Maca Root: Natural Support for Menopause

Daisy Chain © lynette sheppard

Daisy Chain © lynette sheppard

In keeping with Ashley’s most recent post about plants and their healing properties, I’d like to talk about one of my favorite remedies: maca. Maca comes from Peru, a veritable paradise of wonderful grains and healing plants. (Including the much maligned coca leaf, but that is a story for another time, girlfriends.)

Originally eaten by the Inca for strengthening and increasing energy, recent studies have found maca root to be helpful in relieving menopausal symptoms and returning our sexual vitality. Side effects? Virtually none, save occasional reports of gas with the raw version. (It is available in raw powder, capsule, or elixir.)

Maca root seems to work by balancing hormones and the entire endocrine system. Believe me when I say that our hormonal systems are interconnected and all of them need balancing after the Pause, not just our estrogen, progesterone, or testosterone.

I took maca root early on in my menopause journey – then I ran out and “forgot” to order more. Menopause brain, I suppose. Luckily, the wonderful folks at The Maca Team contacted me about trying it again. They sent raw red powder, gelatinized powder, and elixir.

Two of our goddesses have tried the powder and both are reporting better energy. One was suffering hot flashes again after losing fat and adding muscle mass. (Yep, fat is a great place to store hormones it seems.) Her hot flashes have decreased using the maca root and she is once again sleeping through the night.

I opted for the elixir and love taking it – I get lazy when it comes to powders. I know, ridiculous but true. A couple of droppers full three times a day and my vitality has definitely risen. Placebo effect? I don’t know, since I can’t split myself in two and conduct a controlled clinical trial, but any way I can feel strong and healthy works for me.

So many reports are anecdotal (stories by women like us) but more studies will likely bear out maca root’s health benefits.

Synchronistically, just as I was working on this post,  I got a note from ethnoherbalist Kevin Curran about maca and its role in relieving menopause symptoms. To learn more about this wonderful plant medicine, please visit Dr. Curran’s site .   It’s fascinating!

For more information or to order maca root supplements, visit The Maca Team website. Let us know how maca root works for you. We learn by sharing our wisdom and experiences with one another, so don’t be shy.

Interesting side note: Every time I try to type ‘maca’, autocorrect changes it to ‘mama’. A message or sign? Maybe not. Then again, maybe.

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Plants talk about menopause: their simple message

Plant people

Know me by name

I’ve always been intrigued by plants ~ every since my mom began pointing out flowers and announcing their majestic, exotic names: “hyacinth”, “agapanthus”, “hydrangea”.  So it wasn’t a leap for me when I started to learn about the medicinal properties of the plants ~ that people had been using them to treat everything from bruises to insecurities since time immemorial.

Modern herbalists come in all shades. My yearly dive into plants happens at the Northern Californian Women’s Herbal Symposium where practitioners teach about herbal traditions from all over the world – including Ayurveda (India), Traditional Chinese Medicine, European, Western (Native American). Then there are the ethnobotanists, nutritionists, sea weed specialists, Mayan uterine practitioners, and more.  Common to each is her appreciation of the symbiotic relationship we’ve been having with plants since time began.

I want to share with you, my menopausal sisters, my take-away from the blend of these century-rich traditions and modern scientific explorations.  As with any distilled wisdom, it’s really simple.  The key to a healthy perimenopause, according to Sarah Holmes, co-founder of The Blue Otter School of Herbal Medicine, is to support our body’s natural tendency to maintain homeostasis as our bodies are always trying to stay in balance.  In other words, our task at menopause is to focus on balance.

Balance is a continuum

As we come into this next phase of our life cycle, balance starts with coming into a compassionate relationship with ourselves.  We accept this is happening, we bitch and complain about its inevitability, we mourn and regret ~ and then we put on our big girl panties and figure out how best to navigate this turn of the tide.  Identifying how to bring more balance is the first step.  But we’re going to need a good store of resilience and flexibility to maintain that balance.  Step two is to expand our range of balance, that is, to actually increase our cache of balance. Similar to having bolsters in the hull, so to speak, when it comes to keeping ourselves upright no matter how choppy the waters get.

Okay, got the metaphor. But how does that translate into what’s happening now?  What do the plants say about these fluctuations that are turning me into someone I don’t recognize?

Patterns of balance and imbalance

Since our bodies speak, we notice, in our bodies, emotions and spirits, repetitive patterns that are pointing to imbalance.  Herbally speaking, the task at hand is to support our bodies until balance is restored. (This approach is in contrast to the pharmacological way of taking over or suppression the functions of our bodies, until balance is restored).

