You know when, sometimes, very occasionally in life, you meet an individual you know is going to be a permanent part of your world, whatever your future holds? MPowder felt such a deep connection with Henny, founder of Reegroup, when we were introduced late in 2019. And now, we’re thrilled that she is part of the expert team guiding our business and also supporting our community - with content and 121 consultations. Henny is a coach. A word she hates. But she is also so much more. We loved talking to her about the birth of her business, her own menopause journey, and absorbing the advice she has to offer. We hope you enjoy the conversation as much as we did.
With love, the MPowder Team.
First, tell us a little bit about Reegroup. What motivated you to start your business?
It was September 2017, I was sitting on a beach in Ibiza, talking with a woman I’d met on retreat. I listened as she described a course she’d just completed, what it had taught her, how she had grown, the academic rigour it had involved and the people she’d met. And I thought… that’s it. That’s the thing I’ve been searching for.
For years I’d been seeking something, not knowing what it was. I’d considered an MA, MBA, CIM, CIPD - but it didn’t matter how I arranged the letters, none of them really felt right.
So, now here I was, overworked, stressed out, grief-stricken (from the loss of my mother) and 12-months on from three bouts of pneumonia, where the last one nearly floored me for good. And I knew I had to make some deep and lasting changes in how I worked and how I lived.
I did the course.
I also took control of a wide range of other factors in my life and through that journey of change, Reegroup was born. To Ree means to sift or sort and to Group means to come together or belong. And that’s essentially the work I support others with. After a lifetime of working in corporate change, I now work with others who also seek deep and lasting change - built on a bedrock of self-care. Because one thing my own journey has taught me is that without self-awareness and self-compassion, the two wings of self-care, change can feel like a battle, rather than the most delicious gift.
We know from our conversations around collaboration that many women contact you as they enter peri-menopause. In your experience, what are the most typical struggles they arrive at your door facing?
The women I work with bring a wide range of topics to the coaching sessions. It can be anything and everything. It may be to do with their career, their relationships, their lifestyle choices or simply wanting to have some time for themselves where they can think and work out how they feel, in a safe space.
Many are looking to change what’s happening to them - or rather, to change how they’re experiencing the change. I think they reach out because having a trusted ally walking beside us when times feel hard gives us confidence to keep moving forward.
Coaching is all about change. And for many of us peri-menopause marks a time in our lives when we face into changes and thoughts, feelings we haven’t actively sought - and it can be a time where things we’ve suppressed or boxed-away in the past can arise…
I term it the real Pandora’s Box.
It’s as though we’ve been given a box at puberty, and throughout our lives, we’ve used it to store all the things that were too difficult, complex, painful, time-consuming to deal with. Then, when we’re peri-menopausal, the box lid starts rattling. And we have a choice. To sit on the lid, as many of the women in our past would have had to do, or to choose to address what’s there, in the way that feels best to us.
Something I often find is that simply having clearer sight of what’s happening, and why it’s impacting the way it does, creates an opportunity to choose how we want to respond. It’s why I’ve developed the Menopause Map - a way for each women to map her own personal menopause as part of exploring how she navigates her next steps.
The sense of control we get from greater clarity helps us create and maintain that inner calm, which adds to the feeling of confidence. It becomes a virtuous circle. When we attend to ourselves with compassion we’re better able to think clearly and from there we can choose what we do, and how we feel.
How has your own menopause transition influenced your outlook towards work and life?
I love this question. It’s prompted me to realise that it’s knowing what I went through that’s built my compassion for others - as I look back with love at the woman I was then.
Menopause often comes at a time in our life when we’re dealing with other things. Ageing parents, children either leaving the nest or the realisation that our options to have children are reducing; maybe increased challenges at work, either through promotion or feeling restricted by the Menopause Wall (as unconscious bias).
And grief can often play a part too. Either grief at the loss of a loved one, or grief at lost opportunities or grief at losing our sense of who we were, without knowing who we’re yet to become. It’s a melee of emotions and situations that can leave us feeling breathless and overwhelmed.
It’s also a wonderful time to take stock. To breathe and see what’s happening. To reconnect with ourselves, with who we are now. And make choices about what we want to come next, and how we want to be.
How do you define success for your business and yourself individually?
