As I heard the words 'surgical menopause' followed by a description of 'how difficult my mother was when I just asked for a glass of milk when she was going through the menopause' my initial thought was oh no, my life as I know it is going to change for the worse.
Then I thought, hang on a minute.....
In the group work I facilitated on healthy relationships, for the criminal justice system, there was an exercise where the group were asked to 'bust beliefs' that have been created by our society. We would look at how women and men were defined by the culture in which they live. Trust me the 'labels' that came up about women were not always positive.
This got me thinking. I had been going through the peri-menopause and the surgical menopause was going to drop me right in it rapidly! However even before I had the chance to consider this new change I was aware of the negative connotations that exist. In our household it is more likely to be a glass of oatmilk but still!
So I decided to write this article on re-inventing the menopause to inspire others hopefully with some of my experiences on a personal level and in my role as a performance and wellbeing coach.
Menopause to me was a construct that already came with it's labels. The term menopause comes from the Greek with 'menos' meaning month and 'pausos' an ending. It was coined in 1821 by French physician Charles Pierre Louis De Gardanne (la ménépausie). Did I want to go through an ending of my months? I was 47! No chance. To me it felt like I was entering a 'new phase' which in Greek is 'néa fási' or in Latin 'novus tempus'. It feels like a new beginning in many ways just like when we first start our periods and celebrate.
Why not celebrate our 'new phase'? We can choose how we define ourselves. So here I am re-inventing the menopause. I hope some of my ideas prove useful to you, your daughters, your partners, your friends or if you are lucky enough to get to really talk to colleagues, your workplace.
Embody our super-power
If we think of the 'power surges' that rush through our body when our levels of oestrogen fall as a natural part of this 'new phase' of life our anxiety levels with this change drop. I don't personally like the term 'hot flushes' and thinking of it as a 'power surge' helps us to tune into our super powers. Look at what we are managing, we are alive, our bodies are strong we are entering a new phase which is different and when we sweat at night it can be a pain. However we are alive and we can tune into our bodies and remember that we are incredible, our body does a million and one functions a day, this is just one of them. The advantages of the heat when it comes are that we actually need less clothing and can layer up which can look really awesome. We need to pay for less heating! We can envisage ourselves on a sandy beach. When we are hot on a beach what do we do? We take relaxing breaths, we take off some clothes, we reach for a long cool drink. When you envisage it in this way it makes it much easier than fighting it.
Work on normalising cortisol levels
Dr Chatterjee in his book 'The 4 Pillar Plan - how to relax, eat, move, sleep - your way to a longer, healthier life' mentions the importance of normalising cortisol levels through meditation, sectioning off me-time on a daily basis and switching to a wholefood diet as a way to reduce stress. When we are stressed we make cortisol which detracts from the body's ability to make oestrogen and progesterone.
Use our experience
Think back to when we were teenagers. We were often at our outwardly most beautiful, fresh faced and ready to face the world but also encumbered by fears of fitting in, looking good, showing off our bodies. As we move into this new phase of our lives we are more likely to know what looks good on us, what we want in bed, in work, in our dinner and in the hairdressers. So we can put that to good use and see getting older as also getting wiser and more confident.
Use our wisdom
So often as our hormones go all over the place we can feel a total fog around our ability to think, especially as our sleep is often affected. We can also become more clumsy at this time in our lives. So as one of our 'super powers' drops so others increase.
An interesting article in Business Insider explained how research into how intelligence changes as we get older demonstrated that skills such as our fluid intelligence - the ability to recall information and think quickly - peaks at 18 and then reduces over our lifespan. However other abilities such as empathy, recalling recent events improve until we are 30 and our ability to do maths and use a larger vocabulary do not reach their apex until 50.
Have a think about the wealth of skills and knowledge that we have as we age. It's pretty incredible.