Let’s break that down a little more: When we experience inflammation, pain or heat (that includes hot flashes and being pissed off) that’s imbalance.  When we don’t rest or spend time with friends, that’s imbalance.  When we don’t pay attention to what our body’s trying to communicate to us, that’s imbalance. 

If our task at menopause is to show up, become our true selves and be in our power to be examples for the younger generations, balance includes: resolving our unresolved trauma and family stuff; stepping away from outgrown jobs or environments, especially ones where we’re disrespected; and being brave and trusting enough to look at those shadowy areas that we’ve hoped would go away by now. It’s time for us to figure out how to a good, wholesome, healthy human in this day and age.  No mean feat, mind you.

That’s where the plants want to help out.  Using herbs to support our bodies until balance is restored can occur in many forms: it can be making dietary changes; it can be mixing your own herbal teas (infusing flowers and leaves in hot water overnight or simmering roots and berries for 4-8 hours); it can be consulting with a herbalist in your area; and it can be growing your own plants and being ‘fed’ by your relationship with them. There are wonderful resources, books, websites to explore outside the scope of this overview of plants at menopause, many of which you can find in our archives here at MGB.

Herbalists have introduced me to perspectives that seem so simple, but as I mature they guide me with renewed depth and wisdom. Their message: we are an integral part of nature, over the millennia our bodies and the plants have evolved together, the plants are our allies and our healing is intimately linked with and dependent on them. 

Thank you, Mom, for introducing me to them by name.

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Menopause and Intimate Relationships

Distressed Love © lynette sheppard

Distressed Love © lynette sheppard

More than just a decrease in libido can cause significant strain in the most loving, troublefree relationships during Menopause. In this blog post, we examine irritation and feeling disconnected from our intimates.

My husband once remarked that it was a wonder that more couples don’t get divorced during the  Big M transition. And certainly it’s true that if we who are undergoing this forced journey don’t understand much of what’s occurring, our mates and loved ones are left completely befuddled.

The combination of physical changes and emotional changes can put a strain on the most loving relationship. Loss of libido, depression and apathy, irritation with everything your loved ones say and do, fatigue, hypersensitivity to noise, temperature, and touch are just a few of the manifestations of this hormonal rollercoaster ride.

Christiane Northrup, author of The Wisdom of Menopause, starts her book of 500+ pages with this sentence “It is no secret that relationship crises are a common side effect of menopause.”

Okay, well it may not have been an intentionally kept secret, but I sure never heard anything about this. (Or any other of the myriad manifestations of the hormonal sh*tstorm we call the Big M.) And I’m a registered nurse for pity’s sake.

Dr. Northrup goes on to elucidate that whatever is wrong or dysfunctional in your relationships will be greatly exacerbated by menopause. I think that is true.

However, in all my talks and sharings with menopause goddesses and their loved ones, I’m finding that a huge amount of upheaval can exist in the most functional relationships.

The Venuses spent a significant part of every meeting focusing on our primary relationships. Suddenly sexual desire disappears. We may not have leisure time interests in common with our spouses. The kids are no longer a focus.  How then do we connect with one another?

And now our intimates want to spend more time with us (the men are changing, too, don’t forget.) We are just beginning to explore our creativity and may want to spend more time alone or with girlfriends  How do we reconcile these needs with our desire to be connected with our loved one?

It has been all too easy to assume that every freakout or episode of bitchiness is hormonal – “oh she’s just going through menopause”  rather than a legitimate reaction to circumstances.

Additionally, deeper difficulties may be brewing or problems long ignored have just come to the surface.

However, it is just as deluded to assume that this sea change isn’t hormonal. Especially if the change is fairly dramatic, seemingly without warning.

Theresa and I found that we went from zero to sixty on the irritation meter in seconds during the worst of our transition. Talking with the other Venuses showed us that we were not alone.

It became clear to us that we needed to ascertain when our anger was a legitimate problem, a true trampling of our boundaries versus a hormonal side effect. Let me tell you truthfully, it can really be hard to discern the difference.

Looking backward, I can offer this advice. Proceed with caution and take it slow. We found that irritation might flare up in a circumstance that we could certainly rationalize as being justifiable anger. But we often decided not to act or say anything right away. We mused. We waited. We paused.

If we were still pissed off in a few hours, we reevaluated and decided on a plan of action for confronting and discussing the problem. If our irritation had literally vanished, we knew that hormones might have played a part. And we let it go.  No harm, no foul.  Especially no harm. To us or anyone else.

