cure it? Of course, we cannot compare the life of a human to that of a wild animal; however, we have to consider that although we can speak multiple languages, build skyscrapers, create jobs and run an industrial world, we still sacrifice our health, unlike any other creature.
Mind and body awareness
I know I like to examine what things in life are good for my body and what aren’t. In doing this, I choose what I need from a connection to my body; I don’t do it just because everyone else is or because it’s common knowledge. Every woman has a different body. What’s healthy for me needn’t be right for someone else. The amount of exercise I need may vary from what another woman needs. The only way to know is for each woman to develop a relationship with her own body and allow its intelligence to inform her. If you’re wondering how, think about it: Have you noticed there are certain foods you eat that make you feel bloated, trigger a reaction such as a stuffy nose or a phlegmy throat, give you a heartburn, or increase your weight?
These symptoms are your body’s intelligence that’s trying to tell you what’s working for it and what is not. Paying attention to my body means eating foods I know nourish my body, eating enough but not too much, exercising gently and regularly, going for walks and resting when I’m tired. Over time, you will find that if you respond to your body’s cues, it heightens your sense of wellbeing too. A healthy body is the first step towards holistic wellness.
Wellbeing through engagement
For humans, social engagement is just as important for nourishment as food. I know that the way I speak and engage with others has an impact on my sense of wellness. Have you noticed that you feel drained after talking to a particular person or about a specific subject?
On the other hand, you always end up feeling good when you have a great conversation or just a fun gossip with a friend. Having conversations that lift you and others is vital for a more holistic health approach. On top of my own experience of what it’s like to truly love your body, as I study disease concepts and pathophysiology as an undergraduate registered nurse, it only increases my appreciation for the human body, and I can say that my body is more intelligent than I am. Our bodies are always communicating with us. If we listen, we can prevent illnesses. If we choose to ignore the signs, they will eventually stop us in our tracks, forcing us to deal with the problem.
As women rise and claim their rightful place as leaders in health care and leaders in communities, they must also declare their right to love their bodies again with no reservation! Taking the lead on one’s health is one of the most inspiring forms of empowerment women can have. When this becomes the new normal, who knows what the illness and disease statistics will be?