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Over the course of six blogs, we are looking at Menopause. Why? Because so many women go through it, without understanding the changes, and how they can manifest. I was diagnosed with burnout back in 2011. I realise, with hindsight, that menopause was a major contributing factor to my symptoms and mental state. Are you in a similar situation? We can have a much better transition if we have a better understanding of menopause. We can learn to work with our bodies and find our personal path.

In this blog we will be talking about the “hidden gift of menopause” and what positive elements can come from the experience.

Why do we view menopause so negatively?

When many women think of menopause, it is most likely negatively. We always hear about the dreaded menopause and its nasty symptoms. Not to mention the changes and the stress it causes. It is almost like we view it as a tragic, inevitable end to our youth. But is it all negative, or are there actually some positive elements that the whole experience can bring to us?

One thing we might think about, when we approach menopause, is that we will lose our youth and beauty. By today’s beauty standards, it is almost as if we must stay young to be desirable. Western culture seems to glorify beautiful, youthful women and dismiss others, which consequently puts pressure on women to stay young and pretty no matter what. Menopause is seen as a threat to that, which is where the negative narrative surrounding menopause lies. It is important to remember that this is just how Western culture views it, and that in other cultures and countries it may be seen in a completely different way. And that also, it is not just physical beauty that matters.

How do other cultures view it?

While we may suffer with the negative views and taboo around menopause in Western countries are plenty of cultures that have completely alternative perspectives on what it means. For example, the Japanese culture does not worry about menopause at all. While we associate the word menopause with symptoms and unhappiness, the Japanese do not. In fact, their word for menopause is ‘konenki’, which broken down means something much greater than just menopause. Ko means “renewal or regeneration”, nen means “years”, and ki means “season or energy”. In English, it does not translate to something quite so inspirational as this. And in China they have a similar attitude, calling it the ‘Second Spring.’

Indigenous cultures, such as the M?ori in New Zealand, have a beautiful take on menopause. Instead of being something to dread, they see it as the transition from being a member of society, to becoming a spiritual elder. Mayan women believe that entering menopause gives them their access to shamanic abilities and healing powers. They have ceased to have children and will now focus on taking care of their children’s children and the community. Therefore, becoming a well-respected and useful member of the community. There is a quote that Native American and other Indigenous people say which is “The blood you no longer bleed is retained as wise blood.” Perhaps we could learn something from them and change how we personally view menopause? You can read more about different cultures surrounding menopause here.

What is the hidden gift of menopause?

We have all been through difficult situations that left us feeling stronger or wiser. Many women feel that menopause has the same effect. All the unresolved difficulties that we have papered over during our life, to be able to survive and carry on, are magnified in menopause, forcing us to deal with them. As a result, often relationship crises are a ‘side effect’ of menopause. And any past physical symptoms can also come up to be addressed.

Another way of looking at it is that we start out in life as a caterpillar. Menopause is the chyrsalis stage, where we transform into our original blueprint – a butterfly. The shift in hormones challenges us to give up old, unhealthy caterpillar attitudes and behaviours, and become our True Self.

This explains why many women come out the other side of menopause saying they’ve never been happier or more fulfilled. It’s when women come into their power, worry less about what others think, become more assertive, and find their voice. Some even make serious life changes according to what it is they need or want to really thrive. Some learn to stop giving so much of themselves to others and focus more on their own path.

Another medical term for menopause is ‘climacteric’. It is used to describe the decline in fertility in women during this time. And in botany this term denotes the time when a fruit reaches its full ripeness and sweetness. This is a perfect way to view menopause: A ripening into a mature, wise woman, full of life.

So really, there are many positive things we can take away from menopause. It is not all doom and gloom! I hope we can start normalising conversation about menopause, and teach those who have yet to go through it, that it is not something to fear. That it is something to embrace!

Thank you to Sarah Davison for the contribution and information. Sarah can be reached at thrivehomeopathy.com.