(A little history sidenote here – none of the Venuses is a shrinking violet, unused to sharing her feelings, including anger. If you have always contained your anger and irritation, this may not be the best plan for you. You may need to let some anger out. After all, some Change is good!)

And some good news.  The worst of the emotional and hormonal upheaval seems to last around two years, give or take a year. So be patient. Get to know your irritation levels; when they require intervention and when they don’t. Warn your loved ones when you feel especially out of control so they won’t take it personally. Best of all, they can support you. They love you.  They want to help.  Let them.

(Part of this post was adapted from a previous entry in 2009. It’s still relevant. More about this in the next post from me in two weeks. Ashley will post next week.)

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Cultivating A New Relationship with Ourselves

Ferntasia © lynette sheppard

Ferntasia © lynette sheppard

One hard lesson we learned – possibly the most valuable of this transition – was that the pivotal relationship we needed to cultivate was with ourselves. When it seems that virtually every molecule in our body has changed, it shouldn’t surprise us that we need to get to know our new selves. That truly is the first step in creating new relationships with our intimates. Oh sure, we all thought we knew ourselves but further examination made us completely rethink that premise. Here’s how we started the process.

Me – meet Me

The mantra of midlife women “I just don’t feel like ME anymore” serves as an call to awakening.  Who WAS I?  More important,  who AM I now?  Perhaps our increased need for time alone has a purpose.  We need to become acquainted with the changeling emerging from the upheaval of our bodies, psyches, and beleaguered spirits.  We must question ways in which we have known ourselves prior to now.

We identify ourselves by the roles we’ve played in family and society.  We also have ideas of what describes us – quiet, outgoing, sensitive, impulsive, etc.  Identities and descriptions make up much of what we think of as ‘myself’.  These roles and ways of being are familiar and comfortable, if not exactly the dreams we thought we would live.  In getting to know a new SELF, we must first relinquish these familiar identities.  We need to let go of them however much they may resemble a life preserver tossed upon the stormy seas of so much change.

We addressed this in one of our Menopause Goddess gatherings with the following exercise.

“Letting Go of the Old Me” Exercise
Cut up heavy unlined paper or cardstock into pieces big enough for one or two words to be written.  (approx. 1/2 inch by 3 inches each is a good size.)  Give each woman 30 pieces of paper and a pen.  In silence, each Venus writes down one role or description on each piece of paper,  eg.  homemaker, nurse, artist, spiritual person, wild woman, sister, daughter, mother, and so on.  When finished hold all your roles and identities in your hands.  One by one, put them down, feeling the sensations and emotions of letting go of each one.  Take as long as needed – noticing how it feels to shed each identity.  When all your papers have been relinquished and your hands are empty, just sit quietly and notice what is left.  How does it feel to be without your roles?  Without your descriptions of who you are?  Don’t forget to breathe.

After 5-10 minutes of sitting quietly in this fashion, slowly begin to pick up your roles and descriptions one at a time.  Notice this time how it feels to reclaim each identity.  Are there some that are easier to take back?  Some that are burdensome or seem irrelevant?  Are there surprises?

If you’ve done this exercise in a group, (definitely the preferred way), those Venuses who wish to may share their experiences.  This serves to deepen and validate the experience for all.

For some in our Venus group, this exercise was deeply emotional, with great pain experienced on ‘giving up’ some of our most cherished identities.  Others were equally surprised at the ease with which some roles dropped away, like burdens laid to rest.  We found ourselves re-thinking the roles we have adopted until now and contemplating releasing those that no longer serve us or others.

The most important epiphany of the exercise involved feeling what was left when we let go of all our supposed roles and identities.  “Something” essential still remained.  An authentic being with value apart from what she does or how she is perceived exists when we give up all our identities.  Each goddess might be well served to acquaint herself with this essential ‘she’. Our ‘aha’ discovery of Self without proscribed identities led us into a discussion centering on another relationship that we wished to cultivate in midlife: our spirituality. We’ll touch more upon this in our next blog post.

This post was partially adapted from “The Big M” by Lynette – ebook version is called “Becoming a Menopause Goddess.”

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What A Vibrant Second Act Looks Like

Whatevah © lynette sheppard

Whatevah © lynette sheppard

We drove up to the house and parked. A diminutive red-haired pixie burst out from the front door, multicolored tattoos scrolling down both arms. “This can’t be right,” I thought. “This woman can’t be a grandmother.”

It was our first time using Airbnb. The cozy mother-in-law unit looked perfect. I received text messages from our hostess, Linda (not her real name). She gave me pertinent details and asked why we were coming to Ventura. When I mentioned grandchild, she responded that she too was crazy about her grandchildren.

