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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

 

 

 

As a female in today’s society, it is an unfortunate fact that you have to be on your guard when it comes to being out at night. With the recent reports of drug spiking being on the rise, women are trying to be more vigilant than ever. And we are all asking the same simple question: Just how safe are women in today’s society?

I’m Sophie, I work for Alison Charles and have taken on this blog to bring some awareness to the dangers of spiking. As well as discussing the issues surrounding drug spiking and women’s safety, I will also be sharing my personal experience with an unprecedented drug spiking that happened to me only a month ago.

What are the dangers of spiking?

It almost goes unspoken, the ritualistic process in which women must take in order to ensure a safe night out. Making sure that you are not walking alone at night, covering your drink at every given moment, or phoning a friend when you get home to let them know you are alive. These precautions which have shockingly become normal to us are vital for our safety. We must be consistently on the lookout for danger. Unable to enjoy a simple night out with friends in case we end up under the influence of GHB or another unwelcome drug.

In a recent survey by The Tab on Instagram, around 23,000 students responded to the question “Since the start of the year, do you believe you have been spiked?”. Of these people, 2,625 answered yes. When asked if they knew someone who had been spiked, 50% (around 12,000 people) also answered yes. The newest issue that we are seeing all over the media now is the use of needles to drug women. There have been multiple reports of girls feeling the effects of spiking with no idea what happened. Only to find a pinprick-type wound later. As women become increasingly aware of their drinks, it seems the culprits are finding new ways to target women with drugs against their will. In my case, this could have been in the almost unheard-of form. A cigarette!

My experience of being spiked

On the 15th of September this year, just a month ago, I was spiked in London. The details I have of that night have been told to me by the people I was with, as I have no recollection of anything whatsoever. I know that I was fine until my vision became very blurry, I felt confused and nauseous. Within minutes I was on the floor, vomiting, convulsing and unconscious. During some of it, my mind was completely aware, but I had no control over my body movements at all. I had paramedics and strangers in the street helping me, I never saw their faces.

After many hours, and trip to the hospital, I was able to get safely home. My mum drove over an hour to find me sat alone and shivering at a hospital. It did not end there, for the next two days I was incredibly sick, dehydrated, and nauseous. The pub I was visiting took no responsibility. Therefore, this has gone completely unsolved, and I am left with a harrowing memory of that night. And now, the added fear of enjoying a night out with friends ever again. Having experienced this, I will forever take drug spiking seriously and try to bring awareness as to how terrifying it can be. I am also horrified at the new information of needles being used, especially with the risks of contracting unwanted diseases or infections.

How to know if you have been spiked

The problem with spiking, and how to stop it, is that it is completely out of a woman’s control. It should not be down to us to stay safe when we are not the culprits. We are just the victims of disgusting, predatorial people whose end goal is both terrifying and sad. With most culprits being male, it should be down to the those around us to help ensure our safety. Make your friends aware. And if you see a woman in trouble, try to intervene or ask if she is safe. As women we can still only do the bare minimum. Stay vigilant, cover your drinks, be mindful of who you are with. Even with all those measures in place it still doesn’t guarantee total safety.

Not everyone is aware of the signs of drink spiking. It can go completely unnoticed until it has already happened. However, if you do notice anything strange about your drink, such as an off smell or taste, let friends or staff know. These are some of the effects that drugs such as GHB (Rohypnol) can have and to be wary of. Remember, if you experience any of these, let someone around you know so you can get adequate help:

  • You have not had a lot to drink, but feel too drunk already
  • Blurred vision or black outs
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Lack of awareness or confusion
  • Lack of control over body movements
  • Unconsciousness

What can venues do to keep us safe?

At the moment, there is a lot of talk about how local venues can make sure we are safe. How many more cases do there need to be for someone to take it seriously? A petition, started by Hannah Thompson from Glasgow, has been put forward to the government with over 140,000 signatures already. This petition is asking that nightclub venues should legally search everybody on their way in. In addition to this, women up and down the nation have planned “Girls Night In”. This is a day planned for the 27th of October where women boycott nightclubs and other local venues in order to stress just how seriously spiking need to be taken.

A few nightclubs and bars have already acted by some having “spiking strips” behind the bar. These are strips of CYD that analyse your drink and give an indication as to whether it has been tampered with. It picks up drugs such as GHB and Ketamine. However, only a few venues offer these. But they are extremely easy to get hold of, so it might be a good idea to take some with you yourself, just in case. But again, why is this our responsibility? We can only look out for ourselves until somebody steps in.

It is important that we keep raising awareness for the many women who have fallen victim to spiking, so if you want to make others aware, please share. Hopefully one day women will feel safe enough to enjoy a simple drink with their friends without fear.

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.

Would five hour work days be beneficial?

I came across a topic on LinkedIn in which people are discussing whether shorter shifts of five hour days would ensure a better state of wellbeing for employees and the companies they work for. The scheme is being tested in Scandinavian countries, the US and UK.

There are a lot of elements and things to unpack when it comes to an ideallistic image of working shorter hours, and after doing our own research we’ve realised there are both pros and cons. To anyone who works long and tiresome shifts, cutting working hours to five a day may sound like a dream come true, especially if you’re struggling to manage home life, work life and a social life. While many people love what they do and are happy to put in the extra hours do they really think about the impact on thier wellbeing and what about the company perspective? So could we benefit from working shorter hours and who would it benefit the most?

Balance, wellbeing and productivity

Work life balance

After reading the initial discussion and WIRED’s main article and what others had to say on LinkedIn, it seems that five hour days would mostly be benficial for those who struggling to maintain balance in all aspects of their life. They are in favour of , what they consider a better balance. Long hours sat at a desk every day can lead many people to being both mentally and physically exhausted. Especially with more work being virtual and on screen.

Productivity five hours

There has also been concerns about productivity, how much could really be done in five hours or maybe six? A 2019 survey showed that the avereage amount of productive work hours amount to two hours and twenty three minutes. The people they studied admitted to sometimes getting highly distracted – something that other research has shown could be counterblanaced by shorter hours. Companies that have tried this scheme found that some employees were able to complete tasks sufficiently without distractions. It also meant they could leave the office by 2pm after working through from 8am. Could it be that they are more productive because they are more focussed too? Do we have a tendancy to fill out the time we have with a task?

Who would benefit from five hour shifts?

While most of the research shows that there is a largly positive reaction to working shorter hours, it does mean that businesses would have to employ more staff to work those other shifts. The average business employee probably works 40 hours a week. If the company employes 20 people working 40 hours that is an 800 hour week of work. To replicate the hours it would mean employing 32 people 5 hours a day to reach an 800 hour week. However, if those that are doing the work are more productive in those hours maybe it would only mean employing an extra 7 people to get the same output? Would it mean slow task completion? Would it be a good idea to spread work out among more people? This would also mean possibly seeing a fall in umployment numbers. More jobs would open up to fill those extra shift gaps.

Then comes the question of salary. Working a shorter day would mean you are not earning as much as you would in a regular 40 hour week. In a household with two working people this might be doable. More freedom and better blance might be worth the salary sacrifice. For me it certainly was when I moved to a 4 day work week back in 2012, when I was working for corporate. For others it just will not be a manageable income so how do employers balance the needs of all thier employees.

Which industries would it suit?

This is certianly the million dollar question. According to CNBC several CEO’s sworse by it after introducing it in 2019. However, they lost quite a few employees as a result and some had to make some adjustments, like just offering it through the summer. For those employees who remained they did find their emotional wellbeing was higher, with more time to do what they enjoyed and more time with family and friends. They also noted that while the team had shrunk revenues had increased.

The important thing to remember is that the approach will not suit all employees and it will not suit all companies. The important thing is to start a dialog and see what it the best option for both. These are very challenging times and anything that helps the company the individual and the economy has got to be worth investigating.

 

Being a bit more zen can help you get through the day

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More people than ever are suffering will ill mental health, due to the ongoing covid pandemic and other associated problems. Learning a technique that can help you feel more chilled and more zen can really make a difference. Learning to meditate can reduce stress, decrease anxiety and improve mood. Scientific evidence show that meditation can be helpful in fighting illness, including depression, heart disease and chronic pain.

Trying to reach a state of zen when your messages keep bleeping and someone wants your focus, or kids want your attention is a challenge at the best of times, but with everyone in the house trying to stay busy or keep working is particularly challenging. There are a variety of different meditation styles and finding the right one for you can be a bit of a minefield, so here is a simple guide to help you decide which one is right for you.

History

The far eastern countries are well known for being zen. Of course that is where the word comes from. It literally means meditation. See this article in wikipedia for more information. Meditation was first developed in India possibly since 5000BC. The oldest documented evidence is wall art in the Indian subcontinent from about this time, showing people seated in meditative postures with half-closed eyes. During this time and for centuries before, all learning and knowledge was passed on by word of mouth. Almost all the Hindu religious books talk of meditation in some form or the other. So we can safely assume that meditation was also an integral part of the knowledge that the Gurus were teaching their students, and all this was done via the oral tradition. And because it was oral, it is not documented and hence gets very difficult to tell how old meditation really is.

Meditation is the practice of thinking deeply or focussing ones mind for a period of time.  This can be done in silence or with the help of chanting or other aids. Lets have a look at a few different practices, old and new.

1. Mindfulness

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Mindfullness meditation is very zen and very now! It is all about being aware and present and in the moment. It can be done anywhere. You might prefer to find a quiet spot and sit with your eyes closed, focussing initially on your breath and then just noticing what you notice. Allowing sounds to pass you by without judgement. Perhaps while you are running or walking you find yourself in flow, which is another way of thinking about meditation. (In positive psychology flow or a flow state, or in the zone. Characterised by the complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting transformation in one’s sense of time. Named by by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi in 1975).