Make change work
So you might be thinking this all sounds really positive and we know that dealing with all the changes that this time in our lives can bring can be really tricky. Hormones all over the place, 'brain fog', body dryness, hot sweats and other symptoms can make it super difficult for women. However if we can turn it around to a positive in any shape or form we can still enjoy our days. It can be used to help us to take stock of where we are and where we want to be. This might be the time to take up something new.
If we have a baby for example it is life changing and we often make radical changes in our lives then. I took up bellydancing when my daughter was born in 2003.
In 2020 I have decided to set up #sparklebellydance workshops! I would probably not have done this had I now realised that it's time for a change. If interested in finding out more about my tips for change have a read of my blog on how to be confident about change.
There are some amazing herbs out there. Just a note before you read this section that this is some of the helpful nutrition that I have discovered but I am not a Dr or medically trained! Stimulants such as caffeine, and non refined sugar and alcohol can have a negative effect on our bodies, especially if we are having 'power surges' and a lack of sleep. We are all different so it is worth experimenting to see what works. I highly recommend CBD oil for managing anxiety, coconut water for hot flushes, sea buckthorn to increase mucous membranes and as a really lovely alternative to alcohol with aphrodisiac and feel good factors social elixir and nightcap from https://threespiritdrinks.com/.
Our vaginas are for life
We get told about vaginal atrophy, dryness and all sorts of words that create a need for us as women to change the established perception of post menopausal sexuality for women and create a new positive rhetoric! What do we know? There is likely to be some changes to our vaginas when we have less oestrogen such as thinning of the walls but our bodies are still incredible. In coaching I can cover sexual identity, respect and sexual happiness. Recognising how amazing we are is part of that process and viewing our changes in a way that means we can still enjoy our bodies. A good lubricant can be helpful and sea buckthorn was recommended to me by an amazing Dr.
The key to enjoying ourselves at this stage in our lives is by re-discovering ourselves. We must not let those labels interfere with our sexual super powers!
Our vaginas are very much still alive. They do also get wet as usual but it can take a bit longer and this means we can explore our new bodies and have experiences that last longer which is not always a bad thing. We can also increase knowledge about our sexuality at this time in our lives, depending on what stage we are at we may not need to worry about pregnancy, although of course it is still important to protect against sexual diseases, and we can learn more about our bodies and our pleasure zones, including our G spot! Pelvic floor exercises (which we are meant to be doing anyway!) are extra helpful at this time too.. Communication, if in a relationship is key, and the good news is that the more that we talk about this subject then the easier it will be to have discussions for both parties in the relationship.
Getting stuff done
So we have the benefit of more hours in the day. How do we work that one out? As our oestrogen levels fall we will probably be sleeping less. A very good friend of mine once said to me as she had a new baby, I don't look at the clock. Does stressing about lack of sleep make it better or worse? As long as we can rest for at least 6 hours a night use the lack of sleep to get more done! If we set our bedtime earlier even if sleep is disrupted we can wake earlier ready for the day. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs start their days early.
So what helps us to look after ourselves generally is also a good indication of what will be helpful during this time of reinvention! Yoga, tai chi and pilates help with strengthening core muscles and exercise that has a load bearing activity helps protect our bones. Exercise also helps when we start to flag, we can re-energise. Other ways to self care include booking in for massage, acupuncture and eating less processed foods and more organic. If you can't get organic then have a google of the 'dirty dozen' foods with pesticides to avoid and the 'clean 15' that have less toxins.
A final thought is that we are all different and will experience this time differently but if we can share what is helpful and see this as a natural part of life we can have more positive lives. Thank you to my partner Olly who inspired this article!
About my coaching
I have a practice a few miles from Bristol City centre in Flax Bourton, next to Long Ashton and a quiet tranquil room which provides a place for reflective space for the coaching work. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 07811 740580 to book your free 30 mins initial consultation!
Wellbeing is essential to optimum performance and growth and helping others to have satisfying lives and to live well underlies my work.