Going through the menopause can be one of the most challenging chapters a woman can face. Whether we are talking about the early stages of menopause (peri-menopause), the ‘full monty’ (menopause), or perhaps the end of the journey (post-menopause); each stage can alter a woman’s life course dramatically. For some, their journey can feel very isolating, confusing and scary. If it isn’t hard enough to be experiencing symptoms which can include irregular bleeding, brain fog, joint pain, low libido, hot flushes, weight gain, sleep disturbance, vaginal dryness, insomnia, constipation, anxiety or depression; women also have to wrap their heads around how the menopause can impact their personal relationships and fertility.
There is also still a real misconception that women have to be of a ‘certain age’ to start menopause… This simply isn’t the case! Women including those who are diagnosed with life-changing or limiting conditions, can be thrust into medically-induced menopause at any age, due to health conditions, treatment and/or medication. This ‘dropped into the deep end’ chain of events can be extremely difficult for women to manage alone. As a Counsellor, I often see the emotional impact the menopause has on women’s mental health. Sentences such as ‘I feel like I’m going mad’, 'I don't feel feminine' or ‘I don’t feel like myself ’ are all too common. This is why it’s vital that we proactively open up the conversation to allow woman from all backgrounds and ethnicities to feel that they can speak about their struggles. The good news is whatever stage of the menopause you may find yourself in, there is always help available….. If you believe that you are experiencing symptoms of the menopause, it is important to make an appointment with your GP to determine where you are in your journey and to be informed of the range of options available to you. Options may include HRT (hormone replacement therapy), holistic therapies or professional counselling to help you manage life better. The NHS provides a great range of information and support at Menopause - NHS (www.nhs.uk).
Celebrities such as Lorraine Kelly and Davina McCall have recently taken major steps in shining a light on social stigmas surrounding the menopause. Davina’s own documentary entitled ‘Davina McCall: Sex, Myths and the Menopause - All 4 (channel4.com)’ is a great watch. She shares her own journey through the menopause with vulnerability yet empowerment, and allows women to identify with her. Menopause advocate, Diane Danzebrink runs non-profit charity menopausesupport.co.uk – Supporting You Through Change which offers great resources and provides workplace training for employers. And finally take a look at Real Housewives & the Menopause - Watch Episode - ITVX . This documentary looks at all aspects of the menopause and explores breaking down stigma surrounding the taboo subject with the #HotMess social media campaign.
There are plenty of ways you can help yourself too! Simple changes to your lifestyle can have a positive effect on your menopause journey:
Exercise - Aim to get 30 minutes in daily. It’s great for the waist line and mental wellbeing
Walk, Swim or perhaps Yoga or Pilates - low impact and great for the mind, body and soul
Relax - listen to meditation or mindfulness exercises. Plenty to be found on YouTube
Hydrate – Buy yourself an eco-bottle and fill up regularly to keep your body hydrated
Keep cool – Keep those hot flushes at bay by wearing loose clothing, cotton when possible
Mindful eating - Try a more balanced-diet to limit symptoms and curb fridge raiding urges!
As women, we need to break down the stigmas surrounding the menopause, through freedom of speech, without shame. I would like to leave you with a reminder that you are only human and a little self-compassion goes a long way ……The more we are able to talk about how the menopause, the more it will help not just you, but future generations to come. So allow your voice to open, speak up and ask for support. You are not alone 😊