As today is World Menopause Day 2023, I wanted to reflect on my own personal journey over the last year because like many of us, I have been on a real journey! If I take you back to Autumn 2022, my health and wellbeing was not in a very positive place. I graduated as a Health Coach in July 2022 but that year my own health and wellbeing really started to fall apart. Out of the blue I began to experience a whole host of symptoms such as itchy skin, burning mouth, overwhelm, brain fog, anxiety, headaches, fatigue, aches and pains and a loss of confidence, motivation, and libido. My brain fog felt so extreme, that I had almost convinced myself that I was suffering from early onset dementia – a really scary thought as I lost my Mum to Alzheimers in 2018. I felt as though I was shrinking and just wanted to draw the curtains and hide.
I confided in some of my nearest and dearest but was met with quite a divided response. I was probably “just tired, too busy, strung out”, they said. I just needed to “slow life down a bit.” But couldn’t this be the perimenopause that I was experiencing? Absolutely not! 42 was far too young! And anyway, isn’t everyone tired, overwhelmed and just not into having sex anymore? Isn’t that called marriage and children?
For me the real issue was how I was feeling mentally. The mental health symptoms that I was experiencing were getting more and more acute as the days went on. I wasn’t sleeping and I was using sugar and wine to self-medicate and lift my mood. These habits only fuelled my tiredness and anxiety even more the following day and simple tasks began to really phase me. Having good friends over for dinner, driving to a new place, going to meet a good friend, unloading the dishwasher – it all become too much. I felt as though I was wading through treacle every single day and my family started to notice how different I was behaving at home too.
Thank goodness for the power of female connection. One day I was walking to school and a very open and honest mum shared her story with me. It was word for word how I felt and I could have cried in thanks when the penny finally dropped. I was in the perimenopausal season, and I was not going mad! I had been ignoring the whispers of my body for far too long and now they were starting to scream!
I felt nervous going to my GP, but she was wonderful. She listened to me without prejudice or judgment and was happy for me to ask for the treatment I wanted. I decided to go on HRT, which felt right for me personally, and combined with other lifestyle factors, I started to feel more like myself again.
In early 2023 I set up a local Menopause Café in Liphook as I really wanted to help and empower other women to take control of their health and wellbeing and more recently, I have set up a second café in the neighbouring town of Bordon. I have met so many wonderful women at these events but unfortunately there are some common themes. Many women have had polarising experiences when talking to their GPs. Some have felt supported and empowered whereas others have felt dismissed and unsupported. One common theme has been the need to talk and share experiences. These cafes have given the women (me included) the opportunity to connect, listen and chat in a safe and supportive environment so if you are feeling isolated during the perimenopause and beyond, I would recommend you find a local café. To search for your local café, you can visit www.menopausecafe.net.
Lifestyle factors that can really help during this phase of life so here are my top tips:
- Seek help. Firstly, if you are not feeling like yourself, do not suffer in silence. Arrange a time to talk to your doctor and if you are not happy with the outcome, arrange to talk to someone else. Some surgeries have Menopause GP Specialists so don’t forget to ask if they have one. As the conversation may be a long one, you can also request a double appointment if you feel like you might need longer to chat. Don’t forget to come prepared with a list of your symptoms too (see tip 4)
- Take a brain break. Whether it is 10 minutes walking in the forest or enjoying a cup of tea, do it without being attached to your phone. Be silent and enjoy the sounds, sights, and smells without distraction. Taking these regular breaks will help reduce any anxiety or feelings or overwhelm that you might be experiencing.
- Minimise alcohol. Alcohol can make us initially feel relaxed and happy but even a glass a day can add to our anxiety and affect our sleep quality. Try minimising it or cut it out altogether and see how you feel.
- Track your symptoms. You will feel far more empowered to talk to a doctor if you are clear about how you are feeling. I recommend a brilliant free tracker which you can download here: https://www.balance-menopause.com/balance-app/.
- Prioritise your plate. The perimenopause is a very nutrient demanding time on the body so take time to plan out your weekly meals and make sure that you are adding in the right amount of macro nutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats) as well as boosting your micronutrient intake with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Move your body! Find an exercise you love and when in doubt, just walk! It’s a brilliant overall body workout and will help boost your mood as well
So, if you are new to this season of life, use today as an opportunity to start feeling more empowered, knowledgeable and in control of your own health and wellbeing and finally……don’t forget to listen to the whispers.
Health & Wellness Coach
If you are feeling out of balance, you can download a FREE activity that will help you identify the areas of your life that need a little more focus. To receive a copy, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the word ‘balance’ in the subject and I will send you a copy.