I've wanted to write a blog on menopause for a long time - but I never felt qualified. Yes, I am in my late 40s and definitely perimenopausal. Yes, in the past 3 years I have studied and worked with women on different parts of their menopause journey. Yes, I have listened to podcasts and read books from the experts. So why have I been so hesitant to write this blog?
Well, for starters, there is a lot of information out there, in fact maybe too much so that it's failing to reach the women who really need to hear it.
Secondly, I think this chapter in a woman's life requires change. And I don't know anyone (and I include myself in this) that really likes choosing to change a lifetime of habits, even if they are no longer working. I believe that we want others to do the changing. We have also become used to looking for that band aid that we hope will cure all our problems, so we don't have to make the necessary changes. However, deep down we know the only person we can change is ourselves.
Menopause and this journey require us to do heavy excavation work, work not many want to do. Why would we? It's bloody scary! We may also discover that some of the things we've been clinging to, are not what we really wanted at all!
Oh gosh Vanessa, I hear you say. I thought this blog was about finding joy? Well it is but, ultimately, you gotta remove the crap to get to the truly joyful part. The good news is that you can remove the crap and add joy at the same time. I personally think that is the best approach. Even sadist Vanessa would agree.
So why is joy so important? Well, let's go back a few decades. To roughly the times of our Mums and Grandmothers and when they arrived at this chapter of their life. I would say that their kids were mostly grown. I would say that things were probably getting a little easier, maybe a little more disposable income and definitely the guarantee of a pension. They probably started to take the foot off the pedal when it came to challenges in their lives. Now this is a very simplistic look. I don't actually think that was the narrative for everyone. I only have to look at my own legacy and know that, apart from the grown-ish children, life wasn't so simple. However, for the purpose of this piece, let's stick with this narrative.
The point I am trying to make is that stress levels were decreasing, because a lot of the daily grind was easing. Whereas, in our case, how many women in their 40s and 50s have waved goodbye to the kids? Are looking forward to slowing down and drawing their pension? If there is anyone reading this and you are at the stage I just described, I salute you. You have bucked the current trend.
What I suspect your reality looks like is this:
You are still working hard, trying to prove your worth in an ageist society that doesn't respect your knowledge or life experience. So you may well hate your job.
If you have kids, they are far from on their way to leaving home. And, even if they are 'leaving home age', they can't afford to move out so they are going nowhere anytime soon. For those with older children, you're probably helping raise your grandkids because childcare is so expensive and your children can't really survive without you. Then there is the subject of your ageing parents who also need your help. We are being pulled in so many directions that our stress levels are so much higher than our parents and these, my loves, are the real reasons we are struggling to manage our menopausal symptoms. There is no amount of HRT that is going to reduce your menopausal symptoms until you admit that this is not the life you want and that you are chronically stressed, knackered, if not burnt out. This is leading you to be desperately unhappy.
I am now gonna take a pause and give you a virtual hug. I am sending you lots of love. If this all too much, grab your favourite essential oil and make yourself a cuppa. Even come back another day. It is a lot, I know, I have been there and this reality brought tears to my eyes. In fact, just over 3 years ago, I was crying on the way to collect my son from his after school club. When we arrived home, I was told to shut up shop, as we were going into lockdown.
I, too, am taking a deep breath. I remember those feelings like they were yesterday. In fact, I still struggle. The only difference between where you are sitting and where I am sitting is that over the past 3 years I have tried to dismantle the causes of my stress. And you know what? More came and some wouldn't budge!! Finally, I took a different approach. I started to see my self-care practices as a way to handle my stresses. This was good, really good- but not enough. I then started to fast and read widely about how fasting was a great tool for women. But it isn't the fasting I want to focus on. It was the realisation in the book Fast Like A Girl that stress was knocking out my sex hormones.
The very hormones that were regulating the type of menopause experience I was having were being disrupted by the amount of cortisol I was releasing when I was stressed. However, if I could learn to bring more oxytocin into my life (the happy hormone) then I could balance these hormones and have a better menopause experience. This is true whether you decide to go down the HRT or the natural route. So how do you get more oxytocin? Simply, do the things that bring you joy and try (where possible) to reduce the things that don't. Hence the excavation work, because you may not know what truly brings you joy. You may be used to turning to food, alcohol, binge watching and doom scrolling social media for your joy or self-care. And I am here to tell you these do not bring you pure joy. You may get a little shot of dopamine to start with, but most of these are gonna have a negative effect on your body and your hormones. So here are a few things that you can look into…
Sleep and Rest
Two totally different things but for the purpose of time, I am going to group these together. I have 4 blogs on the subject of sleep. However, if you are one of the many menopausal women that struggles with sleep, then start with number 4 and then read 2 and 3. Number 4 has many rest techniques that you can adopt during the day when sleep won't come. At the end of this blog will be a pdf full of people, classes and coaches you can approach to help you on your way.
Because when you are rested you really can handle a lot more than when you are knackered.