Sarah offers a free perimenopause assessment that allows you to check how many of the 49 possible symptoms you have. Click here to take the assessment. You do not have to suffer alone! You can also follow her on social media at @naturalmenopauseexpert

 

 

 

The festive period is a time for joy and celebration, and for many of us it’s a time for family and friends, giving gifts and eating wonderful food. However, for many it’s also a time of increased stress, from shopping, to cooking for the family, there can be a lot to do. Managing Christmas can easily become overwhelming, and it may seem like there is no time to destress. This blog will offer tips and advice on how to minimise stress during the holidays.

While the holidays are usually supposed to be a time for being with family and friends, last year was a little more difficult due to COVID restrictions. As this still might be the case for some families, it is still a major cause of stress for everybody. This added with the pressures of organising the perfect Christmas can be tough. But there are some ways that you can seek comfort and manage stress over this stressful season.

Holiday activities to manage stress

First thing first, get organised! There is so much to do in the lead up to Christmas, you might feel an overwhelming sense of pressure to get everything done in a few short weeks. Especially if you do not have too much time off work. Make a list of everything that needs to be done over the coming weeks. Such as shopping for presents and food, wrapping, decorating the house, and making any holiday preparations. Once you are a little more organised, you will feel that weight lifted knowing that you do have time to complete everything for a perfect Christmas.

Not everybody is lucky enough to have time off over Christmas. If you do, then this is an important time of the year to enjoy spending time with family at home. Even if you do not have a significant amount of time off, you should make time to do holiday activities with them, especially if you have children. It is the perfect time to get the entire family involved in decorating the tree, or making your own decorations. Put on a Christmas music playlist, get the family together and let go a little.

A great creative pasttime is to bake some holiday treats together. Perhaps get the kids to bake some holday treats with you. Even if you live alone, getting involved in some holiday baking or learning that perfect recipe for Christmas day can be almost theraputic if you enjoy being in the kitchen.

Coping with restrictions and loneliness

Of course, we cannot ignore the stress that the pandemic has brought. Unlike last Christmas, we are not yet stuck in another lockdown (fingers crossed!). But with the pandemic still happening and certain restrictions still in place, it can be difficult to spend Christmas with all of your loved ones. This can prove for an extremely lonely and anxious Christmas for some. While you may not be able to spend Christmas with family in person, thanks to social media it is somewhat easier to still be in touch with them. Set aside some time for a zoom call with your loved ones. Perhaps organise a Christmas quiz night or something similar to experience that united holiday feel. Call your friends and wish them happy holidays, you don’t have to spend Christmas completely alone!

If everything is proving too stressful, it may be time to practice some self care. Have a relaxing bath at the end of a long day to wash away the stress. Switch off from the pressures of the holidays for an evening, turn off your phone and have some ‘me’ time. Do something you can shift your focus on like reading a book, or sewing. Practice meditation or yoga to switch off and reset your mind. This way you can think more clearly about the next few weeks.

Regardless of how you are spending Christmas, be mindful of your stress and wellbeing this year. For more tips on managing stress, visit our other blogs.

 

 

Why talk about Chronic Fatigue?

Today let’s talk a bit about chronic fatigue, what it is and how you can manage it. We spoke to Dan Thompson from Southend Acupuncture to hear his perspective on chronic fatigue and how you can include acupuncture and exercise in your routine to help with symptoms. Chronic Fatigues is very akin to Long Covid and many of the things that help chronic fatigue also have been found to help Long Covid.

I burned out in 2011. When I came back to work I knew I was really struggling to concentrate, but I did not know why. I felt tired and really struggled to concentrate. Luckily the works doctor spotted that all was not well and sent me to St Thomas Hospital for an assessment. I had a chronic fatigue syndrome called Fibromyalgia. Finally everything I was feeling made sense. From here I embarked on a journey of discover, recovery and resilience.

What is chronic fatigue?

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a long-term illness and is very common. There is an estimated 250,000 people who are affected by chronic fatigue syndrome in the UK alone. It usually develops between the ages of 20-40, and it is recognised more in women. It is recognised by a case of extreme tiredness that is not relieved through bed rest and is not related to any underlying medical condition. Although the main symptom is fatigue, that isn’t the only common symptom. Other symptoms can include:

  • Poor concentration
  • Brain fog
  • Pain in joints and muscles
  • Headaches
  • Sleeping problems such as insomnia
  • Extreme tiredness

A range of different symptoms means there is no one way to treat or manage chronic fatigue, it cannot be generalised. It is very different for each individual, therefore dealing with the symptoms needs a flexibility and combination of things in order to help with the illness.

