Going into menopause well
Going into it well!
Bryony Rowntree is a coach, workshop leader and connects with businesses offering a range of services by bringing mental health and wellbeing to the forefront of everyone’s minds, creating a more positive work culture.
The conversation around menopause is opening up. More women who are in the midst of it are talking to each other, writing about it, reaching out for support and information and some are even becoming more open in their workplaces about it. This shift is hugely important for women who are going through peri- and post-menopause but it is also important for women like me, who are not yet in the perimenopause but feel changes coming (it feels a bit like when a midwife says, ‘No, you’re not in labour’ but you know something is happening). My Grandma never talked with my Mum about periods or birth but did talk to her about the menopause. She gave her advice about being fit and healthy before she began the perimenopause and making sure she wasn’t exhausted when it started. Her clear message was, ‘Go into it well.’
Many of us who go through birth prepare for it. We think about where we want to give birth, how we want to be, what is most important to us and those women who choose to have faith in the process and be proactive about their choices are more likely to have a positive experience. We also consider carefully what type of mother we want to be. What if we applied this to our approaching menopause? Not all of us will experience birth but all women will journey through the menopause. Our wellbeing and attitude towards both experiences have a huge impact. There are parallels with birth that are useful to consider for preparing for perimenopause:
Medical intervention is available but the physical process itself is not pathological
Both have been pathologised
We are the ones who get to choose how we respond to the experience we have
We can change our minds as we progress about the choices we have made
Recognising what is really important to us and making choices from that place has a deeply positive impact on our experience
We need to get out of our heads to listen to our bodies
We need space and time to find our way to own it and ride it as best we can
We can only ride one wave at time
Everyone’s experience is different
We will be different on the other side and there will be a new adventure, with it’s own challenges, wonderment and unknowns awaiting us.
As with pregnancy, birth and parenthood, going into the perimenopause stressed, overwhelmed, unhealthy or with low confidence/self-esteem/self-love make for a tougher time. To go into it well, we need to come back to ourselves, reflect on what’re really important to us, consider our lifestyle choices and the impact they are having on us, figure out if we are being the woman we want to be and letting go of inhibiting or stress-inducing narratives and behaviours. We get to choose how we step into any phase of life and what we want to take with us. Entering the perimenopause with unwanted baggage is a bit like moving house with the boxes you wish you’d had time to sort through beforehand and may now just sit in a corner getting dusty and annoyingly taking up space for years.
Our attitude towards the menopause and ageing are now scientifically recognised as influencers on our menopausal symptom experience (NCBI , Science Direct). Choosing our perspective (and practicing it) on entering the perimenopause gives us empowerment, increased chances of an overall positive experience and opens up possibilities. Altering our viewpoint is a real and doable thing. We may not be able to choose all that we are dealt in life but we can choose how we look at it and how we respond.
For me, it comes down to whether I want to live my life or let it happen to me. Yes, I have my moments of being very tempted to be passive but my main, sustaining truth is that I want to live my life, which means making sure that I have got what I need for the next part of the journey and that I keeping on venturing forward in connection with myself and others.
Bryony is a coach and workshop leader, based in Leeds and York. She works mostly with women and is looking to work more with frontline services, such as the Education Sector, the NHS, the Police and Social Services.