A One Size Fits All Solution for Menopause is an Impossible Fiction...
Over the years since my life was turned upside down by early menopause, I’ve learned so much about this tricky transition that awaits every woman.
I’ve not only undertaken my own menopause research, but commissioned it too, and it’s led to many epiphanies about how to manage my own journey, and how best to help other women to navigate theirs too.
One of the biggest discoveries was that anyone who suggests that there is a one size fits all ‘cure’ for menopause is peddling an impossible fiction.
That’s because there are potentially more than 60 - 70 menopause symptoms, and on top of that there are so many different factors affecting the way that people experience it. These include culture, genetics, lifestyle, mindset, and belief systems and the impacts they have are fascinating.
Where You Are in the World Can Impact How You Experience Menopause...
Whilst every woman’s experience of menopause is unique, there are some interesting commonalities around symptoms depending where you live in the world. For instance, in Asia women experience more shoulder, neck and headaches, whereas in the west we tend to have more hot flushes and sleepless nights, versus women who live in Africa who tend to have heavier bleeds, hot flushes and night sweats.
If we layer on top of these factors, things like hydration and nutrition, it can result in the negative symptoms being compounded.
In the western world, women are often working in air-conditioned offices and are almost never hydrated enough. When you add night sweats and hot flushes into the equation the dehydration increases, elevating feelings of dizziness and exhaustion, mood swings and poor concentration.
We know that being nutrient deficient exacerbates hormonal imbalances. Because hormones are compounds that affect every cell and system in the body, these imbalances can be debilitating.
Resulting symptoms can include bloating, palpitations, hair loss, mood swings and itchy skin.
Movement Matters for Menopause
Another factor affecting the menopause journey is movement ...
For instance, if you’re a marathon runner, you may find that when your oestrogen levels fall, you may become more injury prone, and you’ll likely need more recovery time.
If you continue to train as before, without increasing recovery time, your immune system will lower, and you may discover new sensitivities and allergies.
That’s not to say that exercise is bad during the menopause, in fact the opposite is true. Exercise can prevent weight gain, reduce risks of cancer and heart disease and boost your mood.
It’s just that our bodies are transitioning to a new phase of life, and just like the transition from child to adolescent and adolescent to adult, our bodies need different things during these phases.
Once we enter the menopause, our muscle mass will decline, so it’s critical that we add strength training into our daily routines.
That can involve weights in a gym or body weight exercises at home. Missing this out can really impact on our physical freedom and independence as we get older, which in turn is vital for our mental wellbeing too.
The Importance of Staying Social and Connected...
There is also a big link between the menopause and mental health, and a huge part of that is the social taboo and stigma that women can feel about some of the symptoms they are experiencing. That’s why raising awareness and understanding is such an important part of the work I do.
The worry over experiencing embarrassing symptoms in front of others can cause women to bring the shutters down and they can become withdrawn.
The impact of menopause symptoms on concentration can affect performance at work and generate fear and an identity crisis, because so often our self-worth is tied up with our job.
For most of our lives, women, (especially women at work), have been focussed on fitting in... as a wife, as a mother, and more recently as an employee. Standing out has only been acceptable in relation to doing a great job.
This desire to fit in and the effort of masking our true selves, has added layers of stress to everyday life. Then when menopause threatens to make us stand out for all the wrong reasons the impact on our mental health can be devastating.
It’s no surprise then, that 40-49 (in the West) is the riskiest age range for suicide amongst women.
That’s why another critical aspect of managing the menopause successfully is staying connected and sharing experiences in order to build a support network and avoid all the wellbeing problems that result from feeling alone and isolated.
These are just a few aspects of the menopause that make it difficult to prescribe a one size fits all solution, and yet so often that is what women get thrown in the form of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).
[PS I do believe every person transitioning through menopause should know all abut HRT and decide for themselves whether this is part of their personal menopause plan]
The Quick Fix Myth ...
For many reasons, few health professionals have a full understanding of how the menopause affects women, and often HRT can be seen as a panacea.
But they’re not.
For some women HRT does a brilliant job of combatting some of the most debilitating symptoms, but it doesn’t work for all. Not only that, but menopause journey can take over 10 years.
Not every woman can or wants to take HRT.
Although the situation is changing and the medical system is waking up to the need to equip Doctors and Nurses with a better grasp of the menopause journey, this is not happening at pace. This means that there is likely to be a black hole in guidance and support.
This is where employers and practitioners who become qualified as menopause coaches can make such a difference, (and if you are interested in taking that journey with me then you can find more details about it here:
Recognising the Huge Opportunity
There is another way we can have a profound impact on the 13.5 million women who have crossed or are about to cross this threshold, and that is to re-frame the menopause as a gift.
Looking back at my menopause journey, I wish future me had grabbed me at the start and shown me what a huge opportunity menopause presented to renew and refresh my life...
... and that’s what I want to share more about with you in my next blog Kryptonite to Superpower, Re-framing My Menopause Experience.
Find out more about my Menopause Coaching programme here . The next course runs February to July 2023, click here to register your interest or if you want to book a call to talk through it, I'd love to hear from you.
Your coach & trainer,