How can you manage chronic fatigue?

When figuring out the best solution to dealing with chronic fatigue symptoms, there are a lot of factors to think about. You must of course take into consideration your nutrition and diet, hereditary factors, constitutional factors and emotional factors. These all contribute to long term chronic fatigue syndrome. Additionally, trauma can be a trigger. Trauma triggers a physical response, and this can result in your body going into a fight or flight response.

When dealing with a negative emotion or unresolved trauma, our bodies will naturally go into a fight/flight state. This is where the sympathetic nervous system is triggered, starting a whole host of chain reactions throughout the body. The brain sends a trigger through the nervous system and our adrenal gland will produce adrenaline and noradrenaline. This can induce an increased heart rate, muscle tension, sweating and shallow breathing. These responses are actually vital to how we learn to cope with uncomfortable or negative situations. The fight or flight response is part of our body telling us when we are in danger and preparing us to act on it. We tend to react with the options of fleeing, freezing or fighting, hence the name “fight or flight.”

However, our body cannot always tell when a threat is real or not, so even if there is not any actual danger we still respond in this way. Some people have a little more sensitivity to these situations, such as those with anxiety, PTSD or in this case, Chronic Fatigue Sydrome, which is why the fight or flight response is triggered more than usual.

How can acupuncture help?

Acupuncture can actually help regulate your fight or flight. By putting a needle into the right pressure point it triggers our rest response right away (The opposite of fight or flight). By having regular treatments to help regulate the fight or flight, your body will soon start regulating your other organ functions and bringing a natural order of health. It improves your sleep pattern, energy and also your mindset. By having a healthy mindset you gain more clarity and focus, and in turn brings that back to you wanting to do more exercise despite feeling like you couldn’t due to chronic fatigue. By opting to do acupuncture and exercise regularly your metabolism improves, making you want to eat the right food. All of these are subtle changes that day to day will push you towards feeling better.

Treatment is carried out with Acupuncture, based on the symptoms that are demonstrated. The needles will be used at different points at different times based on presentation, and, as all symptoms can present themselves differently, they will be used whenever or wherever required during the session.

What exercise can you do?

As muscle pain and joint pain are present in chronic fatigue, doing muscle or joint heavy exercise probably not possible. Start by walking, and it doesn’t have to be a mile long walk every day. Maybe start out with a walk around the block at first depending on how you feel! A couple of days later you could go a little further. The more you do it the better you will feel. But remember not to push yourself too far, you do not want to hit that wall of tiredness again. It is your personal journey, it is up to you to find your limits and have total control over feeling better.

For someone with chronic fatigue, just simply getting out of bed can feel too difficult. But once you do, and you take that first step to becoming more active you will feel a whole lot better. It is entirely possible to do that, and once you start to do more physical things such as walking on a regular basis, you will notice the increase in energy and motivation that you have.

What about Pilates or Somatic Movement?

I tried Pilates. It is a gentle form of exercise that can help the pain in the joints and muscles. I started slowly at first, and to be honest it really did not feel like I was doing much. Pilates is a very deep muscles level exercise but this only really becomes apparent as you become more connected with your body and more experienced at the movements.  The more I did the better I felt, the better I felt the more I did. More recently I discovered Somatic Movement and have chosen Somatic as the movement that I teach others. It is absolutely fantastic at helping regain control of the body and dissipate stuck stress.

It’s important to remember that chronic fatigue does not come on overnight, and neither does recovery. It will take time to recover, it is a marathon not a sprint! As long as you are feeling like you are on the right track to feeling better in yourself then you are on the right track. Just take one step at a time!

Thank you to Dan Thompson from Southend Acupuncture for sharing his expertise with us. If you would like to know more about acupuncture and Chinese medicine, you can visit Dan’s website or contact him here.

