Sharing Menopause stories & the key to creating healthy change- self- compassion

I was delighted to be invited to speak at the bi- monthly Action Menopause Warwickshire group last week. I decided to share the lessons I have learnt from my own Menopause Journey. I also shared simple techniques that might help other women navigate their own Menopause Journey.

My aim was to offer a different perspective on the Menopause.

Many women can struggle with a variety of symptoms in the Menopause, and it is often viewed as quite a negative period in a women’s life and often a cause of dread for those who have yet to experience it. ‘Action Menopause Warwickshire’ was set up to offer women access to fantastic clinical advice from Nurses who are experts in their field. During the meetings they share the best treatment options for the wide variety of symptoms women experience, and it is invaluable for women who are struggling to get the help they need.

I am a grateful recipient of HRT these days and also hugely benefitted from CBT when I was struggling from a variety of psychological symptoms of early Menopause.

However, at the time I was always looking outside of myself for solutions because I felt like so much of it was outside of my control. It was only when I started learning more about myself and what worked best for me personally, and taking action myself did I start to feel so much better…

For me that was about taking the time to pause, to start offering myself a little bit of self-compassion and learning how to reduce or manage my stress better.

I will share suggestions for how you might be able to do this, but firstly I thought I would share my story and the lessons I learnt along the way…

My story

I feel a little foolish when I reflect on my own Menopause Journey. I had an early Menopause. My Mum and my Nanna had both experienced it, so I wasn’t surprised when it was confirmed by the GP in my early forties. However, my plan was to just ‘crack on’ with it, and not ‘make a fuss’ and that was my approach for several years. I didn’t think to learn more about the Menopause, or how I might manage it better myself.

However, unfortunately this approach didn’t serve me well at all!

I was frequently on the verge of tears, and often felt anxious and overwhelmed. I suffered from terrible insomnia and consequently often felt very low, and I had lost all confidence in myself.

This led to feelings of shame and embarrassment. I often felt crippled with self-doubt, worrying about what other people thought of me. I had really lost all perspective of life. My husband would say ‘what if something awful happened? How would you cope then’?

Luckily for me it all changed when I watched the Mariella Frostrop program in 2018.

It was the first time I’d really taken the time to learn and understand more about the Menopause and it was like she was describing me…

She said, ‘I had insomnia, anxiety, low mood, low confidence for 2 years and then I took HRT, and everything changed.’

Thinking back, I don’t think I really understood that these psychological symptoms I had been experiencing were actually really common menopause symptoms, but I just used to feel really embarrassed and ashamed as I’d explain to friends that I was feeling so low and anxious all the time. Because I had an early menopause, I didn’t really know anyone else who was experiencing it at the time…

So, finally the penny started to drop. It was like she was describing me as she spoke and suddenly, I wasn’t going mad. There was nothing fundamentally wrong with me. I had a hormone deficiency and there might be a solution for it.

Finally, I was learning more about it… I didn’t have to just crack on with it and hope it would go away any more…

I also at last learned more about HRT and how it wasn’t this terrible thing to be avoided at all costs.

However, there is another side to the story because I did a lot of other things as well.

Luckily my kind boss at the Nuffield suggested I go for some CBT, which I did for a couple of months. It took time and I don’t actually think it was until after I finished it did I realise the really powerful impact it had on me. However now I understand clearly, because like everything in life it takes time to practice these techniques!

My work these days is very much about habit change, and it takes time and patience to build any habit.

I also help people to reduce or manage their stress better because this has such a huge impact on our health, especially during the Menopause.

Stress causes inflammation in the body and this disrupts our hormones which can exacerbate all our symptoms. Stress can come from many different sources. However, I hadn’t realised at the time that a huge cause of my own stress was the self- critical voice in my own head!

These days helping women to develop self-compassion is a critical part of my role, and I think this brilliant quote by Mel Robbins explains why it is so important:

Researchers at the University of Hertfordshire did a study on things that create happiness and satisfaction….

‘That study concluded that the number one predictor of how happy and satisfied you could be was self- acceptance….”.

‘…yet self-acceptance is what we practice the least.’

‘You’ll drink the kale smoothie, go to the gym, get up earlier, cut out gluten, and meditate and the entire time beat yourself up about the fact that you are still not doing it right….

That’s why being kind to yourself is what really matters.’


Lessons learnt.

I would like to sum up what I learnt from my own journey in 4 words, inspired by Gabor Mate’s brilliant work on the 7 a’s of healing. I have borrowed 3 A’s and added another of my own!

Awareness, Acceptance, Attachment, and Action.


I am hoping that you have seen that my ‘just crack on with it and hope it all just goes away approach’ was not very helpful at all.

Awareness is crucial when we are facing any change in life, and it all starts with finding the pause.

So much of my work is about creating space for people to get clarity on what they need in any given moment, and when you take moments for yourself to listen to yourself you will find that you intuitively know what you need. It all starts with carving out the time and space to do that; that all important ‘pause’.

I would really urge you to start to create moments in your day to pause and check in with yourself. This will give you an opportunity to simply notice how you are feeling and to become aware of how you might be talking to yourself. This will be different for everyone, but can be anything from a short meditation, a quick body scan, or a mindful reflective cuppa or short stroll in nature.

My day always starts with a short meditation and a short journaling practice which helps me to get clear on ‘What is really important today’ This can be very powerful for developing a sense of calm and reducing overwhelm.


To me this is the self- compassion piece; for many women, going through the menopause can be really challenging. However, it is not going to go away if we ignore it and pretend its not happening. If we can offer ourselves some gentle compassion and kindness, we will find it much easier to navigate. Again, it is important to do this in any way that feels comfortable to you.

