Alexandra Pope, co-director of The Red School addresses what happens, when menopause approaches! We might want to shout: ‘Help! Menopause is here. What do I do?’ This is a reassuring guide of how to navigate menopause.
Help, menopause is here! But really, there’s nothing to worry about. Menopause is a ‘whole systems’ change of your body, soul and life. So naturally it is going to take a little time.
The cessation of your menstrual cycle invites in a complete re-organisation of your being in order to set you up for a new, more empowered life post menopause. This change will require something of you emotionally and physically. And for that to happen with some grace and ease, your being requires attention.
You’ll naturally find you have less juice for or interest in others. And that is as it should be. Your being wants to go on ‘retreat’ from the world for a while in order that you can attend to yourself, just as a caterpillar goes into a chrysalis on its journey to become a butterfly.
At Red School we have created what we call the ‘menopause triage’ to help you form your version of that chrysalis in order that you might transform into a new iteration of yourself.
The menopause make-over is potentially very powerful, provocative (a good thing!), revelatory and liberating. But you have to take yourself and your self care really seriously now to experience these possibilities and not just end up feeling messed around by it.
When menopause arrives, and you will know that moment, it can initially feel destabilising, and for some quite distressing. That is when your ‘menopause triage’ must kick in however small the gestures that you are able to make.
Think of these practices as your baseline essentials. As you do them you will begin to feel more trust in yourself and the process will start to make sense. For, remember, it is filled with meaning, guidance and insight. You will begin to know more precisely what it is that you need and must do. You can’t force this knowledge, it emerges through your self care. The whole transition, this rite of passage, has its own timing, that takes time. However the more you trust yourself the more you will feel ease and patience with that timing.
The Steps of your Menopause Triage:
Recognise and accept that you are in menopause
A simple but necessary act. When the first signs of menopause appear it’s quite normal to go into denial, as you try to maintain business as usual. For a little while you get away with it until you feel you’re not coping as well or that you are going mad. THIS IS NOT FAILURE. You are simply moving into other ‘work’ which is happening on the inside. You are stepping out of what I like to call normal time/space reality and retreating into that chrysalis.
When you recognise and accept menopause, you dignify it. You subtly re-oriente your being to what will be the new normal for a little while. Take yourself in hand, give yourself a little heart to heart, lay it on the line…‘things are going to be different for a while’. And you’ll probably find you have that same conversation with your nearest and dearest as well. They need to be formally introduced to the reality of your menopause and that you will be not available as you used to be to attend to them. And keep remembering, this is quite normal and healthy, not failure.
Time and space for yourself
This is the most crucial of all the steps. This is what creates the chrysalis for the menopause alchemy to happen. However modest, and it might start off as a secret half hour on your own, you need regular downtime for yourself. Time in which you drop all responsibilities – no agendas, no anything! Simply being, staring into space, letting your mind drift, perhaps sitting with your journal (remember, no agenda to use, just handy to have), or perhaps quietly pottering around in your own private pressure-free bubble.
Feelings – grief, anger, rage, regret – may start to emerge, let them have free passage, when it’s safe to do so. You are beginning to decommission your whole body/mind/soul from the life you have been living in order that what is most essential, most important, most ‘you’, can arise. And naturally feelings will arise when you give yourself space. You simply need to keep on making space for them.
Practice the art of ‘snudging’
You are going to love this one, it’s one of my favourites! It is the practice of doing as little as possible while still meeting your commitments. On the surface you look impeccable, delivering on what you have to, but all the ‘fat’ is cut away. No one can fault you, but underneath you are doing the absolute bare minimum. You certainly won’t go the extra mile for anybody anytime soon.
We imagine anyway that you have already built up a very healthy ‘bank account’ of going-the-extra-mile-for-everybody. Now it’s payback time. It’s all about YOU. You’re going to be ruthless in prioritising yourself. It might be strange at first, but you’ll soon get the hang of it, and love it. One of the superpowers of menopause is the capacity to say No. You’ll be saying No to just about everything and everybody quite naturally. Don’t let this power go to waste.
This is one of the most necessary and potent remedies for menopause. You can’t get enough of it. It is about rest for your body and soul. It’s part of that ‘nothing time’ of point #2. Rest that is completely agenda free. Rest that frees you from the constant driving and achieving obsession of our culture. Rest from trying to be perfect. As you take time to let go you may notice just how tired you are, and possibly how jangled your nervous system is from running on adrenaline (and cups of coffee) for too long. Your whole being now needs time to recalibrate.
Soothe your nervous system
As a natural adjunct to rest, it’s vital to have some kind of practice or activity that is soothing and calming for you, and allows pleasure and ease back into your system. The simple act of doing less and learning to move at the actual pace that your nervous system can tolerate is soothing. Other ways you can soothe yourself are alternate nostril breathing, yoga nidra, massage, epsom salt baths, walking or simply being in nature. Or it might be a gentle hobby, that allows you to drop into your own private bubble. Even the simple act of sitting and doing nothing, letting your mind wander and drift can bring back equilibrium. And that costs nothing.
Trust your menopause process for there is an implicit order at work that’s unfolding. The key is to trust yourself, trust what is coming up for you. You do know stuff, but often it’s scary to know what you know because it might cause upheavals to those around you or to yourself. Menopause can be uncompromising. It won’t let you compromise yourself even at the risk of causing big upheavals. You’ll find you probably can’t avoid what you know is needed. You may not yet know ‘the how’ of it all, but with time something will develop if you stay close to those knowings.
The 1% change
Much of your menopause triage is predicated on your capacity to take time and space for yourself, and that is usually the challenge for most of us. Too much to do. In the face of this, we say don’t back down. You are going to make 1% changes to claim time for yourself. 1% is always doable. 1% can be a new thought in your head that you deserve to have time for yourself. That thought is seditious, it will create the 2%, for you will spot an opportunity you hadn’t before. You will find yourself saying no to something you might automatically have said yes to. Or you’ll get super smart about how you organise your time in your diary. Remember that super power of No. It’s on your side. We can almost promise you that that 1% is going to multiple in no time.
Menopause is not the enemy
Our culture’s negative attitude towards menopause and older women is the problem, not menopause. Modern life is too fast and furious for anyone’s good, including the planet’s. At menopause your body/being is giving you a reality check on all this. Thank menopause, dignify it and reclaim the potential power that can be unleashed as you trust yourself and follow your inner promptings. It’s potentially very liberating. So there’s no need to cry: “Help, menopause is here.”
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Alexandra Pope is co-director of Red School and co-author of the iconic and hugely celebrated book from Hay House, Wild Power: discover the magic of the menstrual cycle and awaken the feminine path to power. Together with her colleague and co-author,Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer, they teach a radical new approach to women’s health and wellbeing; creativity and leadership; and spiritual life based on the power of our menstruality consciousness. With a background in teaching, psychotherapy and hypnotherapy and drawing on 40 years collective experience pioneering this emerging field of menstruality, they offer workshops, online courses, training and coaching worldwide based on the power of the menstrual cycle, and the developmental journey from menarche to menopause.