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When oestrogen and progesterone levels fluctuate and drop, the cortisol hormone is left unchecked which may cause anxiety and stress levels to rise. This can also be a reason as to why our sleep may become disrupted. Our feelings of anxiety may not be rooted in external factors, but just down to our hormone levels that are a little out of whack.
The mind and body are interconnected. So, when we feel stressed, this also impacts on our body. For example, over 40% women claim to experience palpitations and stress is a well-known trigger for weight gain and hot flushes and night sweats.
The good news is that we can retrain our brain and reframe thoughts to direct our emotions more positively. This in turn, creates a more constructive response to situations and leads to a positive cycle of thinking.
What is Mindfulness
Mindfulness is made up of various principles that is ultimately about being grounded and aware of the present moment. People do this by tuning into their senses, noticing the small details around them, connecting to the breath or ground to centre themselves, and observing negative thoughts or feelings of tension with curiosity and compassion. Meditation, guided or self-guided is a common form of mindfulness practice.
The Art of Mindfulness
One of the ways we can manage stress and achieve emotional balance is by becoming more aware of what is going on in our bodies (and not just the bits that are unpleasant and we don’t want!). It is about developing an ongoing awareness to what our bodies are telling us, to begin to listen more respectfully and in turn respond more compassionately.
The practice of mindfulness can really help with this. We can spend much of our days in our heads, lost in thought and on auto-pilot, which means we could be missing subtle cues that our body is giving us. As the mind and body are interconnected, clinical evidence has shown that hot flushes and night sweats, joint pain, muscle tension, and palpitations we might experience during menopause, can be managed by our minds.
That is not to say that we can entirely control what happens to us during this time of change, but we may be able to mitigate the extent of the effect on us. Practicing regular breath work, yoga, t’ai chi, mindfulness, and sophrology are all proven ways to regulate and calm down the nervous system.
Activating our mind, alongside a greater awareness of our bodies, is deeply empowering and a new skill and opportunity to learn and develop, during menopause.
Practicing mindfulness may help by:
Making us feel more grounded
Calming our racing mind
Switching our ‘rational’ brains back on
Reducing a sense of being overwhelmed
Applying mindfulness in these situations is relatively simple but requires you to carve a little time out of your day to do this. Early morning, before the day begins to make its demands, is the perfect time to practice mindfulness.
We call it a practice, because the idea is to keep trying it until we start to get better at it. It takes a little work but with repetition, mindfulness becomes an automated habit. The more we practice, the stronger our resilience muscle becomes. By paying full attention to what is going on in our body and mind, we can tune in to notice if we are stressed and need to regulate our nervous systems. Once we do this, then we can be able to manage more fully what is happening to us, feel more in control of the situation and respond skilfully, rather than reacting to it.
Some of the things you can try out are:
Breathe in through your nose to the count of 7, then breathe out slowly through your mouth to the count of 11. Repeat until the feeling begins to dissipate.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Simply notice your body at regular intervals throughout the day – are your shoulders tight? Jaw clenched? Body hunched? If so, find a way to soften and let go in your body, making space in your chest by dropping your shoulders down and back. Repeat! When our body is soft and spacious, it has a direct effect on our mind and is a feedback loop.
Practice the S.T.O.P
S is for Stop/Pause : for just for a moment.
T is for Take a breath : or two or three, regulating your breathing).
O is for Observe : what are you seeing, smelling, tasting, hearing, feeling, and touching. Can we observe our experience with curiosity, taking from it learning and treating it with compassion
P is for Proceed : Playfully and with Possibility: when we do this practice, we begin to train ourselves to be less reactive and judgemental to what is happening to us, and more curious, which ultimately arms us with more capacity to respond, wisely.
Engaging our senses
Pay attention to what you are doing, whilst you are doing it. This is helpful at any point during our day, and includes brushing teeth, getting dressed, driving, eating, walking, cooking, showering, speaking with others, looking at our phone, etc. By paying full attention to the sensory experience of any daily routine activity we are doing that is normally done on autopilot, and, by doing this, we are more likely to notice the subtle changes going on inside us.
Walk on the wild side
Get out into nature to experience some fresh air with some awe and wonder. Sometimes the perspective of nature can massively help how we are feeling, both in our body and minds. Have a go at the 5,4,3,2,1 practice in the outdoors – finding 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can feel, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. Notice what impact it has on your wellbeing.
Ultimately, it is important to remember what nature teaches us, which is that nothing is permanent. All of our experiences, emotions, physical symptoms and thoughts come and go, so we always have a choice to remember ‘this too shall pass.’
This can be a comforting and empowering thing to remember when we are feeling helpless, out of control, or frustrated about what is happening to us. We can empower ourselves to be with the experience, knowing it won’t be like this forever, rather than resisting it and experiencing all the difficult emotions that come with not accepting what is.
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