Over the course of six blogs we are looking at Menopause. Why? Because so many women go through it, without understanding the changes, and how they can manifest. I was diagnosed with burnout back in 2011. I realise, with hindsight, that menopause was a major contributing factor to my symptoms and mental state. Are you in a similar situation? You can have a much better transition if you have a better understanding of menopause. You can learn to work with your body and find our personal path. I wish I knew then what I know now, and I wish I had met Sarah when I first started experiencing symptoms. My experience would have been very different. Your experience, if you are not post menopause already, still can be.

How should we deal with stress during menopause and what are the effects it has on symptoms? We spoke to natural menopause expert Sarah Davison to understand what menopause is, how to prepare for it and how to manage symptoms.

Why is menopause so stressful?

Menopause can be a very stressful time in a womans life. Coping with all of these mental, emotional and physical changes is difficult enough. It is not just the transition through menopause that is stressful. Menopause comes at a time in your life when you have a lot of stress for other reasons.

At the age when menopause hits there are also a lot of other factors contributing to how we deal with it.  Women do it all. We have children, raise them and care for them. We have to deal with the stress and loss of them leaving home when the time comes. Some women have children later on in life, so can you imagine dealing with young children and perimenopause at the same time? Another responsibility that seems to naturally fall on women at this age besides looking after children, is the possibility of looking after sick or dying parents or relatives. As you could imagine, or even have experienced, all of these responsibilities weighing on you can be overwhelming. Especially if you’re trying to balance work too! stress

Did you know that certain other organs besides the reproduction ones also have a part to play in menopause? As your ovaries are slowing down the production of progesterone and oestrogen, your adrenal glands (that produce the stress hormones) take over and produce those hormones. Your body is designed for survival, and will always put that first above anything else. This means that while your adrenal glands are producing a lot of stress hormones they can’t produce a sufficient amount of sex hormones.

So there is an overlap between symptoms of adrenal fatigue, which results from chronic stress, and symptoms of perimenopause. Such as exhaustion, depression, weight gain, insomnia, low sex drive, digestion problems and back pain.

Managing stress

There are plenty of ways to manage stress, even in menopause, such as simple breathing exercises or meditation. It’s also a good idea to make sure your body is getting the right nutrition. This is different for everyone. Find a nutritional specialist if you need help finding out what is right for you. Perhaps monitor how much sugar you are consuming, and get a sufficient amount of protein.

Exercise is a great way to reduce stress. However, if you overdo exercise you can release too much cortisol. Hard exercise is not for those with adrenal fatigue – it will make it and your menopause symptoms worse! Everything in moderation. Go for moderate exercise. Make sure you do something you love too. It can be a nice walk, a bit of gardening,  or maybe dancing is more you groove? Anything that gets you moving on a regular basis.

Thank you to Sarah Davison for the contribution and information. Sarah can be reached at thrivehomeopathy.com.

Sarah offers a free perimenopause assessment that allow you to check how many of the 49 possible symptoms you have. Click here to take the assessment. You do not have to suffer alone!

Over the next few weeks we will be exploring the other elements of menopause.

  • Taboo and Ignorance
  • Natural VS HRT
  • Menopause in the Workplace
  • The Hidden Gift of Menopause

 

 

Do you struggle to cope with the amount of change you experience around? Is change a constant at work?

Change is a fundamental fact of life. You cannot stop the onward march of change, but you can manage how you react to it. There are things you can do to cope with it personally and plenty you can do as a business owner or manager to support people and help the transition.

It is inevitable, change, but you can actually deal with it, and you can actually develop some coping strategies. You can also do some key things to make it less scary.

Dealing with Change on a Practical Level

On a daily basis within the businesses, change can be anything. When we think about change, we think more about the major change, such as restructuring, people buying over businesses, people losing their jobs but there is minor change as well.  For example: going on a training course has an impact in terms of the where and when you’re going to be doing your work. This means you also have to think about change within the work space.

What about change in our personal life and what impact does it have on our daily activities within the work space?

We need to look at at change holistically and not compartmentalise it in terms of work and personal life.

We spend much of our time at work and change here has a major impact, but is change necessary? Businesses have to change to keep up.  We need to juggle changes in technology, requirements of different generations of staff, differing client requirements and staying ahead of the game to stay in business.

