As a health coach I am passionate about empowering people to take back control of their health with their lifestyle choices.
Undoubtedly though, there are times during our lives when this can be particularly challenging, and for many women this can be around the perimenopause and menopause. However, it is even more important that women do take the time to take care of themselves more during this time!
With more awareness and information, I truly believe women can make choices and create simple habits that will enable them to transition through this time with much more ease, energy, and enjoyment, and that is the aim of my new ‘Empower yourself in the Menopause’ coaching program.
I want to help women to feel able to feel heard and supported, and to bring them together with other women to share stories and experiences. I want them to have a more positive and nurturing experience of the perimenopause and menopause, where they discover tools for self- care and well-being, and start to tune into their own intuition and make choices and take actions in alignment with what they want and need.
Mostly I want to encourage them to slow down and to be kinder to themselves, because quite simply life is so much easier and enjoyable when they do! However, I also want to help reduce or manage the levels of anxiety that can be caused by the many and varied symptoms.
So, what is the perimenopause and menopause?
‘By your late thirties or early forties, something is changing with your body and more particularly, with your brain, and it can feel bewildering, frustrating, and liberating all at the same time. The change is not a single event, but a process called the perimenopause, which is two to twelve years before your periods stop….’
‘…It is a sequence of events beginning with low progesterone with temporarily high oestrogen, and concluding with low oestrogen, and changes to insulin metabolism.’
Lara Briden ND
Prevention is so much better than treatment.
I think it is so important to make women aware of the significance of this transitional period. Lara Briden in her brilliant book, ‘Hormone Repair Manual’, explains that the perimenopause can last anything from 2-12 years. It is so crucial that women are aware of this because as we all know, prevention is so much better than treatment, and many women can suffer needlessly. So many women are still not aware of this critical period called the perimenopause, and therefore often don’t associate any confusing symptoms they might be experiencing with their changing hormones.
I think a common feeling for those who are struggling is the feeling of ‘losing control’, and many women seek support because they simply don’t feel ‘themselves.’
It is not surprising because huge physiological changes are occurring in the body. I read somewhere that oestrogen is like chocolate… meaning it is used by so many different organs and systems of the body! It is therefore not surprising that a reduction in this hormone that has served so many functions in the body causes such widespread symptoms….
Every woman is different, but symptoms include the familiar hot flushes, night sweats, brain fog, and changing periods. However, they also include mood changes, fatigue, and insomnia, worsening migraines, joint pain, heart palpitations, breast changes, changes to hair, skin and nails, weight gain, loss of libido, and urinary problems. The changing hormones also make us more susceptible to long term conditions, such as osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease!
That is a very long list of symptoms and challenging enough! However, what is also important to consider is the impact these symptoms can have on all different areas of a women’s life. Many of these symptoms can lead to embarrassment in work and social situations, and the very common psychological symptoms of low confidence, anxiety, and low mood can really impact our relationships, our work, our social life, and simply ability to enjoy life, with significant consequences. It can lead some women to walk away from careers they have built up over many years and to the breakdown of marriages and relationships.
The menopause expert, Dr Louise Newson talks often of how many women she sees for distressing psychological symptoms, and the devastating impact this has on women’s lives. She has done amazing work to increase awareness and has created some brilliant tools to support women including the Balance App, which helps women to track their symptoms so that they are more empowered. I would really recommend that women seek out this free resource.
Having greater awareness of what is happening is therefore vital to help us to make choices that will enable us to move through this transition so much easier.
Dr Briden explains how the organs need to re-calibrate during the menopause: the brain, the immune system, the cardiovascular system all need to adapt to these changing hormones.
She also explains how this time can make us vulnerable to several different chronic diseases, which is why it so crucial that women really focus on their health and wellbeing and take better care of themselves.
‘Perimenopause and early years of the menopause as a critical window for health… a sensitive period during which time small health problems could if not addressed, amplify into larger and more permanent health problems later in life… it also gives a window of opportunity to make smaller changes that could pay huge dividends for your future health.’
However, it doesn’t have to be complicated, and this is where creating healthy lifestyle habits can be so valuable! I know many wise yoga teachers, and during my early menopause I vividly remember advice given to me by one of them…which was to slow down, take more baths, and make time to enjoy a cuppa with friends. This was the most brilliant advice!
Lara Briden also quite simply she states
‘ Your body needs to slow down, and if you can’t find a way to do that, your body will find one for you.
As I have learnt more about the menopause, I have also learnt for the first time the changes that occur in the women’s menstrual cycle from Sally Beaton’s brilliant book, ‘Get your sparkle back’. Again, this is another example of where greater knowledge is powerful. You see as women we are not supposed to be living life in the fast lane all the time. If we start to tune into our bodies changing hormones (the cycle), we will find that at certain times in the month we naturally have more energy, whilst at other times, we need to slow down and rest. It can be helpful for women to understand how to work with these fluctuating hormones, and for those post- menopausal women they can still live in tune with these cycles by living to the moon cycles which are also reflective of the menstrual cycle.
The start of the menstrual cycle or new moon (when a period ends) is described as ‘spring’…as hormone levels increase gradually so does our energy and mood, and we can make choices that reflect this growing energy. Then, as hormones levels surge in the ovulation/ Full moon phase, we enter the energetic ‘summer phase’ which is a good time to enjoy increased activity and to socialise as we will thrive around others! However, this is then followed by a gradual fall in hormones in the Luteal phase/ or the ‘waning moon’, and we can adapt by gradually slowing down. And finally… we enter the menstrual phase where hormones are at their lowest, the moon is completely hidden from sight, and we can respond by enjoying a restful reflective time.
I personally find the whole thing fascinating and would encourage you to read more in this brilliant book.
What it really encourages us to do is to start to tune into our intuition. Often if we allow ourselves time to pause, we often know what we need.
I believe it all begins with awareness and acceptance. Women need to acknowledge that the menopause causes real physiological changes in the body, that this can cause really challenging symptoms, and it is OK to ask for help!
So many of us have been conditioned with the ‘stiff upper lip’ approach to life… and taught to push down or ignore challenges we might have, and I believe this is so unhelpful!
If women are given the opportunity to express their concerns, the solution is often not as complicated as it might first appear, and there are so many small simple things that we can all do to look after our own health and well-being.
I am really looking forward to exploring this more with the ladies in my coaching program and sharing simple tools and techniques that will help them to find more ease, energy, and enjoyment they so fully deserve!