This summer, we asked 50 women to anonymously share their experiences of the menopause. In Part 1 of ‘It’s time to change the change’ we explored how the menopause can make you feel and which sources women trust to support them.
66% of respondents didn’t recognise menopause symptoms when they first experienced them.
Source: MPowder community survey, Summer 2019
This summer, we asked 50 women to anonymously share their experiences of the menopause. In Part 1 of ‘It’s time to change the change’ we explored how the menopause can make you feel and which sources women trust to support them. Here we look in more detail specifically at the beginning of the journey and the lack of awareness and support around the peri-menopause.
‘If you don’t know where you’re going, any road can take you there.’
What is the peri-menopause?
The peri-menopause, quite simply (ed’s note; and a little unhelpfully, no?!) means ‘around menopause’. It is the timeframe up to your last period when your body undergoes a number of bio-chemical changes - the most significant being the fluctuation of oestrogen which can impact your menstrual cycle. Women start the peri-menopause at different ages but most of us will be well and truly in the zone from around 43. Symptoms can include:
Visible changes to skin, hair and nails
Brain fog / difficulty concentrating
But the reality is, any shift in how you feel, both mentally and physically, can be difficult to recognise immediately. And that is the challenge. Are you in the peri-menopause or ‘just’ over-worked? Is the anxiety you feel the result of too many late nights, too many commitments or the bio-chemical changes that your body is going through?
Which is why we prefer to think preventively about the transition through the menopause; to focus less on whether you have recognisable symptoms, but to use the life-stage as an opportunity to put yourself front and centre for a while in order to build up a practical toolkit to carry you into the next phase of life, well.
The advice below, and our Peri-Boost nutritional powder which will be available early next year, is designed for anyone over 43.
Make exercise a habit: We all know that exercise supports the body in a number of ways. In one of those brilliant laws of nature that doesn’t quite make sense, it is an energy giver rather than an energy drain. It is also a mood booster. Many of us don’t want to do it, but it is rare to regret it when you get through the other side. View it as part of your set routine. Don’t set expectations around it. Trick your negative brain by saying; ‘I’ll just give it 50% today’, or ‘I can hide at the back’. Check out Mel Robbins’ 5 second rule on motivation. Simply count yourself down 188.8.131.52.1 and Go.
Consider yoga: 43% of the respondents to our survey this summer reported including yoga in their toolkit to help their menopause transition. It is exciting to see new training practices focusing specifically on the menopause being accredited by both the British Wheel of Yoga and by Yoga Alliance. But it is a broad and rich discipline. Feel comfortable exploring what type of yoga is right for you; try different classes, look out new teachers.
Eat well: We’re great believers in the power of food. Our research into the nutritional needs of women during the menopause led us to launch our company. The gut also influences how we feel about ourselves. On one level, feeling bloated or gaining weight can be a huge knock to confidence levels. On a bio-chemical level, our gut effectively feeds our mood. We know mental distress is one of the hardest symptoms of the peri-menopause to manage. Respondents to our survey spoke of the fear of ‘no longer recognising yourself’; of flicking from upbeat and optimistic to angry and frustrated in a heart-beat.
Prioritise eating well. Get enough protein. It plays a key part in providing energy. Menopausal women benefit from up to 60g of protein a day. But don’t simply turn to meat. The latest research shows that plant protein is more effective in helping to retain bone density than meat and dairy. Incorporate whole foods that contain isoflavones and lignans. Consider soy foods if you’re comfortable to - or chickpeas, lentils, flaxseeds, broccoli, courgettes and berries.
And if your gut is really out of sync, consider a probiotic that is scientifically proven to reach the parts you want it to. Symprove is a business built on the testimonials of its customers and backed up by research by Kings College London.
‘Those who regularly don’t get enough sleep are seven more times likely to feel helpless, five times more likely to feel alone and three times more likely to struggle to concentrate or be productive’.
(Great British Sleep Survey, 2012).
In her honest and pragmatic book SHED, based on years of coaching high performers across sport, politics and the corporate world, Sara Milne Rowe places sleep above all other ‘tools’ to manage energy levels, relationships and mood. Arianna Huffington is such advocate of sleep she now dedicates much of her considerable brain to lobbying for changes in business and culture around working hours.
Sleep is the single biggest predictor of what tomorrow will feel like. We all know it. We’re bombarded with a plethora of information on what can help. So try it all. Start with the stuff that is easy to fit into life, and progress as you need to. And when the night sweats wake you for the third night in a row don’t clock-check or allow anxiety to smother you in the small hours. Remember that rest is incredibly beneficial too. Keep your eyes closed. Recognise the noises in the room. Give your brain permission to flick gently through thoughts (just don’t invite them for tea and cake). Try a meditation app. Try breathing.
The above can be wrapped up in one simple action - practice self care: Many of us enter the peri-menopause at a point in life where a series of earthquake tremors are in danger of overwhelming us. If we have parents, they may need greater support, bringing new logistical considerations and emotional milestones. If we have kids, new life-stages may bring new demands and new perceptions of self. If we are in work, we may be at a significant career stage where projection confidence and control is priority number 1. And then - I mean, really?! - our body and mind starts agitating for attention too. Self care can be an uncomfortable concept. We worry that if we stop we may never start again. Or that it will soften the edges we need to survive. That it is navel-gazing. Indulgent. Weak. But it is simply about treating yourself with respect.
David Hieatt of Hiut Denim describes the opportunity that changing environment, inspiration, or habits can bring, beautifully:
‘Input differently. Output differently.’
David Hieatt, Huit Denim
The peri-menopause is the start of your next adventure. It deserves your attention. You may find that your natural rhythms need to change. And, that the tools you need to feel good need to evolve too.
Increase the amount of key nutrients your body needs from natural sources. To take stock of life, stress and pleasure. Adjust your routine to support your health. Know that the better you care for yourself now, the smoother the change will be. And the more we explore what works, the more knowledge we pass down to our sisters, daughters and friends.
So, what have you tried? What works best for you? Share your stories with us @mpowerstore.