What it is about the menopause that has us running in the opposite direction trying to grab for our youth?
You would have thought my house was under attack when I first started to experience it many years ago. Fearful of the symptoms it brought with it, I repeatedly fought against it, leaving myself in a constant state of anxiety, feeling tired and emotionally out of balance. Why do we resist an inevitable part of life, a transition into another phase? How many other women out there were experiencing the same difficulties as me?
Something I had feared had arrived whether I was prepared for it or not, I feared losing my looks, my shapely figure, worried my husband would trade me in for a younger model, as this seemed to be the fashion now. The biggest fear of all was the inability to have a child, being unable to bring another human being into this world. The cessation of periods meant the end of my childbearing years, a difficult one to come to terms with. I was aware that as part of the process, life itself had taken that decision for me. The reality was this, I could cry about it all day for the next twenty years or I could learn to accept it.
Once I realised this was going nowhere, I stopped fighting against what was a natural part of my life and began to go with the process of change.
The most important question I asked was what can I do to help myself? I began researching and spoke to other women who were in the same position, most if not all were on HRT. As a life coach I was interested to know if any of them had also made lifestyle changes, as it turned out the answer was no.
Determined I didn’t want to go down the route of HRT myself I decided to practice what I preached and took a good look at my own life.
Hot sweats and mood swings were an everyday occurrence. On one occasion when out for dinner with my husband as I tucked into roast beef my face became redder and redder. In the middle of the restaurant I found myself peeling off the jumper I was wearing to reveal a rather skimpy see through vest underneath, much to the amusement from the other diners. My husband just ignored it and carried on eating to save me further redness of face. This was a breakthrough, after that I would always go out armed with a variety of clothing tucked away in my bag, so when the flushes hit me I could slip to the ladies and change into something cooler.
We took to sitting at opposite ends of the living room to have our evening conversations; I was in the throws of hot flushes at the time, so whilst my husband sat huddled over the radiator for warmth, I was sat by an open window breathing a sigh of relief. We were in the depths of a Yorkshire winter and the icy air blasted into the room creating a kind of North Pole effect. Bedtime provoked even more hilarity as I pulled the covers on and off all night kicking my legs in and out depending on the severity of heat I was feeling. He on the other side of the bed was tucked up tightly in an apple pie fashion, terrified I would take the sheets of him. I relentlessly went through my linen cupboard donating all my old flannelette sheets to charity and replacing them with crisp cool cotton ones, bliss!
I was beginning to look for other positive ways to improve my quality of life. It took some time but I finally realised that by labelling what I saw as the dreaded menopause I was making it just that. So I changed my attitude towards it, stopped calling it the dreaded, and accepted it as a part of life, instead of pushing it away.
What a step forward this was, yes I was still having the flushes but because of my change in attitude I suddenly didn’t mind anymore. Rather than seeing them as the enemy, I allowed the sensations to just happen. If this scares you believe me there is nothing to fear, I had adopted a yes approach to the menopause that I found worked. Once this happened I wanted to make further improvements. Being a life coach helped me to re evaluate where I was in my own life. I began focusing my energies on what other positive steps I could take and made some lifestyle changes which were of enormous benefit.
I loved been outdoors in nature so I would regularly go for a walk, sometimes I would take the car to somewhere beautiful and just sit in the fresh air. I took a picnic with me so I could spend the afternoon there. I had a favourite book to read and really gave myself the- me time I needed. Having worked with women for a number of years I knew from experience that we can be guilty of not allowing ourselves the time and space to cultivate our own needs, as we tear about looking after kids, partner and pets.
It’s important to do things you enjoy, whether it’s gardening, walking, dancing, whatever feels right for you. It’s a time for listening to the wisdom of your own body, in other words letting your body speak to you; it will let you know by the way you feel, and if you listen it will pay dividends.
Never be afraid to try something new, the menopause has been a time of exciting change for me. I have written a novel, begun Pilate’s and tai chi started to grow my own vegetables, and rescued chickens, all things which have given me great satisfaction and pleasure. I found a new interest in food and what it was doing to my body. I spend time in the supermarket reading labels as I want to know what I am eating and as far as budget will allow I buy organic vegetables, particularly in winter when I can’t grow my own. I want to minimise any chemicals in my body.
I sourced a local box scheme which introduced me to seasonal vegetables rather than eating out of season, this inspired me to get creative in the kitchen. Roasted butternut squash with herbs and garlic sprinkled with sunflower seeds is a firm favourite. I have experimented with pulses, introducing new ones into my diet gradually. Far from being boring, they livened up dishes, which I proudly test on my husband, who often raises an eyebrow, muttering under his breath about where his steak and kidney pie is!
I was adapting to my new life, finding confidence in my abilities. I was realising I could either make it harder on myself or I could view it as it was, the beginning of something new in the book of life. There are many things out there to help with some of the discomforts of the menopause, homeopathy being just one them, I found it to be of great help. Make sure it feels right for you and you choose a practitioner you feel comfortable with.
One of the best ways to help yourself is to try and have a positive mental attitude, not always easy I know. Try and focus on all the good things in life, be grateful for what you already have, it’s the small things that make the difference. Don’t lose sight of the fact you can still live life to the full. Take the opportunity to turn it into something good. Talk to friends who can empathise with you, talk to your partner. If you feel uptight about things, be honest; don’t be afraid to express yourself, you might be amazed at what happens.
A word on meditation or relaxation, don’t underestimate the power of it. This can be a wonderful way to help yourself if you are willing to give it a try. I have been meditating for many years and wouldn’t be without it, the health benefits are enormous, and very positive indeed. For me it is as much part of my daily life as putting on lipstick before going to work. If you hate the idea of sitting at home to do this there are some good groups around, and they will give you the support you need to get you started.
Last but not least be kind to yourself, we don’t get it right all of the time, and we don’t have to be perfect, but we can learn to live with the menopause, and make it a positive transition, rather than seeing it as the end of our lives. Invest in the help of a coach who can support you to make the changes you want to make. As someone very close to me always, says. It’s work in progress.