A form of mindfulness is involved in most kinds of meditation. Breath awareness encourages you to be aware of your breathing, while progressive relaxation draws attention to areas of tension in your body.

2. Loving-Kindness Meditation

A particularly good one to include to help you be a bit more zen is kindness. The goal of this meditation is to cultivate an attitude of love and kindness toward everything. Cultivating kindness towards oneself is really important for good mental wellbeing. While breathing deeply, open your mind to receiving loving kindness, then send  of loving kindness out to others. You can focus on specific people or situations if you wish. Repeat the message over and over.

It can help dispel feelings of anger, frustration, resentment and conflict and increase positive emotions.

3. Body scan or progressive relaxation

Body scan or progressive relaxation meditation, is where you sit in a relaxed comportable position and can your body for areas of tension. The goal is to notice tension and to allow it to release. It is challenging to instantly obtain relaxation so purposfully tensing the area and then relaxing helps send the right messages to the muslces to relax. Start with your feet and work up the body.

Progressive relaxation can help invoke feelings of calmness and relaxation. It may also help with pain, because it slowly and steadily relaxes the body, some people use this form of meditation to help them sleep.

4. Guided Meditation

Guided meditations can be very helpful in many situations.  Having something to specifically focus on to guide you through can help you relax and focus. It can invoke sounds, textures and images though use of words, music, sounds of nature or bells, chanting and many more.  Guided meditations can also be used to focus on specific issues like improving self confidence, weight loss, general relaxation any many more.  It is just a case of finding the one or ones that appeal to you.  I know quite a few people use the headspace app. This can be a great place to start.

5. Breath awareness meditation

Breath awareness is a type of mindful meditation that encourages mindful breathing. Breathe slowly and deeply, counting your breaths or otherwise focusing on you breath. You can use sspecific sounds repeated in your head as you breathe in and out. So hung works very well and one I use personally. The goal is to focus only on breathing and to ignore other thoughts that enter the mind. A way to do this is acknowlege them and promise to focus on them later so you can move on.

As a form of mindfulness meditation, breath awareness offers many of the same benefits as mindfulness. Those include reduced anxiety, improved concentration, and greater emotional flexibility.

6. Yoga Meditation

The practice of yoga dates back to ancient India. There are a wide variety of classes and styles of yoga, but they all involve performing a series of postures and controlled breathing exercises meant to promote flexibility and calm the mind. The poses require balance and concentration.

it is a physically active form of meditation that blends movements with deep breathing and mantras. People usually learn from a teacher or do a class. However, someone can learn the poses and mantras at home, although best to have a check in with your GP first. It can improve physical strength and reduce pain. It may also improve mental health by reducing anxiety and depression.

7. Zen meditation

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Zen meditation is a form of meditation that can be part of Buddhist practice. Usually studied with the guidance of a teacher because it involves specific steps and postures. The goal is to find a comfortable position, focus on breathing, and mindfully observe one’s thoughts without judgment.

Again, this form of meditation is similar to mindfulness meditation but requires more discipline and practice. People may prefer it if they are seeking both relaxation and a new spiritual path.

8. Chakra Meditation

Chakra is an ancient Sanskrit word that translates to “wheel,” and can be traced back to India. Chakras refer to the centers of energy and spiritual power in the body. There are thought to be seven chakras. Each chakra is located at a different part of the body and each has a corresponding color.

Chakra meditation is made up of relaxation techniques focused on bringing balance and well-being to the chakras. Some of these techniques include visually picturing each chakra in the body and its corresponding color. You may may choose to light incense or use crystals, color coded for each chakra to help you concentrate during the meditation.

9. Transcendental Meditation

Transcendental Meditation is a spiritual form of meditation where practitioners remain seated and breathe slowly. The goal is to transcend or rise above you current state of being. You focus on a mantra or a repeated word or series of words determined by your teacher or perhaps you choose your own. This more contemporary version is not technically Transcendental Meditation, though it may look substantially similar. A practitioner might decide to repeat “I am not afraid of public speaking” while meditating.

People who practice Transcendental Meditation report both spiritual experiences and heightened awareness.

In Summary

The various meditative disciplines encourage a focus on heightened awareness, slower breathing, and increased acceptance. Meditation is not a results-focused undertaking. Indeed, fixating too much on the results can provoke anxiety that undermines the benefits of meditation.

Research shows that meditation can work very quickly. Many people who practice meditation report an immediate improvement following a meditation session. During meditation, it is common to feel calmer and less stressed. Over time and with practice, these sensations may continue outside of meditation sessions

There is no right or wrong way to meditate and nothing that says choose just one option. Any meditation is better than no meditation. If your only want to meditate once a week, do so. If you want to try different forms, do that too.

Meditating around the same time each day can make meditation a habit that is easy to incorporate into daily life. If meditation is helpful, it may be beneficial to increase the frequency to twice or more per day or to use it to reduce stress whenever needed.