My morning routine includes writing down positive affirmations and my evening routine ends with writing down ‘What went well’. They have become two very simple tiny habits in my daily routine, but the impact is very powerful because I now have a running commentary in my head that frequently reminds me ‘I always do my best and my best is always enough’. it is never about perfection; it is simply about always being ‘enough’. You might prefer to simply start a habit of writing down 3 kind things about yourself each day. If this is tricky you could imagine what a good friend might say about you and start there.

It is so important to acknowledge yourself for a job well done, however small, and to give yourself a metaphorical or physical pat on the back. You could even do a little victory dance as recommended by the brilliant Dr David Hamilton!

Do whatever works for you but repeat it often so it becomes a habit.

Repeating any act of self-compassion creates new neural pathways and will create a positive self-compassionate mindset that will lead to a calmer, happier and more contented you. Please take a moment to ponder on this.

‘How you think determines how you feel, and how you feel determines how you act.’

A self-compassionate mindset is critical when embarking on creating healthy change in your life, because we will never make sustainable change if we do not believe that our needs are important.

I always ask my clients the impact taking care of themselves will have on them and the other important people in their lives as it is important to be clear why we are trying to create change.

However, it also crucial that they make time to celebrate the little wins along the way.

I frequently ask my clients ‘how did you celebrate yourself?’

The dangers of self- sabotage

Practicing affirmations and celebrating yourself are often alien concepts for people to get their heads around.

However, it is crucial because self-criticism will only lead one way and that is to self-sabotage. When we think negative thoughts about ourselves, we feel bad about ourselves, and we are likely to make unhealthy lifestyle choices because we don’t deserve to ‘feel good’/ ‘be happy’ ‘…’ you fill in the blanks.


I feel strongly about this one which is why a lot of my work is about bringing people together. Please reach out and get support from a friend, or a professional, or group when you need it. CBT changed everything for me and enabled me to get back that much needed perspective. I am always grateful for all the wonderful people in my life and my gratitude practice is always very ‘people heavy’. Strong social connections are a vital part of my health and wellbeing, so I take time to nurture my relationships with family and friends.


I have come a very long way from that anxious/self-critical version of myself, but it is still an ongoing journey that takes work… but I developed tiny habits that support me on a daily and weekly basis and these have become habits that serve me well because they are what I do without thinking about them….


It is important to offer ourselves compassion when we are struggling, but it is also important to develop coping strategies that serve us because if we take ourselves down a rabbit hole and into a spiral of negativity this is also not helpful either.  If we dwell upon these challenges without taking action, we are simply not going to feel any better.

However, it doesn’t have to be complicated!  The key to successful habit change is to do something meaningful and enjoyable, to make it as small and easy as possible, but to do it consistently. It is when we do tiny things repeatedly that they become a habit, and this is where change happens. This is not a quick- fix method. It is a gentle nurturing approach.

So, your starting action could simply be carving out time for that important pause to reflect on how you are and what you need. Hopefully this will give you an opportunity to reflect on how your current level of self-compassion and how you might start to change, one gentle step at a time. Please reach out for support with this if you need it because it can take time to change the habit of a lifetime…

When you start to treat yourself with more kindness and compassion you will start to appreciate just how important it is to learn how to reduce or manage your stress, because everything in life is more challenging when we are living in the stress response. It is vital that you take time out at least once a week to do something that helps you to unwind and recharge.

Relaxation will look very different to different people. However popular ways that many of the women I have helped include:

  1. Reading
  2. Listening to music
  3. Exercise
  4. Spending time in nature
  5. Taking a warm candlelit bath
  6. Spending time with friends
  7. Taking time to nurture your creative side.


There are also many practices that can help you to manage your nervous system daily, and that includes breathwork practices. During my session at Action Menopause, I shared a short breathwork practice which included the 4-4 balancing breath, heart focused breathing and affirmations, and taking just 2 minutes to do this every day will have a very powerful effect on your physiology and switch off the stress response.

To Conclude

I hope some of these ideas are helpful to you. With every coaching session I run, I encourage people to create one tiny action step that resonates with them or to create an alternative one of their own, and to repeat it as often as possible until it becomes a habit.

I would love to invite you to do the same.

I hope I have shown you that there are so many things you can do support yourself on this Menopause Journey, and that you can see that all starts with awareness. That little pause to reflect on what it is you need…

I also hope that you have seen the incredible benefits of treating yourself with a little more kindness. It has the power to change everything.

When I look back on the feedback from my clients, developing self-compassion is very often key to success when it comes to healthy habit change.

As one of my previous clients expressed beautifully:

The key learning for me from this course has been self-compassion.

I’ve spent years giving myself a hard time about my shortcomings and to date this approach has not exactly yielded much in the way of positive outcomes.

By being gentler and more accepting of myself instead of trying to fix certain things now holds so much more value for me.

It means I’m not constantly listening to that critical little voice that natters away in my head.

Instead, I’m recognising these thoughts so I can stop them in their tracks and reframe them in a more positive perspective.’

I will leave you with the wise words of a the very brilliant Charlie Mackesy

Being kind to yourself is one of the greatest kindnesses.’

Please do get in touch if you have any questions or feedback.

If you would like to attend the next Action Menopause meeting in May, please do send them an email to reserve your place. There will be nurses will be on hand with expert clinical advice and  a talk from the brilliant local Reflexologist Anna Rivers,

In the meantime, thank you for reading.

Please take good care of yourselves,

Harriet x




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