Get some good self-care practices
In my blog My top tips to boost your energy, I mention many practices I have used to boost my energy, but the truth is that these practices brought me so much joy because they have allowed me to connect with my true self. There is nothing like a good dance, walk or meditation to connect you to your divine power.
Where my girls at?
Friendships are key to the menopausal woman. But, let's be honest, it's not just feminine energy we need. We need those relationships that bring us joy. You've probably neglected these friendships in the pursuit of career and family. Now is the time to reconnect, or find a whole new tribe. One of the best blessings I have had being a small business is connecting with other small businesses. I have found kindred spirits, magnificent angels on this 10 year journey. They have lifted me up and brought so much joy to my life. I have an abundance of nurturing souls I could never imagine in my former life. I am richer for spending time in their presence.
Take up that hobby you always wanted to do
I've seen women take up a new craft like knitting, sewing, painting. My sister is now a very good aromatherapist and product maker. I love when she calls me for advice about oils, or products she's made. It lights me up to hear the joy in her voice. Plus my ego likes the fact that she comes to her baby sister for advice. (lol)
There is no way I could write this blog without mentioning aromatherapy. I am assuming that if you are reading this blog then you are aware or use aromatherapy/essential oils. These tiny essences have a provocative effect on our sense of smell. Plus we now have lots of research that shows that essential oils can reduce cortisol. Not only can they reduce cortisol, but there is also research that they can positively affect our neurotransmitters (our bodies’ chemical messengers- think serotonin (mood/sleep), dopamine (reward/pleasure), norepinephrine (affects alertness and focus), endorphins (our body’s natural pain reliever). ‘Which oils Vanessa?’ I hear you say. Well, there are lots of oils that have therapeutic properties that help you relax, uplift you, or have antidepressant properties. I could tell you to look at citrus oils, which we aromatherapists often use to uplift and boost mood. Florals, which we use to help clients relax. Oils that contain 1.8 cineole like rosemary and peppermint. But the truth is, any oil that you have an affinity to can have a positive effect on you.
To help you on your journey, I would recommend a book by my Teacher & friend, Julia Oyeleye: Aromatherapy for Mental Wellbeing. It's a great book that provides you with practical advice and a 7 step guide to creating essential oil blends. You’ll also find 30 essential oil profiles to explore. It was Julia who first introduced me to the essential oil Yuzu. Yuzu is a citrus essential oil, but it is quite subtle with floral notes, so as an Aromatherapist I use it when working with clients with high stress levels. I’ve also noticed that it's a favourite with teens. If blending is not your thing, then the easiest way to use essential oils are via aromatherapy products like inhalers and rollerballs. You’ll find a whole host of these in my shop, or you can have your own bespoke blend made.
What childhood activity did you love, that you could bring back?
How many women my age have I seen roller skating, going back to cycling, netball, football, tennis, swimming (yes I am listing a hell lot of sports (lol) but you get the gist). How many of us gave up sport the minute we didn't have to do it at school? But it's not just sport. I spent my 48th birthday in a park, first watching my little girls and boy splashing around in the outside pool, then blowing bubbles and taking them to the playground where I boldly nabbed a swing. Now, it is quite hard to hit the playground without appropriately aged children, but I do wish they would make an outside paddling pool just for adults. Many of my fellow coworking gang think this is a missed opportunity!
Another one of my favourite things to do as a child was colour. Thanks to Patience of OtentikCare I started colouring again. I also read much more than I ever did, though I really do need to branch back into fiction and not just my crazy obsession with a self-help book, or inspirational memoir. I think that's why I love my friend Emma Innes's TheNurtureVerse. Emma is an excellent English Tutor, who runs sessions for women to explore their creative writing/poetry. A must if this was a past love. Plus she often holds online workshops, so you don’t even need to live in London or the UK!
Think back to when you were happiest when you were a child. What were you doing? I have lots of childhood memories, involving trips to Battersea Park and fruit picking. I still love to pick fruit. This is your time to explore, especially when you start to add joy to your world.
This is your time to explore. It is very easy to get caught up with the negative messaging out there about menopause. I get it, it can be really hard, when your body and mind starts to change on you and you feel out of control. But if you can take a moment to breathe and get some space, you’ll realise this is not the first time it's happened. Yes, puberty never gave you hot flushes, or brain fog, but I remember the day my period came, I wasn't a happy bunny. Neither was I one when, in my first trimester of pregnancy, I couldn't keep any food down and I felt my body had been taken over by an alien. Both these chapters of life are celebrated, but menopause is not. This is total BS. That is why I knew it was time to write this blog, and why I started my Neroli Girl Group. This was a term coined by my Teacher, Caren Benstead of The Well School. I’ve embraced this term because, to me, Menopause needs to be celebrated: your crown may have slipped, but it's time to fix it straight and celebrate the Queens that you are, that we all are. Because, my loves, just like neroli, you are golden.