A number of years ago a friend of mine suggested I start helping women through menopause when she started going through her change. And while I did start helping women with menopausal physical symptoms and emotional wellbeing, it wasn’t until I started going through perimenopause and menopause did I truly understand how it can turn our lives upside down and inside out. Nor did I realise how menopause is a time of deep transformation until experiencing it myself.
I started going through perimenopause at about 45 years old. However, it wasn’t until I was already in menopause did I experience hot flushes. It was like a switch had been flipped overnight. All of a sudden I was experiencing hot flushes, night sweats, insomnia, and anxiety at night. It was a ‘oh my, what has just happened??’ moment. However, I was fortunate to know exactly what to do and was able to balance my health fairly quickly. But it didn’t end there. I didn’t just go through menopause and fix it. There are stages. There were times when life stresses were pretty high, and all of a sudden I had the flushes again. I would go back on my herbal regime, have some acupuncture, relax into restorative yoga and I could sail along again until the next bump in the road.
Menopause is a time of deep change for us as women. These changes can ripple through and affect those around us, including our families and our social circles. It can bring up profound depression, anxiety and loneliness. You may feel lonely in a crowded room, craving for heart felt conversation and connection.
Resources for change
Times of transformation and changes need profound resources. We need resources and resilience to go through change. And we do need to make changes in our life. That is the nature of menopause. That is the nature of any time of profound change in our lives. Our physiology changes and we need to make adjustments. These adjustments may include diet, exercise, sleep and how active we are.
In Chinese medicine theory, the wood element is what governs change. Here I am talking of the five elements – fire, earth, metal, water and wood. They all have functions that keep us in balance as we move through life. The wood element governs our movement, our qi, the movement of our energy. It keeps our qi moving so we don’t get stuck. It is about the movement of going forward in life, and going through change.
If we live in the past, or are held back by the past, how can we move forward in life? We let to learn to let go of what is no longer serving us so we can step into the next stage of our life.
Metamorphosis and transformation
Change is never easy. And when we resist, it can make that change so much more difficult. Change is tiring as it is. We need lots of resources to go through it. Image just how exhausting it is if we resist the inevitable. Because we do not have a choice of going through menopause. It is a natural part of our life. And when we embrace it, it is a magnificent metamorphosis and transformation.
Now the wood element not only helps us from getting stuck, it also helps us envision the future. It helps us set goals for the future. We can start to imagine what our life is going to be like. It is like the wake-up call. We have been merrily going along doing what we do – work, family, life – and all the menopause hits and we get a – hello there is more to life than just this. What are your plans? What is your dreams? What are your goals? What do you want to do for the next 20 years of your life? If our wood element is not healthy (spoiler alert – our wood element really struggles with the way society is) we have a difficult time going through the change we need to go through during menopause.
There are times when we will surge ahead, advancing and meeting life head-on. There will also be times when we need to retreat, gather resources, and be introspective in order for us to advance again.
Now the resources we need for the menopausal change are liver yin and blood. Blood in Chinese medicine is not a concept easily translated into allopathic medicine. It is the red rich blood that circulates our body, nourishing our tissues. However, its functions are much more vast. And you can’t go have a blood test to check your liver blood stores. It also moistens our body and provides a home for our emotions and our spirit. Liver blood is nourished by the food we eat and Chinese herbal medicines. As women, we use up and lose our liver blood through our day to day activities, our emotions, and menstruation. That is why, if you see a Chinese medicine herbalist in your menstruation years, we always nourish liver blood stores post menstruation and also post birth and while breastfeeding. It is tied to our ability to be resilient, to being balanced emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It is also an important resource during menopause. Low supplies of liver blood during menopause will create many physical and emotional symptoms.
Liver and kidney yin resources are also vital for a smooth transition through menopause. You can learn more about kidney and liver yin in this post. Yin and yang balance each other and during menopause, we have a surge of yang energy. When we don’t have enough yin to keep it in check, we get the physical symptoms of heat rising. This may manifest as hot flushes, and anxiety, among other symptoms. We can also get fiery emotions such as anger, rage, and irritability. This is why we need abundant kidney and liver yin to keep that yang energy in check. Unfortunately, our stressful fast-paced lives means we are generally lacking the yin resources to keep these in check.
Is hormonal imbalance the problem?
There is a lot of talk about hormonal imbalance causing these emotions that we express. These emotions are not a consequence of hormonal imbalance. Emotions are not created by hormones. Hormones may exacerbate emotions that we already experience. And as women, we hold our emotions in check and supress them. We are taught if we are emotional we are weak. If we are emotional, we are the crazy ones. If we are emotional we are judged. So we generally keep them under the surface suppressed. Yet when we get the surge of yang energy during menopause and perimenopause (and this also happens during our menstrual cycle and accounts for the PMS symptoms we may have suffered from). When we have these flares of strong emotions. It is important we address them. Acknowledge them, respond to them gently. Don’t dismiss it as just being hormonal.
In our society, many women are having children later in life and are going through menopause with young children, or teenagers still at home. Was that you too? My children are at home and also navigating puberty, so it has been a tumultuous ride for all of us at times. What we need to do is find the balance between our responsibility and our freedom.
We can navigate menopause with ease and grace at times. But we will go through times that we struggle if we don’t have the blood and yin resources to help us go through the change, to give us energy to change. Chinese herbal tonics can help build up the blood and yin resources we need.
Share your stories
We would love to hear your stories of going through menopause and any pearls of wisdom you have learnt along the way. That is the power of sisterhood we share stories to help each other. Send me a message, post on social media. We need to disarm the stigma around menopause, and have the belief that our body has the amazing ability to heal itself when it is given the right ingredients!