I was in my late thirties when I first saw Victoria Wood’s sketch about the menopause; it went straight over my head. I saw a repeat of the show two years into peri-menopausal symptoms and laughed my head off.
Victoria Wood’s gag referring to 200 Eskimo women being THE cause of global warming, begins to give you an idea of the heat we are experiencing. A typical hot flush, for me, lasts approximately 17 seconds (the further 5 mins is mopping up!). An average sauna is heated anywhere between 70-100 degrees Celsius and takes me about 8-12 minutes to break a sweat. In 17 seconds I have a river running down my back! That will give you some idea of the intensity.
Victoria plays down the forgetfulness. I think she missed a trick. There’s one thing leaving a supermarket forgetting the mint sauce; it’s another leaving the supermarket with only mint sauce and forgetting the entire weekly shop! I did that! This week I forgot to replace the oil cap after topping up the engine! I’m not quite sure what the cause of this is. Broken sleep? Hormones?
Thankfully, for most symptoms there are plenty of herbal remedies; black cohosh, sage, wild yam root to name a few and I hear they are great (do persevere for at least a month). I began using Soya Bean oil in my treatments and menstruation came back! You will find one that works for you. That’s if you remember to take them.
But what if you’re like me. You’re on medication and can’t take any of them (including the Soya Bean massage oil) except Evening primrose oil which I find to be of no help (although my friend swears by it).
As a Reflexologist and Massage Therapist, I hear a variety of women’s experiences: Hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, angry bursts, itchy skin, sore joints, forgetfulness and the very mysterious weight gain. My main symptom is hot flushes. Thankfully for my partner I don’t get mood swings or anger bursts, well not yet anyway.
As we are all so different, it is hard to get a grip of what’s going on. That’s what really challenges me. I’m a therapist. I should be able to work this out!
So I sit waiting for the next ravaging heat wave to come over me contemplating what is happening rather than running like a loon pulling off clothing gulping down water. I asked myself ‘Is there anything familiar about this?’
In moments I am transported back to the age of 13 sitting in school, menstruation starting and each month being overwhelmed with heat followed by a rapid cooling, leaving me soaked in my school shirt and then freezing shivers; ‘I’m ending as I started’. The quiet anxiety that comes from the unknown eased as I accepted ‘this too will pass’.
Although this realisation didn’t stop symptoms it did give me a sense of knowing and being in tune, relieving some anxiety which is half the battle. I then began to notice a cycle. Some weeks the heat is worse, others feel like PMT and in a brief moment you feel normal. That’s where Victoria Wood nailed it!
To cope I have developed a series of ‘life hacks’ I will share with you:
1. Cotton!!! Don’t hesitate do it now. Especially your bed linen.
2. Fans! Manual and electrical. I have 3 hand fans for each handbag and electric one next to the sofa. All the air vents in the car are aimed ready for the full-on cold setting when needed.
3. Buy a travel towel. Trek Mates have designed a backpackers hand sized towel that has the absorbency of a bath size one. One dab and you’re done.
4. Water. Never leave home without it.
5. Miso soup or Coconut Water helps replace the minerals you lose.
6. At night, put a wet flannel in a bowl with ice cubes, or even better, picnic ice blocks.
7. Get a sense of humour!
These life hacks make it bearable but is toleration the only weapon we have?
I’ve been a Reflexologist for near 15 years and find it exceptionally powerful for knees, insomnia and fertility. So why not menopause!
Reflexology’s primary function is to restore balance in our body. Once in balance, the state called Homeostasis, our own healing mechanisms kicks in. When we our out of balance, in dis-ease, we suffer.
Through Reflexology, working the Pituitary gland (the master gland) can help restore balance in the endocrine system. The Central Nervous System (via the spine and adrenal points) can be worked to reduce anxiety caused by sleep disturbances; one of the long term symptoms most difficult to cope with. The Hypothalamus (the body temperature regulator) eases the hot flushes and bridges the Endocrine System to the Central Nervous System via the Pituitary, keeping all these systems working well together.
Furthermore working the Thyroid (calcium and phosphorus regulator) prevents bone loss and it also regulates our metabolism which helps manage weight. And of course the Ovaries to keep oestrogen levels as regular as possible. Research has been carried out and shown a marked decrease in symptoms in menopausal women receiving regular Reflexology (UK School of Complementary Health, Exeter).
I’m still not sure why forgetfulness is a feature. I’d like to think it’s an evolutionary adaptation to help us cope. Thankfully, I have been told by those who have gone through the menopause that it does return.
I now massage these reflex points on my feet and hands daily, but it doesn’t quite beat lying back on a therapist’s couch, feeling pampered and for a brief moment, feeling normal.
Book a session and rest assure we will send you a reminder email and together we can do our bit to reduce global warming!
Marion O’Sullivan is a blogger, Massage Therapist and Reflexologist at Natural Balance Therapies in Hove. You can read more about her here.
To Book a reflexology appointment with Marion click here (she works at Natural Balance on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays)