What if your later years were actually the answer to everything? It’s time to rebrand menopause, says Abi Adams
If you were told about an incredible phase in your health, in which you felt a deep appreciation of yourself and contentment with your life, while finally understanding what you want and how to get it, would you sign up? Of course you would. Let’s rebrand the menopause. The season of connecting deeply with our emotions.
Welcome to perimenopause and menopause: a time that is all about you, if you choose to make yourself a priority.
Sadly, though, that’s not the story society has gifted us. For many of us, the post-forty years feel like a desperate slide into a time we’ve been told to dread: a time of feeling barren, of symptoms discussed in hushed tones, of being uncomfortable, confused and forgotten.
But perimenopause and menopause are natural phases of life that lead to a powerful sense of presence and place.
It’s all about preparing for this time ahead. Evaluating and strengthening who you are and what you need. Finally understanding that who you are is absolutely who you should be. Then you can make the transition with grace, and shift into the journey towards happiness.
The time to start is now. Understanding my menstrual cycle – and the way my hormones work – has been the greatest guide to my changes and what is to come at menopause. I’ve learned how to manage my emotions and cultivate a relationship in which I hold myself in high esteem. This is the foundation to every element of our health; never more so than during perimenopause and menopause.
Seize the power of this potent time in your life, and embrace it for all it has to offer.
How it begins
The shift begins with our ovaries winding down from their hard work over the years. That starts with a change in our levels of testosterone (which gives confidence and strength) and progesterone (which balances the buzz of oestrogen and cortisol).
As this happens, oestrogen becomes untethered, creating a rollercoaster of emotions and energy; remember, progesterone is like the anchor to this hormone. As our nervous system tries to maintain harmony, it fires up an excess of other hormones to rectify the imbalance.
Perimenopause is the pull of the rug from underneath everything we’re used to and have worked hard to create. It’s the bit that grinds, if we’re not prepared for it.
How it goes
From this point, things slow and stop. We go through menopause – which is actually just one moment in time, when we’ve not had a period for a year. After this stage, we’re postmenopausal. And it’s from this point, with our ovaries fully retired, that our adrenal glands take over, making less potent forms of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
It’s important to evaluate the stressors in our lives because – as we head towards this time, still feisty, go-getting maidens – our adrenals can’t keep up. They don’t have the time, energy or resources to create those wonderful hormones that allow us to blossom into the wise women we were born to be.
The physical and emotional expressions of this evolutionary phase can show up in many ways. And being prepared for them is half the battle.
Written on the body
The dreaded weight gain around the thighs and abdomen arises from our body trying to produce the same levels of oestrogen to which it’s long been used. Our ovaries, fat cells and gut create this hormone. So it’s important to maintain a healthy level of body fat, because excess fat equals excess inflammation. As we mature, this becomes more difficult to manage and mitigate. The results can include cardiovascular disease and cancer.
It’s key to understand nutrition and how to support our bodies at this stage. We can’t digest man-made carbohydrates – such as pasta and bread – as well as we did in our menstruating years. Switching to earth-made carbs, such as beetroot and potato, enables the body to reduce the stress of trying to break down difficult foods.
The liver also begins to struggle with elimination, so another buildup of hormones occurs. The result is that we can’t process saturated fats as effectively, which means weight gain can happen. Increasing our strength training, and being smart about how to lift and what to lift, supports long-term muscle strength and blood sugar balance.
The mind in flux
Energy shifts can make us feel high as a kite one minute and in need of a nap the next. We should enjoy both. Channel the high energy towards our passions and what makes us buzz, then take time to recharge when our vigour is low. Fighting the energy shifts will only increase stress and tension, and prevent us harnessing the power of the highs and lows.
Anxiety, lack of confidence and depression are signs of the enormous changes happening internally. Oestrogen stimulates serotonin, a neurotransmitter that brings on feelings of happiness. When oestrogen levels drop, there may be less serotonin in the brain, causing feelings of sadness or depression. Panic, stress and anxiety, too, may be heightened as hormone levels change.
But these don’t have to be feared when we view them as a part of the journey towards phenomenal change and a loving relationship with ourselves. Our emotions aren’t a reality. The world doesn’t see us through /our/ anxiety. In fact, anxiety is simply a cue to look after ourselves a little better and make a couple of shifts to get us feeling in flow again.
Finding our truth
Trust in the inner voice that speaks to us, especially when it comes to the rage, anger and grief that is known by many at this time. These feelings can feel hard to hold space for – but that’s because, as women, we were discouraged from expressing these emotions, because they didn’t serve society.
But our emotions are, and will be, our anchor; often, they’re telling us that something isn’t working for us. That something is causing a reaction when life is about being proactive. It’s taking us away from the healing we need to create calm in our lives. It’s not the direction in which we want to be going.
So, starting now, talk to yourself more. Take ten minutes in the morning, in a quiet space, and listen to the thoughts and feelings that buzz around your head. How do they make you feel? If they don’t make you feel good, but you keep making decisions based on them, they’ll only make you feel worse.
So listen. The voice of wisdom is inside of us, and it knows the answers. And now, at this most transitional threshold of our lives, we’re finally ready to hear them.