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7 Ways to Mindfully Manage Menopause




In the U.S., it's estimated that over 6,000 people enter menopause every day. That's nearly 2 million each year, and each person is embarking on a deeply personal journey of change. While menopause can bring challenges like hot flashes, joint pain, and troubled sleep, it's also a time of newfound freedom, wisdom, and a deeper connection with oneself. Amid the waves of hormonal shifts and emotional ebbs and flows, there is an invitation to turn inwards, to find acceptance, and to embrace this profound transformation.


Drawing inspiration from the work of Dr. Kristen Neff, a pioneer in the field of self-compassion, and others, let’s explore how mindfulness can be a grounding and enriching presence during menopause. As Neff beautifully puts it, “Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others.” Here's how you can cultivate that kindness during your menopausal journey:


1. Acknowledge and Allow Your Feelings


Why: Studies tell us that mindfulness of emotions can help reduce the negative impact of powerful mood fluctuations that sometimes accompany menopause. Gently observing emotions, rather than trying to ignore them or make them go away, can increase quality of life and can reduce the risk of developing clinical levels of depression and anxiety (Dunn et al., 2019).


How: When waves of irritability, sadness, or anxiety arise, slow down and notice the sensations of the emotions in your body. Where are they? Do they feel hot? Cold? Heavy? Light? If they were a color, what color would they be? Acknowledge your emotions nonjudgmentally and remind yourself that they are a natural part of the process and that they will come and go. It may also help to give yourself a gentle hug and take a gentle breath.


2. Body Scan Meditation


Why: Body scans can help you gently connect with your body, grounding you in the present moment and allowing you to kindly observe both what is familiar and what is changing.


How: Lie down comfortably. Starting from your toes, slowly focus your attention on each part of your body, noticing sensations without judgement or trying to change them. This practice can especially help in identifying and easing hot flashes or tension in the body. If you would like someone to gently guide you through a body scan practice, check out this lovely guided body scan exercise on Insight Timer, the world's largest free library of wellbeing content.


3. Cultivate Self-compassion


Why: During menopause, it's easy to be hard on yourself. However, research suggests that self-compassion can increase ease and can significantly reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression that many people experience during menopause (Neff & Germer, 2013).


How: When you notice self-critical thoughts or an urge to flee from your own thoughts, feelings, or sensations, pause. Ask yourself, “What do I need right now?” Kristen Neff says it’s, “the quintessential self-compassionate question.” Maybe you need to take a half-hour break by yourself to recharge, a cool glass of water or a reassuring conversation with a friend. Navigating menopause requires listening to your needs and responding with love. Dr. Neff offers wonderful Tips for Practicing Self Compassion on her website. She also offers guided meditations and other self-compassion practices.


4. Mindful Breathing to Ground Yourself


Why: Deep, focused breathing can help reduce stress, which is particularly beneficial as stress can exacerbate menopausal symptoms.


How: Find a quiet place, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. Inhale deeply through your nose for a count of four, hold for a count of four, and then exhale through your mouth for a count of five. This can help center your mind and reduce feelings of anxiety or overwhelm. Try this wonderful mindful breathing exercise from UCLA.


5. Engage in Mindful Movement


Why: Activities like mindful walking, yoga and tai chi have been shown to help reduce menopausal symptoms, including mood swings and sleep disturbances (Chattha, Raghuram, Venkatram & Hongasandra, 2008) as well as reducing unhealthy levels of cholesterol and glucose in the blood (Sung et al., 2020).


How: Mindful movement can start with something as simple as a morning walk. Thich Nhat Hanh’s walking meditation is one inspiring approach to follow, or you can find a yoga or thai chi gathering in person or online. Check out this great article from Peloton® for more information about mindful movement, or go to The UCSD Center for Mindfulness page for a dozen different guided mindful movement exercises.


6. Mindful Journaling


Why: Menopause can be a time to cultivate self-awareness and reflection. Empowered communication with your healthcare providers requires you to have really paid attention to what you are experiencing in the moment. Journaling can help with that. In addition, journaling can support the kind of reflection and self-awareness that builds acceptance, resilience, gratitude, and growth.


How: Set aside a few moments every day to write. Use the notes app on your phone, send yourself a daily email message, or get yourself an old fashioned, bound journal and a nice pen. You can document the symptoms or changes you are noticing in your body and mind and bring this with you to doctors’ visits. Consider using the menopause symptom tracker provided by the UK group, Rock My Menopause. You can write about how your experience with menopause connects you with people around the world and across time. You can write as an act of self-kindness, offering yourself the same encouragement and wisdom you might offer a friend. Jot down your feelings, experiences, and any silver linings you’ve noticed. Over time, your journal can serve as a testament to your resilience, growth, and discovery.


7. Mindful Gratitude Practice


Why: As hinted at in many of the sections above, menopause has the potential to be accompanied by gifts — a sense of liberation, a deeper understanding of oneself, freedom from menstruation, and a renewed focus on personal well-being. Developing a daily habit of acknowledging these and other reasons to be grateful just feels good. And of course, there is a growing body of research that says that gratitude practices protect us against the harmful effects of stress and increase quality of life (Kurian & Thomas, 2023).


How: Start or end your day by listing three things you're grateful for. Challenge yourself to be specific and to come up with unique gratitudes every day. They could be related to menopause (“I had no menstrual cramps in the past six months!”) or unrelated (“I am grateful for the freckle on the tip of my cat’s nose.”) It’s more than a shift of attention to “the bright side,” though that could be a part of it. It is also a practice that can shift your focus to the richness and meaning that accompanies this stage of life.


Menopause, while challenging, is also a time of self-reflection and growth. It's a new chapter, and with mindfulness, you can turn the page with increased clarity and acceptance. Remember, the experience of menopause is unique for each person. So, listen to your body, be kind to yourself, and embrace the journey.

For more resources on mindfulness and self-compassion that you can practice to Mindfully Manage Menopause, consider visiting The Center for Mindful Self-Compassion.


And if I can be of service in supporting you or a loved one, please Get in Touch (that link will take you to my contact info). I am happy to offer a free consult so we can get a sense of the work we might do together.


References:

Chattha, R., Raghuram, N., Venkatram, P., & Hongasandra, N. R. (2008). Treating the climacteric symptoms in Indian women with an integrated approach to yoga therapy: A randomized control study. Menopause, 15(5), 862-870.

Dunn, C., Haubenreiser, M., Johnson, M., Nordby, K., Aggarwal, S., Myer, S., & Thomas, C. (2019). Mindfulness approaches and menopause symptoms: A systematic review. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 25(3), 265-278.

Kurian, R. M., & Thomas, S. (2023). Gratitude as a path to human prosperity during adverse circumstances: A narrative review. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 1-14.

Neff, K., & Germer, C. (2013). A pilot study and randomized controlled trial of the mindful self‐compassion program. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 69(1), 28-44.

Sung, M. K., Lee, U. S., Ha, N. H., Koh, E., & Yang, H. J. (2020). Association of meditation with menopausal symptoms and blood chemistry in healthy women: A pilot cross-sectional study. Medicine, 99 (36).



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