The impact of change on the employee wellbeing

Change, for most people, tends to be quite an uncomfortable place to be. It means that there is uncertainty. It could be that there job might change or disappear altogether for example. Employees are likely to be worried about the new role, whether they’ve got the right capabilities in place to be able to deal with it.

Somebody might be worried about whether they’re actually going to have a role with the changes that are coming – there will be a level of uncertainty about what’s going to happen – “am I going to have a job in the future”.

Even if you’re working for yourself there’s still a massive level of uncertainty around change. You’re constantly on the lookout regarding your client base, what’s going to happen tomorrow and I’m going to have enough money to pay the mortgage. You know when you’re working for yourself you tend to get those peaks and troughs so actually responding to all those demands is what makes things worrying.

It doesn’t just impact employees but it impacts sole traders and business people as well.

Are our leaders resilient enough to manage change?

Communication, communication, communication is key. It doesn’t have to be a complicated strategy that you’re putting in place. It can be something simple, but tell employees why change is happening. Explain to them the impact it’s going to have on them.  Much of the worry will be because employees do not feel informed or included.  Make sure to get their input too.  They might think of something you have not. We think we need to come up with the solutions ourselves but often your employees have the answer.

Giving employees the opportunity to ask questions and including them as part of the process helps reduce the stress.  Communication is very important.

Communicating with customers or clients is equally important.  It might be that their needs are driving the change too.  Keep them in the loop and work with them to deliver fit for purpose solutions.

As a small business owner it can be quite isolating and change can feel that much more stressful. You need support around yourself.  You need to think about where can you get that support. Reach out to others and get their input.

If you’re working within a co space environment there will be other people that are sole traders as well or start-ups.  See if you can get a network group going within that environment and how you can help each other.

A coach can also be a great benefit to help manage change.  They are a great sounding board, listener and trusted advisor.

Mindset

Many people worry about what the outcomes might be, and have a tendency to catastrophizing and in their minds that things will be a lot worse than they are. You have to find people around you that you can go and talk to, to actually talk about your fears and worries, and to go through a process that they can help you with, where you are given the space to think about what the worst-case scenario will be.

  • Is that really likely to happen?
  • Have I been in this situation before?
  • Was it as bad as we expected?

Going through this process will help put it into perspective, and nine times out of 10 things are never as bad as you think. Even if it is worst case scenario, and you are working for a company and is facing redundancy; you never know what sort of opportunities are going to come along.

Mindset and how you approach things, looking for the positive can make a massive difference about how you feel internally. Try reframing any negative thoughts and see how you can make it into a positive one.

Find techniques that help you destress, make sure you take time for yourself and do something fun.

For further ideas go to https://www.facebook.com/ProsperThroughPeople/ where you will find a growing number of videos to help you.

It is very easy to keep pushing, which can lead to burn out so self-care and care of your employees is really important.

Making change personal

If you want to make changes on a personal level, one of the key things is to really understand where you’re at. So for any change to happen, you really need to know where your starting point is.

Journaling is really useful to actually be able to look internally and see where you are at and what your mindset is. So start to do things like, say for example, if you find a particular situation stressful, start to make a really short journal. It doesn’t have to be pen and paper we’ve all got smartphones these days, it’s really easy to get an app to do journaling on. It doesn’t matter where you do it you can also record messages there’s apps like mental snap where you can record your mental state.

The important thing is to actually have that inward reflection and start to look at; okay I’ve got a bit anxious about that. What was the trigger? And then start to look at, what was it something external, was it something that I didn’t understand, was it that I didn’t have enough information, was it me reacting to it to somebody else, and just really understand what the triggers are and what makes you feel that the worst is going to happen in the first place.

Once you’ve done that journaling, you’ll start to understand and dig under your own hood a little bit as to what makes you tick, and what actually puts you into that, we like to call it sort  of catastrophizing, where you always think the worst is going to happen. And then you can start taking steps to think about well actually is that really, really the case.

Mahatma Gandhi said: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Change is a journey. I hope you enjoy your journey.

Written by Alison Charles and Reyhana Jano