I recently signed up for a continuous professional development course (CPD) on Solution Focused Hypnotherapy and the Menopause. The objective of the course was to teach curious therapists, like myself, how Solution Focused Hypnotherapy could be of benefit to women going though this transitional period in their lives. I have to confess I signed up for the course because I thought that I should. If I’m brutally honest not many things have excited me less than the prospect of talking about the menopause for four hours on a Saturday morning. However the menopause is pretty high on the agenda right now both nationally (symptoms including ‘flushing’ seems to be an increasingly ‘hot’ topic of discussion on television and in the press. Sorry I couldn’t resist then pun) but also personally; Having not long ago celebrated my forty-fifth birthday I am most likely in, or rapidly approaching the peri-menopause.
So I settled myself down for the morning on front of my computer, Zoom meeting links at the ready, and armed with coffee, anticipating drudgery and tales of an unavoidable and slightly negative reality (I’m referring to the online training…although I have to acknowledge that the negativity was linked to thoughts of my own menopausal journey too). The course was in fact incredibly interesting. It challenged my own assumptions and actually inspired and excited me (menopause geek?). No, I wasn’t on the wrong course, and we did of course look at the plethora of possible symptoms that women can experience during any point of the peri-menopause, menopause (did you know this is just the one single day that marks one year since your last period!) and post-menopause. The list of symptoms can be described as long, slightly eye watering and certainly unenviable. However, it turns out that although the menopause is universal to women around the world, the symptoms are not. Google it and you’ll see for yourself!
There seems to be a trend that countries such as the UK, the US, Australia and Canada, where the ageing process for women is seen as a negative, women often struggle with symptoms, are sometimes embarrassed by them, and also avoid discussing them. In these countries where there is a plight amongst many for a kind of eternal youth, women seem to be far more likely to have negative experiences of the menopause.
Some other countries and cultures, view this transitional period in a women’s life more positively. In Japan the word for menopause ‘konenki’, means ‘renewal of life’ and energy and it is thought that it can be ‘the best time of your life yet’. In India it may be seen as a time of liberation. Indeed in countries where women are seen to have a positive change of status at this time in their lives, it seems that women may also have a different and more positive experience of the menopause.
That is not to say that women do not experience symptoms such as hot flushes and mood swings (in Japan women are more likely to report feeling ‘chilli’), but they often appear to struggle with them to a lesser degree. So it seems that ingrained cultural attitude can have a significant impact on women’s menopause experience, psychologically and quite possibly physically too.
Some of this may be down to diet and lifestyle. If this is the case then perhaps we can take heed and strive for an active lifestyle with a diet rich in soy products. Soy is rich in oestrogen, one of the hormones that naturally declines during the menopause. Don’t worry, dictating diet and exercise is not part of my role as a Solution Focuses Hypnotherapist- you can decide if you want to look into it…But…while we are on the subject of oestrogen… did you know that cortisol practically eats oestrogen!!!? Cortisol is one of the main stress hormones, and has all sorts of less than desirable effects when we have too much of it in our bodies. It encourages fat storage, interferes with our immune system, and can disrupt our sleep. So all of that, on top of the fact that it is negatively effecting our already decreasing oestrogen levels, is enough to persuade me that we really want to manage and decrease our cortisol levels. So as a ‘stress hormone’ we produce cortisol when we are stressed and anxious. In theory it is actually there to help us; If you were in immediate danger, lets say that an unexpected polar bear strayed into your path, your body would pump you full of adrenaline so you could fight the polar bear (I’m not taking that option) or run away (definitely my preferred option even though I don’t like running). It would then raise your cortisol levels so that you would continue to stay on high alert in case the danger (Polar Bear) was to return. So if we are feeling anxious and stressed we will be producing extra cortisol. I have to say that the list of possible menopausal symptoms is pretty anxiety provoking. Combine that with the unconscious negative perceptions and fears of aging and negative connotations of menopause. Then add into the mix any other anxieties and stresses we might also be in our lives, and you could end up with a pretty full stress bucket! And a full stress bucket means that we are more likely to think negatively, fuelling cortisol, further reducing oestrogen and exacerbating any menopausal symptoms that we are experiencing. When our stress buckets have capacity in them, we have the capacity to deal with anything, including frustrating symptoms. When our stress buckets have capacity we are able to think rationally and logically. When our stress buckets have capacity we are far more likely to be able to think positively about ourselves, or work towards small goals that will help us to feel better about ourselves. When our stress buckets have capacity we have a much better chance of getting a good nights sleep, which will in tern empty our stress bucket still further. If you would like to find out more about how Solution Focused Hypnotherapy could help you to empty your stress bucket, reduce stress and anxiety both in general and related to the menopause, and cope with any symptoms that you may have, and feel good about yourself and the future please get in touch to arrange a FREE initial consultation. That Saturday morning training course has completely changed the way that I will now view the menopause. Learning about the menopause, talking about the menopause, and updating and overriding some of my subconscious negativity about it has left me feeling completely different about this transitional stage in women’s lives. I look forward to supporting clients on their own journeys to a better, easier, and more manageable, menopause experience.