The transformative power of menopause

Above you can see Kali, the Hindu goddess, fearsome, intense eyes, holding a severed head and brandishing a knife dripping with blood. She is scary, blood thirsty and the embodiment of destruction. This image of feral force, bursting with sheer power also shows her existential freedom to be- without needing or asking permission. With that power she embodies deep femininity, not like the more manageable avatars such as Durga, or Paravati- calming, reasonable, submissive and demure. She is spiritual and bodily, erotic and sexual and as such, courageous. Kali’s name derives from the Sanskrit “she who is death”. But this death does not spell finality. It instead pressages deep transformation.

Deep transformation is what happens in the perimenopause. Kali-like, the transformation is preceded with destruction. Habits, relationships, health, status and work all can go through a major shake up. These years of transformation entail biological change as hormones (not just reproductive) peak and trough before settling and stabilising.

The good news is that this settling and stabilising can be much easier to achieve when, as Kali, the knife you wield is tempered with knowledge and understanding. Research shows that women have much more positive experiences in the peri to post menopausal years when they know what to expect and are given tools to control the controllables.

This is often a time to shine, to live your life as your authentic self. To get rid of what doesn’t serve you and come into your Kali inspired power. However, first things first… SELF CARE!

Yes, I’m afraid that’s it, self care is non-negotiable. Women now live a good 30 years beyond menopause but without good care things can get pretty tough. So, where to start? Right here, right now! Here are four self care strategies to ease you into the power years:

  1. Phytoestrogens. Oestrogen has about 400 functions in your body, including brainhealth, heart health, emotional health, gut health, bone health and pelvic health. During the perimenopause your oestrogen levels will fluctuate a lot (more so than in your reproductive years) and you may even be oestrogen dominant for a while making emotions harder to manage. Eventually they will drop pretty low which will affect most of your health systems. It’s not all bad news: you can increase phytoestrogens in your diet. These are adaptogeneduce or raise your oestrogen levels according to what you need. They can be found in seeds such as flaxseeds, alliums like garlic and many vegetables but
    particularly broccoli.

2. Yoga. Exercice is particularly important in the menopausal years. Good muscle
strength leads to higher bone density, upper body flexibility is important for artery
health. The 50 year old shoulder, so often prone to problems- loves some gentle
stretching as does your mind! For regular exercise to be sustainable it also needs to
be enjoyable and lucky for us, research shows that even 12 minutes of daily yoga
can have a positive effect on our bodies.

3. Fibre. Constipation is the enemy of good physical and emotional health. If you are
constipated, you are more prone to pelvic floor issues (often a barrier to exercise),
impaired gut health (vital for metabolising and excreting excess oestrogen),
headaches and much more. The magic bullet is to eat fibre which, luckily, is
packaged up in fruit and vegetables. So get souping (rather than juicing which
extracts vital fibre)!

4. Retreat. They say the menopausal years are your power years, your time to come
into your own, Kali taking centre stage. With that power, there is much to process;
past trauma, difficult relationships, unmet needs, not having had children, having
children, too many wrong turns, dissatisfaction… all of which needs time, space,
stillness, journaling, therapy, walks in nature, meditation and solitude and all wrapped up in layers of self love. Who knows what you will find on the other side!

A while back I spoke to a friend who was feeling peri menopausal (without really knowing it). She had been to a workshop on the power of the menopause and realised that, these past years, she had not been going mad- she was experiencing the deep physical and emotional transformation that comes with this stage of life. I’m so glad that she discovered this. With knowledge and understanding came power, love and a good dose of life housekeeping.