Essential Menopause Toolkit

I think it’s fair to say that for many of us our experience of perimenopause or menopause can feel like your life is being derailed by a silent assassin?  Too much?  I don’t think so.

Personally, there were points before I’d managed to establish what was going on with me, that I really felt my life was falling apart.  I had brain fog, insomnia, acne, horrifically heavy periods which were all over the place.  My cognitive decline was playing havoc with my confidence and I was doubting both my professional and personal abilities, I genuinely thought I was losing my mind and I just didn’t feel like me anymore, everything quite simply felt a bit wonky!!

Sadly, my experience with the medical profession did nothing to abate the emotional rollercoaster I was on, their lack of compassion and empathy I felt at every expert’s door was demoralising and soul destroying, but one which I have now learnt is not dissimilar to others stories.  I will caveat this statement with the huge amount of work being undertaken in the UK to improve the menopause care provided and under the government’s first-ever women’s health strategy, starting this year (2024), all new doctors will be required to undertake and complete a mandatory women’s health training program.

I know, right?! Incredulous that in today’s climate this isn’t already the case and often I wonder if the patriarchy were subject to the symptoms and struggles experienced by women, would this still be the case?

But let’s not go down that rabbit hole, I want to focus my energy on sharing my essential toolkit which has helped me to navigate my journey (for those of you wondering, I’m still in the phase defined as Perimenopause).  This is the period when the hormones start to change and fluctuate, resulting in symptom manifestation.  On average this phase can last  anywhere from 5 – 7 years and with the average age of menopause hitting around 51, it’s not uncommon for individuals to start their journey in their 40’s.

So, for anyone who knows me or has taken time to read my blog, you will see that I finally discovered my purpose when I decided to pivot and reinvent myself as a Holistic Health Coach, almost 3 years ago.  Since that time, I have also become a licensed Menopause Workplace Trainer and I visit SME organisations and provide colleague and manager training, as well as support group sessions.  The CPD accredited training I provide coupled with my coaching certification means I provide the factual and holistic approach without ever trying to sway anyone one way or another on what the best path is.

Everyone is individual and unique and what one person’s journey through this transition looks like can be diametrically opposed to another, there is no one fits all solution, everyone is different and it’s about finding what works for you and your life.   Here are some of my tips in order of priority based on my personal experience:

  1. CONDUCT A LIFESTYLE MOT

Now this is a subject I love to talk about as a IIN Health Coach graduate, my certification centred around whole person health, happiness and wellbeing and this involves exploring all aspects of mental, physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of a person’s life, the true pillars and cornerstones of our health.

Keep it simple, trying to make lifestyle changes isn’t easy, but if you try to focus on small sustainable changes consistently, these can have a huge impact over a period of time.  It’s important to identify what aspects of your life are working for you and doing more of those things, whilst reducing the aspects which are not supporting or serving you well.

Nutrition is a key area of our health and whilst many of us are acutely aware of what is good for us, this doesn’t mean we always subscribe to it.  Making simple nutritious meals which consist of a colourful variety of fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, and good sources of protein, whilst limiting things like sugar, processed foods and alcohol is a solid baseline.

Exercise or movement of any description has been shown scientifically to improve not only physical health, but vitally our mental health too and there is evidence to support that engaging in regular activity, can also help to reduce the effects of menopausal symptoms.  It can often feel so counterintuitive if you are suffering with insomnia, fatigue or hot flashes, right?!  Focus on the stuff you love doing, this can range from walking daily, yoga classes or my personal favourite (due to its long-term benefits) strength and resistance training, interlaced with dynamic or somatic stretching.

Sleep is critical in helping our bodies rest and repair, a lack of sleep can affect mood, impair judgment and can impact our short-term behaviours and long-term health.  From my own experience I know how sleep issues can be debilitating as they can really take their toll on daily life and this certainly exacerbates symptoms such as brain-fog and cognition which is certainly one of the more challenging aspects for me personally.  My best advice is to think about how you can support better hygiene and lifestyle choices which will aid better sleep patterns for you.

  1. MENTAL WELLBEING

It’s really important to realise that menopause has an effect on mental wellbeing and mindset and anyone struggling should not wait to seek professional help.  The psychological impacts can be profound and can affect the way someone feels about this time in their life, so focusing on self-care is absolutely paramount.

Managing Stress, it goes without saying that menopause and stress do not go well together and a constant stream of the cortisol hormone can be disruptive to the production of other vital hormones in the body.  This time in life can be incredibly busy and challenging but the way we manage our response and amount of stress, can have a positive impact on the way we experience our symptoms.

Boosting Resilience by focusing on treating yourself with kindness and compassion can really help navigate those moments when you may feel like you are running on empty and don’t have anything left in the tank.  Adopting a few self-care rituals or practices can really help to build a stronger mindset and provide an outlet in those moments when everything simply feels too much.

Mindfulness is a practice I am a huge advocate of and in a world which is so fast-paced and  running at break neck speed, it’s so hard to find those transcendent moments of peace and tranquillity.  Practicing the conscious art of being present and focussed in the moment can be a key element into reducing your stress levels and improving your overall happiness.  Being mindful about what you consume and how much of it also plays a role here; think about how much time you are spending scrolling social media, how much news you are watching and swap this with a daily mediation routine.

CBT has been noted to help with managing symptoms of the menopause, in particular anxiety, depression or low mood.  This talk therapy helps to identify unhelpful patterns or behaviours and provides a method of reframing your approach with a more positive mindset or outlook.

Talking is key to feeling seen and heard, whether that be with your family, friends, partner or work colleagues it’s important we can share openly and honestly what you are going through.  Knowing that you are not alone and having the support of a community can really help to reduce feelings of overwhelm.  It’s what makes us human…. CONNECTION!  Having the ability to share in a safe, non-judgmental environment helps us to build strong relationships which is a key pillar of our mental wellbeing.

  1. EXPLORE COMPLEMENTARY OR ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE (CAM)

Whilst treatment and modalities in this area fall outside the mainstream healthcare system and has a lack of scientific support behind it, I hear anecdotally that there are positive and healing effects from exploring this route.  This can range from supplements, vitamins and minerals, to Chinese medicine, herbal or homeopathic products.  There are also holistic therapies such as Reiki, acupuncture, tai chi or massage which have also been known to help individuals.

  1. GET CLEAR ON HRT

Often when I’m providing menopause awareness training, I regularly get asked “should I take HRT?” well the only person who can answer that is you.  There is no wrong or right answer here, but it’s important to eliminate a lot of the myths and scare stories surrounding it before you make your decision.

HRT has advanced hugely and there are lots of options worth exploring and for the majority of women below the age of 60 (who do not have any contraindications or medical history to consider) HRT is deemed low risk.  Medication can be taken orally, transdermally through the skin as patches, gels or sprays, so take a look and learn about all the options out there.   Remember, it’s a personal choice which should be based on facts, not fear or judgements, so don’t get swayed by what others may say or impart.  YOU DECIDE.

On all of the lifestyle and complementary aspects above I will be doing a deeper dive over the coming weeks, where I will share in more detail my thoughts and recommendations and what I have found helpful whilst I continue to navigate through my own journey.

As with everything menopause or indeed health related, we are all individuals so having a deeper understanding of your own medical background, as well as any family history which may need to be considered is important.  You should always seek professional advice from your medical providers when making any changes to your lifestyle or adding any complementary or alternative medicine to your daily routine to ensure there are no contradictions or side effects which could potentially impact the efficacy of any medication you may be currently taking.

I hope this is helpful…until the next time x

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