Another good question! I had to really think about this one, and to be honest I don’t know, other than a sense that it feels right. I have learnt to listen to myself. To trust my judgement. To hear when my inner critic is piping up because she needs some attention and how to differentiate her from my loving voice of reason. I love the work I do. It motivates me on every level.
So, success for me means feeling calm, contented, clear and confident that I’m on the right path. And it means being ok when I get a bit wobbly, because I know that’s part of the process too.
Has your definition of success changed over time as an entrepreneur and individual?
Yes! If I’m completely honest, I used to think success was measured in what others thought of me. I worked incredibly hard, because I loved what I did but also because I wanted the approval of those around me. I would lose sight at times of what truly motivated me in what I thought others wanted of me. That has changed. And I now know what fuels the fire in my belly - and it’s ok that it’s hard to define because it’s mine, and I understand it, so that’s ok.
I always wanted to do work where I saw little distinction between myself and what I do. In the past that meant being subsumed by the job, now it means choosing to do work I love in the way I love to work, with people I love to work with.
What correlation, if any, do you see between age and ambition?
None. I just think our goals change as we move through life.
I’m just as ambitious now, maybe more so, than I was when I was younger. But I’m creating different things.
I see this in many of the clients I work with too - both in the one-to-one coaching and in the retreats and group work. People come because at some level they want something to change, and that in essence is an ambition. It might not be the striving externally facing ambition we often have when we’re younger - to have a bigger job, a bigger house, a bigger reputation; it may be an internal, purpose-led goal or a desire to create the business and lifestyle that nourishes them on a deeper level.
What are your aspirations for your business over the next 24 months?
When I think of Reegroup I see her as a bear - I have no idea why, but that’s how she is to me. Six-months ago, she felt like a baby bear, just emerged from the den. Today she feels like a young adolescent, already as tall as me but not yet fully grown. In 24 months I see her as an adult, strong and beautiful, standing beside me. I’m not fully sure of what happens in that time but I know it involves collaboration with others, growing the gorgeous community I work with, and lots and lots of creativity… writing, podcasts, events, retreats and, of course, working one-to-one.
What do you wish your younger self had known about:
Life: That you have two lives, and your second one begins when you realise you only have one (Confucius)
Love: That it really is the only thing that matters. And loving yourself has to come first, because then you know how it is to love and be loved.
Health: That it’s not about how you look, it’s about how you feel - and you are worthy of the attention it takes to give yourself that gift.
Work: That it takes many forms, and sometimes resting is when you get your best work done.
What would be your key advice to women transitioning through menopause today? What practical steps could they take to better support their bodies and minds?
Learn to love yourself. It’s as simple and as complex as that.
Find whatever way, whatever allies, whatever support suits you best and give yourself your own loving embrace. Along the way, I’ve used meditation, coaching, journaling, yoga nidra, nutrition, running, essential oils, crania-sacral therapy, podcasts, gratitude practice, retreats… and a whole host of other things, all of which form part of my toolkit - and it continues to grow.
And through all this, I’ve also learnt how to let others in.
Having someone by your side, using support and challenge to expand your thinking, see things more clearly and connect with what really matters to you is powerful magic. And all it takes is conversation. Find people you connect with - a group or a single person. And allow yourself to give yourself the same care, attention, energy and compassion that you give others.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the MPowder community about our second spring?
We can’t choose the timing of our menopause, or the symptoms we experience. We can only choose how we respond to it.
We are always changing, always growing. The only constant is change.
The challenge and the beauty of this time is the opportunity it brings to learn how to make and manage change in the way that feels best for us. It’s a gift that we benefit from for the rest of our lives.
Finally, we're living through unprecedented times. What counsel are you giving to your clients about managing their health during this period?
To stay focussed on the things you can control. So much of what’s happening, globally or in our own communities, are things we can’t control - and that can lead us to feeling powerless. When we focus on what we can control - how we act, how we think, how we feel - we’re more able to maintain those feelings of clarity, calm and confidence. And that in turn supports our health because we come out of flight, fight, freeze and into rest and repair.
And, of course, to practice self-care:
To minimise the time you spend consuming things that don’t truly serve you
To explore ways to improve your experience of the things you can’t change
To identify the choices you have to make changes you desire
And to maximise your opportunities to think, feel, do the things that truly nourish you.
You can find more about Henny’s work here, and catch her pearls of wisdom in Insta-land here. Her regular podcast, The Reegroup Hour, is also a warm, insightful listen and can be found on Apple Podcasts.