You go into the book store, there’s the cut-out of Dr. Phil, and then the dreaded women’s health section where every book, instead of the menopause book with the fanged Medusa head on the cover that might be more pertinent, you always see a flower and a poppy and a daisy and a stethoscope.
Sandra Tsing Loh, writer and actor
They say women don’t talk about menopause.
I think that is changing. And thank f*%k, I say.
On Saturday, while shopping in the lovely East Sussex town of Lewes, I ended up in a conversation with the shop owner and her friend about menopause and some of the symptoms. Yes, I know, just like that. It all began with a ‘do you think this shirt is pulling?’ comment from Friend, who had tried on a very lovely silk blouse and was pointing at her cleavage.
Bigger boobs were discussed as a midlife body change, and not necessarily an unwelcome one either.
But the lethargy, and what was described as ‘bleughness’, were a definite ‘OMG so true’. ‘Where’s my energy gone?’ asked Shop Owner Woman, ‘I’m just so tired all the time’.
In menopause and peri-menopause (the time before menopause) plummeting oestrogen can be one reason. This hormone is woven into the fabric of our mind and bodies, as we well know from the mensuration cycle. It impacts on our moods, how our body ‘feels’ how our skin behaves… I could go on.
Along with tiredness, there’s also an anxiety that can set in around menopause and there’s plenty of other symptoms, including the ‘Am I hot? Am I cold?’ dance at night. Duvet on, duvet off. Leg in, leg out.
Yes, I remember the way I could pull off all-nighters in my Twenties; whether at work or play, and still bounce through a full day on just a couple of hours sleep. But now I’m in my mid-Fifties; not so much. Not at all, frankly. If I don’t get my eight hours I know it, the next day. Don’t you?
And given I’ve not seen a period for two years, I think we can safely say I’m on the other side. In that strange hinterland, where tumbleweed blows and men stop calling you ‘miss’ and start calling you ‘madam’, I find ‘the other side’ is a very interesting place.
But if you think the menopause song and dance symptoms suddenly shuffle off into the midnight, leaving you in a state of blissful serene calm…. Well, it’s not been like that for me.
Everyone’s menopause is different. Mine well remembers night sweats, I can tell you. Because they still periodically mess with my love of good sleep.
But one of my advantages as a hypnotherapist and yoga teacher is I can take control of my own menopause symptoms when they ripple back.
HRT is a powerful choice for women, but it’s not for everyone.
Learning self-hypnosis techniques and then practicing daily has been, for me, the way to ease symptoms. With practice, the technique becomes as automatic as tying a shoelace and it’s as relaxing as meditation; very similar if you ask me, so why wouldn’t you want to practice?
You can learn self hypnosis from a book, or book a session, either face to face or online, with a professional like me.
We can show you how to use hypnosis to calm your mind and body and take in positive messages about change, using the power of your imagination to impact on how your body feels and responds to symptoms.
There’s research to show that hypnosis works in alleviating symptoms of menopause, such as hot flushes. The British Medical Journal published a review of various alternative practices last year and recommended hypnosis and CBT as the only two practices it could recommend as reducing vasomotor symptoms – medical speak for hot flushes.
But whether you decide to do that or not, here’s one great way to quickly ease anxiety. You can practice anytime. No one will notice! It’s a basic breathing technique I teach my yoga students and hypnotherapy clients alike, because it’s so effective.
We think if breathing as linear… breath in, breath out. But it actually has four sides:
Breath in – pause – breath out – pause.
You might not notice the pause until you look for it, but it’s there. See?
Focus your mid on making your breath cycle into a square.
Breathe in for the count of 4
Pause for the count of 4
Breathe out for the count of 4
Pause for the count of 4.
Make your square a little bigger. Expand your square until you’re taking a nice deep breath in and out and everything in the square feels comfortable.
E.g. Breathe in for 4. Hold for 4. Breathe out for 8. Pause for 8.
Be mindful not to stress your breath. This isn’t a competition. Lungs are delicate organs. Treat them kindly.
Slowing down the out-breath is a key to shutting off the stress response. That can stop a hot flush episode before it’s got underway.
If you’d like to know more about hypnosis for menopause, get in touch. And if you try the square breathing technique, do let me know how you get on with it. I find it useful at night, and pretty relaxing in supermarket queue too!
BMJ: Non Hormonal Treatments for Menopause Symptoms: November 2017