7 Ways to Make Your Menopause Work For You
Menopausal symptoms can be intense, and a lack of support and understanding can leave women feeling isolated and confused
Menopause mentor Kate Codrington offers seven ways you can reframe your menopause experience
If you are struggling with the changes of the menopause, you don't have to do it alone – find your therapist here
Menopause, if we can allow it, is a natural process of shedding behaviour and roles that no longer serve us, teaching us self-kindness so we can emerge renewed to live more authentically and closely aligned with our passions and pleasures. Unfortunately, because the transformational qualities of menopause are not widely known and support is patchy at best, many women panic, mistaking growth for crisis. Research from the Nuffield Health group found that a quarter of menopausal women were concerned about their ability to cope with their lives and a further quarter who visited a GP found that the possibility of their symptoms being menopause-related was missed altogether.
For those of us coming to therapy in mid-life, we can surf the waves of body-felt change to take a real ‘pause’, learning to look inside and trust ourselves. With the support of a great therapist we can learn how to develop a kindness that would both improve our long term mental health and take us to new levels of presence and satisfaction in our post-menopausal life.
The transformational process of menopause asks us to clean up our act; to let go of roles that no longer serve us, to heal old traumas, to finally put our own needs and creativity before others’ and rest.
There are four phases of menopause to be aware of, present in all life transformations;
- Separation - radical decluttering of what no longer serves you
- Surrender - asking us to stand in the unknown
- Emergence - emerging tenderly back into the world
- Second Spring - birthed into a new way of being
You’ll notice that these phases are present in all transformations, birth, grief; menopause however continues for longer at 4-12 years.
In our mid to late 40's, unless menopause arrives early or you have a surgical menopause, we start to feel the desire for more time alone, to withdraw from life. The demands of children and partners grate more than ever, just when the pressures of mid-life become particularly intense. We start to question things in our lives that had been certainties before. Is your relationship still worth it? Maybe you have lost your passion for your work? This is deeply unsettling. It feels like we are losing it, and this is because, in order to make the transition into a new, more authentic Self, the old Self has to die and this radical decluttering feels like an emergency.
This decluttering can include past issues that resurface for attention, sexual trauma, identity and early issues can all awaken at this time pushing for resolution. No wonder 71.1% of women have suffered from low mood when we do not expect this process and cannot relax into this healing.
There may be changes to the menstrual cycle which might become longer, shorter, heavier or lighter, all of which is normal. Menopause is a natural process, it is only in recent times that symptoms have become equated with it, and many of the problems we have about it can be associated with toxicity:
- The ageism and sexism in our culture
- The chemicals in our environment and the processed food we eat
- Our lives overloaded with stress and too little rest
Lack of education and fear greatly worsens the physical manifestations of menopause because at this time we are acutely sensitive to stress. What irony that at just at the most stressful part of our lives, we become super-sensitised to cortisol. It’s as though we are being asked to change from the core of our system, isn’t it?
At some point in this madness you will start to surrender to the manifestations you’re experiencing. It’s still painful – it’s not that it becomes easy, it’s more that we stop resisting what’s happening: “I can’t bare this!” changes to “Oh, how can I be kinder here?” We start to become curious about how and why we’re feeling it. We start to tolerate this sense of being in the unknown and become more friendly towards our challenges. A mindful attention to the quality of the feelings, changing the habits that don’t support us, perhaps staying away from toxic people, environments and food. We start to prioritise rest, using our acute discernment to see what is essential and let everything else fall away.
Surrendering will be supported by a mindful practice of some kind, meditation, Yoga, Tai Chi, Yoga Nidra, guided visualisations, walking in the forest... any practice that soothes and connects you with yourself to listen to your body’s whispers. You are starting to be radically kind to your body and become your own best friend.
After some time spent in Surrender, you’ll feel new shoots of possibilities, energy and ideas emerging. These are tender times, and like seedlings bitten by frost, it is too early to go out rushing back into the world. The temptation to charge out again will be there; we still need to go slow and receive, to fill ourselves back up. This is not something we’re necessarily good at. Think of the caterpillar transforming in its cocoon; to cut it open and release it too early is to kill the butterfly, and to emerge too early from menopause will halt its transformational properties. It doesn’t work to go back to rushing around, it’s time for a new way of being.
The time after Emergence is known in traditional Chinese medicine as Second Spring, and heralds the birth of the new woman; we have clear boundaries, greater discernment, a sense of our own needs and pleasures. This woman resembles the spirited teenager she once was, but with 40 years of life experience behind her. She has regained her capacity to be vulnerable and to hold her authority. She is tender-hearted and able to offer herself in service to others, without sacrificing herself in the process. This is where menopause can take you if you chose to engage with it.
7 top tips for growth in your menopause
You do not have to do this alone. Find informed menopause-savvy G.P’s, therapists and complementary therapists to support your journey.
You will need to rest, it’s hard work transforming and you will be tired. Rest more, snatching it where you can. Sleep longer. Slow your pace and reduce your expectations of how much you can achieve.
2) Feel the feels
The feelings can be frightening, but they will not kill you. To access the growthful possibilities of menopause, the only way is through the darkness towards the spring sunshine, putting one foot in front of the other.
3) Reduce stress
All manifestations are worsened by stress. Take a clear-eyed audit of what’s stressful in your life is essential.
Be kind to yourself; utilise mindfulness to notice when you need to be tender and sweet with yourself. Kind words, kind foods, kind company.
Having your story witnessed by a loving, non-judging circle makes the challenges bearable; friends have never been so important.
6) Say NO
Menopause insists on us having healthier boundaries in our lives, you’ll find yourself saying no more often. Women have a horrible cultural baggage of saying yes to things that we don’t want to do, menopause is the balancing force of NO. It needn’t be harsh, a skillful no can be just as firm.
Pleasure is the ultimate in free hormone balancing medicine, say yes to pleasure. Your cortisol will drop, have more oxytocin and your hormones balance. Say yes.