If you are courageous enough to peek into the newspapers, either online or on paper, you may conclude that once perimenopause hits, your expectations are so miserable that it might be better to give up the battle entirely.
A visiting alien could conclude that human females over 40 are only fit to be corralled into special homes. Homes for us to weep and gnash our teeth, safe from offending the rest of the population.
Arriving at Perimenopause
At 40, if we’re lucky, we are less than half way through our lives. Do we really expect everything to go to hell from here on in? Of course not! And yet there’s part of us that does believe this, because from birth we have marinated in a bath of ageism and misogyny that values youth, biological fertility and appearance over actual content.
From birth we have marinated in a bath of ageism and misogyny that values youth, biological fertility and appearance over actual content.Kate Codrington
Despite the evidence to the contrary, we feel fear, and as though we have failed by simply arriving at perimenopause. We are side-swiped by the vulnerability we feel. We realise, finally, that over-extending ourselves over decades has consequences, and that our less healthy indulgences might catch up with us. Quite frankly, we are outraged and more susceptible to the toxic marinade because of it.
Our less than welcoming attitude towards perimenopause and beyond will contribute dramatically to our worsening physical and mental health. It seems that the more desperately we resist the ageing process, the more we grip, white knuckled, onto our younger persona, the more we hurt.
Across the world there is a huge variation of menopause experiences e.g. in Japan stiff shoulders and headaches an expected symptom. You might be interested to know that it is by no means certain that you will suffer in perimenopause. According to menopause nutritionist Severine Menem, one in four people have an easy time! Significantly, menopause is found to be less severe in the matriarchal communities. In these communities menopause is a more nourishing marinade.
As fragile individuals struggling with the manic plate-spinning we call post-pandemic life, what can we do to change the narrative?
What can we do to change the marinade?
Here are some things to ponder on:
What flavour is your marinade?
The most important step is to investigate the beliefs you have been marinated in. You can chat with friends, journal, draw or use any medium that feels safe where you can access your flow. Here are some prompts to get you started. Just start by picking one that speaks to you. You are welcome to rephrase these in a way that is meaningful for your situation:
- What beliefs did my family/mother/father hold about being female?
- What beliefs did my family/mother/father hold about menopause?
- What beliefs did my family/mother/father hold about ageing?
- Old women are…
- I’m afraid of perimenopause because…
You may be surprised at some of the stuff that comes up!
Ponder on media
Get very choosy about what media you allow near you, what kind of newspapers, social media, magazines etc. If you’re not sure, check in with how you feel when you’ve been reading: are you feeling more expanded or more tight, more curious or more shut down. Let your body be your guide. Setting some boundaries on your screen time will open up hours in your day, and improve your mental health!
Ponder on connections
Get very choosy about who you spend time with. You know already who is toxic for you, where you feel unsafe, who bosses you about. You are absolutely entitled to choose not to spend time with these people. OK, we can’t always choose our company, at work, or with social circles, so sometimes we have to just turn down their volume and sit further away. Dress with the intention to protect yourself. Use gestures that protect and soothe yourself. Or at least, limit the time spent with them: Sorry darling, I can just make it for 30-mins! It’s also an idea to look around for some inspirational menopausal and Second Spring role models and spend some time with them instead.
Ponder on softness
Yoga is an excellent place to observe where we are holding tightness and explore where we might give ourselves more space. The MFML ‘Menopause for Modern Life Course’ has been designed especially for you to take the course and the classes in your own way and pace. Our bodies communicate our dilemmas very clearly, and when we are able to listen, and offer kindness, space will follow for different possibilities. As in body, so in life.
Lean into support
There is nothing, and I mean nothing, quite like being witnessed, heard and celebrated by people in the same situation as yourself. Every time I participate in a circle or held group I see the enormous relief felt when we realise it’s not just me, I’m not going mad. Find groups that you feel comfortable in, online or in person: there are menopause cafes, menopause yoga classes, Red tents and mates who meet in the pub. If you don’t have access to a group, create one yourself; your rules, your way. Remember, in a group setting, if you feel unsafe, you are entitled to express that, and to leave whenever you need.
Ponder your breath
Very often we look far, far away for exotic solutions, ignoring what is right under our nose. Breath practices can soothe us, help us manage symptoms, create calm and are always available to us, wherever we are. No need to make it fancy, just sigh your exhalation out a few times right now.
Ponder your face
OK, this is a toughie. Look in the mirror and notice the judgements that arise: sagginess, jowls, wrinkles, washed out, gone south? There’s a selection from this morning! But today might be the youngest you will ever look, imagine yourself at 80 regarding your face today: Hey hot stuff, you don’t know how beautiful you are!
Try a reframe, here’s what I saw in my mirror this morning:
- A tender heart
- Life well lived
- Experience and wisdom
- Hard work
Ponder on rest
Giving yourself rest helps you to recover from the toxic marinade. By rest I mean something that eases your mind and soothes you, bringing you back to feeling good. Assuming you’re a yoga fan, Yoga Nidra for menopause is a beautiful option. You will also have your own way, whether that is singing or baking, walking or gardening, doodling or cycling – because it doesn’t need to be anything particularly fancy! You already know what you need.
Ponder on Second Spring
Remembering other spring times in your life can help to reconnect with the trust that menopause will cease and Second Spring arrive, just as spring always follows winter. Going outside now, at the beginning of February, I can connect with trust by looking at the leaves of the emerging bulbs. Other spring times are starting a new job, coming to the end of your period, the beginning of a successful project or excitement of a new relationship. Spring times happen everywhere!
My ambition with my book Second Spring: the guide to self-care for menopause, is for you to create your bespoke, nourishing marinade. It is a friendly guide, with a full toolkit to help you trust in your own authority, that you know what you need and have the right to take it, as you move into a vibrant, creative Second Spring.
Kate Codrington is a menopause mentor, facilitator, artist and podcaster. Her book Second Spring: the self-care guide to menopause is published by HarperCollins.
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