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The curve ball of an early menopause almost cost me everything. I spent 20 years as a Registered General Nurse, working part-time unsociable hours around my young family. Once my children were older, I felt this was the time to progress with my career goals and aspirations. With a new relationship blossoming the future seemed bright and I was looking forward to all this had to offer. Little did I know that the mayhem of menopause was lurking just around the corner. Looking back, I was already suffering an endless list of menopause symptoms that were having a ripple effect on the quality of my life. Even as a Registered Nurse, I had no idea what was happening to me, or even suspected the symptoms were all connected to my hormones. When I started my senior ward sister’s post, things only got worse.
I can still recall the horror of experiencing hot flushes in senior meetings and ward rounds. This left me feeling embarrassed and unprofessional, as concerned glances landed on my reddened face. Working on a busy, understaffed hospital ward there was no room for error, yet brain fog and memory blanks became my new best friends. Anxiety wanted to join the menopause party, waking up with the dread of going to work and feeling fearful of making a detrimental mistake. Seeing my partner with his head in his hands after yet another hormonal meltdown, I knew something had to change and I knew that something was me.
Midlife had arrived and I wasn’t prepared for her. We could have become friends by now if only I had been listening to when she had been
whispering before, as her appearance didn’t happen overnight. Like many other women meeting their midlife, I had been busy juggling the commitments I had as a mother, a partner, a daughter, a friend, a colleague, a nurse, and everything this brings with it. I had an ongoing ‘to do’ list that I was at the bottom of and yet I never seemed to be able to get to the bottom of the never-ending list. If menopause was a theme park, the rollercoaster ride of menopausal mayhem was taking its toll and I was desperate to get off this ride for the hormone harmonising experience, I just didn’t know how.
Menopause can be a confusing, scary, and lonely place to be. I felt stuck between two worlds of who I was and who I was going to be. What I had been doing for the past forty years was no longer working, yet I didn’t know how to carve a path for myself in the unknown territory of midlife. I knew the old me had gone, so fighting to keep her was a losing game. My fertile maiden years in the springtime of life and nurturing mother years in the summer of life, had long passed. I had reached my final season of the crone, where there was only one thing I could do, and this is when everything changed.
I invited her in. I welcomed her. I pulled her a chair up at the table and asked how I could best serve her. From maiden to crone, the first and last phases of womanhood, the crone holds hands with both the mother and the maiden, closing the circle and becoming complete within herself. The crone phase has so much to offer. It embodies courage, independence, freedom, sexuality, abundance, creative energy, and culmination. It represents the fullness of a lived life, embodying the wisdom gathered by living through both the ups and downs of life. I decided to be a woman of my own making, who has benefitted from her midlife crisis.
I relocated myself from the bottom of my ‘to do’ list, to the very top. Menopause is the time of life when all the care and nurture that women give so freely to others needs to be poured back into themselves, to mother themselves forward with loving kindness. Midlife is a time for reassessment,
reflection, and reinvention. Both menopause and midlife are opportunities to change the course of your life, to get back into the driving seat and navigate this season with clarity and confidence. It’s a remembering, an inner knowing of who you were, who you are and who you will become.
Yoga has been a saving grace back to myself. It is so powerful and effective because it works on the holistic principles of harmony and unification. Yoga therapy is successful because of the balance created in the nervous and hormonal systems of the body, helping to reduce symptoms of menopause. Women are finding themselves busy and tired, causing stress in the body and keeping us stuck in a place of experiencing symptoms of hormone imbalances. Time is a woman’s greatest enemy. Long periods of quality time to ourselves is a rarity, as we are busy filling everyone else’s cup while leaving our tank empty. Time spent on the yoga mat allows us the opportunity to silence the mind so we can listen to what our bodies have been trying to tell us. To reconnect with our true self and shed light on the parts of ourselves that may be in darkness. Yoga is the ultimate practice of self-love, and this is what I decided to gift myself when midlife came to stay.
My top three tips for navigating through menopause with clarity and confidence are:
- Self Care
Self-care is a primordial call that needs to be answered every day. Put yourself at the top of your ‘to do’ list and start to fill your own cup first. Everyone else can benefit from your overflow. Quit being selfless as this means lack of self. Start to feel comfortable with being selfish and saying no. Self-care is a self-investment that your future self will thank you for.
2. Stillness Space
Once you are at the top of your ‘to do’ list, you are the boss of it. Start by taking twenty five percent of things off your list, those tasks that are no longer in your priorities. Concentrate on making some stillness space for yourself, to start doing the things that bring you joy and make your heart sing. Do not fill this space with other tasks as the stillness allows the magic to happen.
3. Stress less
Reducing stress is the biggest factor in having a symptom-free perimenopause and menopause. Stress hormones steal our female hormones, keeping us in a state of imbalance. Spend time in your stillness state just being and not doing. Stress is not in your head, it’s in your nervous system. Allow the nervous system to be soothed and regulated, as the nervous system holds the key to the body’s incredible potential to heal itself. The true measure of success is a calm nervous system. In the magic moments of stillness you can listen to what your body is whispering to you, reconnecting to her and allowing you to become friends again.
In a society that values youth over wisdom, along with our own internalised conditioning as women, ageing is often viewed as less. Yet with my crone’s wisdom to guide me, my maiden’s enthusiasm to lead me and my mother’s love to protect me, I am unapologetically enjoying this season of life, writing my own story, and living the wise woman way. I wish this for you.