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Menopause - what works for me?

I just want to say before I begin, that I like to talk about menopause and about how I’m feeling in midlife, but it’s my own personal experience and the observations I’ve had with clients as a breath coach and Shinrin-yoku, or Forest Bathing, guide. I’m not a doctor and I don’t profess to be an expert in terms of having studied dozens of medical texts (or even one), but then, I do think the best experts are the self-aware women going through it themselves, surely? The more research I do on the topic, the more I realise that no one has the ‘right’ answer, other than a woman herself. So, I’m a big fan of hearing from women about their experiences — in the UK that’s around 50% of the female population (huge) — as well as those who are observing them from a practitioner’s perspective. My preference, however, are those who have holistic, unbiased, open viewpoints, as a result of those observations.

I’ve just written an article on the subject, covering different opinions from people out there such as Anthony Williams, who’s known as the Medical Medium. Anthony believes there’s no such a thing as the menopause we’ve come to hear about in the West since the 50’s. His view of events is that around 1950, a mystery illness began to appear, which sent women in their droves to doctors complaining about weight gain, hot flushes, fatigue, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and forgetfulness. Not knowing what to do with this influx of women’s complaints, his view is that doctors trivialised them, blaming it all on hormones, which is when HRT was born as a ‘solution’. He believes that the symptoms women experience have come about as a result of the introduction in the 50’s of pesticides in food production. The second biggest reason he cites for menopause symptoms are not what we think of as menopause at all, but a virus known as Epstein-Barr, which tends to show up around the mid-life point in women.

Anthony’s view on HRT is that women either get short-lived relief, or none at all. Is he right?

I can’t say, as I’ve not tried HRT. To date, I’ve not felt the need to and perhaps never will. And I’ll never know if my decision not to take HRT is down to not suffering badly with symptoms as some women do — so maybe I’m lucky — or if it’s because of what I do in terms of lifestyle choices, that my symptoms aren’t too severe. And whilst Anthony Williams believes that hormones can go off-balance, he says it’s that this is only a part of the menopause debate and more to do with adrenal fatigue or an underactive thyroid,

Personally, I do have a very slightly underactive thyroid and I do have a reasonable amount of stress in my life — sharing the care for my partner’s 94 yr old father with some dementia, who lives with us — which can be quite challenging at times, as well as juggling a career and all the other stressors of modern life that we all share. What I don’t compromise on, is self-care.

I make time for this each morning by not going to bed too late, so that I can get up earlier than everyone else, to fit this all in. I always begin with a 30-minute Conscious Connected Breathwork session, which you could call an active meditation. The number one reason I became a breath coach is because I experience every day how it helps my wellbeing more than anything else I do. It’s the one thing I never let go of, even when things get tough, which in my experience is often when we let self-care fall by the wayside. And If I were to pick just a few key benefits from this that I believe helps me the most, firstly, it would be that it keeps my immune system functioning really well. How do I know this? It’s because since having a daily Breathwork practice, I rarely, almost never, get ill and I always wake up with vitality and with no aches and pains.

Secondly, it helps me to release and stay as clear as possible from any emotional baggage that’s come up from the past, or comes up in the present, that’s not serving me. This always needs work, of course, as we get triggered by so much all day every day, but it’s the best method I know of surfing life’s emotional roller coaster.

I follow this with five minutes of seated meditation, whereby I quieten my thoughts and try to clear my head and find some inner stillness before the day ahead.

I then make sure I do something for my body, as my work often involves sitting down. So, depending on how much time I have, I’ll take an hour, or a 30-minute, walk, bike ride or run out into nature. I follow this(if time allows) with a 15-minute journaling session, where I pour out my worries, stresses, thoughts and dreams onto paper for the sole purpose of clearing my mind — a brain and soul dump, if you like.

I try and eat as healthily as possible. I’m no saint, but I’m pretty good, trying as much as possible to think of my body like a car — what petrol works best for me at this age? I also make sure I drink good, filtered water throughout the day. And at this time of year, I make nettle tea from the hedgerows. Nettles are a wonder herb, full of antioxidants for boosting our immunity and in abundance at this time of year. At springtime, I also gather Cleavers — those sticky hedgerow plants we used to cover each other with as children — soaking them in water for 24hrs. I then drink the juice throughout the day, as Cleavers are great for giving yourself a little spring clean. Keeping our bodies as clear as possible of toxicants, can really help with menopause symptoms.

Hot flushes are my thing. I’m not having them right now, but boy have I had them. Raging. The moment I’ve felt a stressful emotion, just the slightest feeling, they begin. I don’t drink too much coffee, but in my experience, hot flushes don’t like coffee and they don’t like alcohol either, so nowadays I limit that, too.

So, in my experience, I’m not convinced that Conscious Connected Breathwork necessarily helps to alleviate hot flushes, but as far as everything else goes in terms of the body, soul and mind, could a committed Breathwork practice be why my menopause is relatively pain-free? We may never know, but I’d bet it is. Instead, I have two top tips that work so well for my hot flushes. The first is easy. Order some of Pukka Herbs Menopause Serenity. For me, it’s a bit of a magic formula that pretty much turns the tap off!

And talking of water, my final tip for combatting hot flushes is wild swimming! It really is the best hobby you could take up anytime in your life, but particularly in midlife. Not only is it fun, but cold water stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for healing and relaxing the body. Getting into the sea, or a river (even better done in the company of other), has to be one of my most treasured life activities. The impact of the cold sea boosts my circulation, pumps blood through my body, which results in blood rushing to my organs, making my heart work just that little bit harder. Evidence suggests that exposure to cold speeds up metabolism and helps to increase a burn in calories, too. Without doubt, wild swimming has certainly helped to diffuse the intensity and frequency of my hot flushes.

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