As Linda neared me, I realized that she indeed was a Menopause Goddess. She flung her arms around me in welcome and ushered us into the charming hideaway. A bottle of wine and several Keurig coffee pods decorated the counter. A woman after my own heart.

Linda  is a nurse midwife who runs two other businesses. She is a dynamo, a force to be reckoned with. I don’t doubt that she jumps out of bed every morning excited to greet the day. She has created her vibrant Second Act.

Menopause Goddess Sandy was in a terrible accident last year while commuting to work. Her convalescence gave her time to assess her life choices. She retired from her job and took a different route to Vibrancy. She spends her days walking, reading, and playing with her grandson. For the first time, her days are completely her own. She says she may volunteer or work at a bookstore someday, but for now each day is a perfect jewel to be admired as it is.

Jess and her husband left the tech industry last year. They bought a motor home and traveled the U.S., wandering wherever they wished, whenever they wished. They came back home and got jobs that have nothing to do with tech – she works in the hospitality industry and is loving the fresh start.

Barbara is a member of my writer’s group. She moved to Moloka`i alone last year. Her family was aghast. Why was she moving to a rural island where she knew no one and had no ties? She explains it this way – “This is my Walden Pond. I want to live a life of contemplation in nature.” She writes much of every day and is thriving in her new life.

My point in sharing all these stories is this: there is no one right way to live a vibrant life. All these women are following their hearts into a fulfilling (for them) Second Adulthood. There are as many ways to live vibrantly as there are Menopause Goddesses. And if we don’t know what or how we’d like to create our next steps? Try different ones on for size – if you don’t like it, go to Plan B. Or C. We don’t get demerits for trying more than one approach. Or for constantly revising it as we go along. Whatevah!

Share with us your vision of a vibrant Second Act, even if you are not quite ready to fully live into it. Sharing our dreams makes them more real to us. And after all, that’s what this site is about: Women sharing wisdom.

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Dancing into menopause – our changing libido

Best of Friends © Ashley Jeanne Ross

Best of Friends  © Ashley Jeanne Ross

Pray tell, how are we expected to have a big picture perspective on The Change when we’re worried about our non-existent libido sabotaging our relationship?

Inspired by the topic in our upcoming Conscious Menopause series, (Common Symptoms – a Holistic View) I thought I’d start the conversation here with a biggie – the free-fall of midlife libido. (By the way, you’re all invited to join us this Thursday at 5 PST for a real-time online get-together to hear our voices and share our musings.)

Many women I see in my practice talk about how disoriented they feel when days go by and they realize they haven’t thought once about sex.  Or they’re disillusioned because, as much as they love their partners, they just aren’t turned on by them anymore.  Or they’re grieving the loss of this vital part of themselves – they dont recognize themselves as ‘asexual’ women.  On the other hand, some women are just so relieved that they no longer have to deal with sex anymore – it was never enjoyable, and now it’s thankfully behind them. Wherever we sit on this spectrum today (we seem to slide up and down the continuum as we transition through menopause), it’s helpful to understand …

The big picture on libido

Here’s the unavoidable truth about our sex drive: as a human female mammal we need intimacy, safety and love to become aroused. During our early years, our hormonal cocktail (aka the reproductive imperative) could often override this but now, at midlife, we need that cuddle time, we need touch that doesn’t only lead to sex, and we need to explore arousal and stimulation that feels good in our changing body. 

The fact that our body takes longer to become aroused and juicy is … a delicious gift.  When we and our partner are tuned in and curious about the changes, we both reap the benefits of our emerging “full sexuality”.  Women from less youth-focused cultures have told me how the most desirable women sexually are post-menopausal!

So the bottom line it this: our bodies are changing. And with that, our sexuality is too.  One woman put it beautifully: “We had to have a very frank conversation. Outside the bedroom. I told my partner that we had to kinda start over, discovering the touch, the attention, the words that now turn me on.”  We seem to move towards slow loving with the focus us and on the intricacies of our extraordinary anatomy.  Sheri Winston’s great book “Woman’s Anatomy of Arousal” is fabulous for navigating and discovering places you’ll want to visit. In our world of male-focused sexuality, we sometimes have to dig a little deeper to discover more options.  Lisa Schrader’s work Awakening Shakti brings the Tantric practices to our modern ways and shows us what’s possible when we feel stuck.

Here’s more good news: for some women orgasms can become stronger and more prolonged.  And even more: when orgasms don’t happen, it doesn’t really matter because now our whole body can become more easily aroused.  Whew, there really isn’t an ‘end goal’ in sex, and yes, the playing fields have certainly changed, haven’t they? This is what we’re talking about when when we say FULL womanhood.

In the meanwhile, you’d love some ideas to smooth over the cracks that have appeared.  Here’s a little inventory that might help: how’s your self-care going? Are you getting enough sleep (type ‘sleep’ into the search box for many ideas from the Goddesses)? Fatigue is a number one libido zapper. Are you keeping our body nimble and strong? You want to have that engine ready to go. And then you  know what they say about practice, practice, practice. Hang in there, do what you can to stay engaged and sexually active. I’ve heard it said that three or more times a month is good for keeping the juices flowing. Talking of flowing juices, taking care of our changing ladies parts is a big part of the libido conversation. “Sex” and “vaginal dryness” in the search box can certainly scratch your itch, so to speak.

Whether we want more or less of it in our lives, our sexuality is ours to claim. It’s an expression of our vitality. It’s important to know, as aging women, we have options when it comes to sculpting how we move gracefully, sensually and sexually, into the second half our our lives.

I hope you’ll join us on Thursday. It’s sure to be rich and juicy.

Ashley offers Conscious Menopause coaching in San Rafael and via Skype.  You can read more on her website

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Forging New Relationships with Intimates After Menopause Part II

Fractured © Lynette Sheppard

Fractured © Lynette Sheppard

Love Will Keep Us Together – But How?
Closeness in intimate relationship is more than just physical. It’s emotional and mental as well.  What constitutes connectedness on a day-to-day basis?  Shared interests and tasks create an atmosphere for feeling connected.  For some Venuses, the children once provided such a focus.  However, the emptying of the nest means new linkups need to be found.  Other Venuses have been focused on helping their husbands with business or work projects, yet now are questioning whether they wish to continue in these endeavors or to search for interests of their own that stimulate them in new, creative ways.  The first questions for midlife goddesses, who have traditionally as family nurturers (womb-men) been absorbed in the lives and interests of their loved ones, are “what do I really want?”  “What are my interests and desires, independent of others?” “ If I weren’t trying to please, what would I do, try, be?”

We invite you to join us and listen in on the initial conversation:

Theresa-Venus – “It’s hard when your  partner is so into physical activity.  I feel like if I don’t engage in physical pursuits with him, we’ll lose some of our connection.  He’ll just do those things with other friends, and we’ll drift apart.  We’ll lose some of the connection that comes from shared interests. And I also don’t want him looking at me thinking, ‘Boy she’s getting old, she’s slowing down.’”

Beej-Venus – “I tried to learn golf to be with my husband more.  Yet he won’t try ballroom dancing or some of the things I’m interested in.  It seems to me that we better have SOMETHING in common for our golden years.”

Jane-Venus – “I go skiing to spend time with my husband, because he loves it.  But if I’m really honest with myself, I don’t want to ski the runs he enjoys – it’s scary.”

Lynette-Venus- “So where’s the balance between doing what we want vs spending time with them?  How much is quality time and how much is based on our preoccupation with disappointing them?”

Wow, big questions!  We realized that we might have to ponder these and others for a while.  Are we spending time together to strengthen and nurture our relationship?  Do we even enjoy the things we are doing with our spouses?  Are there other ways to connect?  What do we really want?

Sandy-Venus claimed that she has been less plagued by this issue.  “I always knew how to balance my own needs and interests with my spouses.  I’ve only dated four men in my life,” she quipped.  “Of course, they were in thirty seven different bodies.”  The Venuses snorted with laughter.

Courtney-Venus was especially quiet during this interchange.  “What if you’re not sure you want to forge a new relationship?  What if it’s not meant to be?”  The rest of the goddesses turned their full attention to her.  “I’ve been with this man for 5 years now, and at first it was really great.  Most of the time, it’s still good.  But he doesn’t like my children.”  A chorus of “He’s outta here.” “It’s over.” ensued.

After the hubbub quieted, she explained that her children were grown.  Only recently had one moved back home, coming and going “like a ghost”,  still managing to annoy him by being in his ‘space’.  “Holidays are painful, because I love a big family get-together for Thanksgiving and Christmas – and he hates it.”
Okay, Venuses are about support and the search for truth.  We asked her to verbalize the pros and cons of remaining in this relationship.   Although as a group, we felt that the kid issue was non-negotiable, a deal breaker, the decision to go or stay was Courtney-Venus’s and hers alone.  Our job was to help her find a little clarity.  The more she talked, the more she defined what wasn’t working.  “I feel like I’m always guessing.  What did I do now that I didn’t know about?”  “Still,” she sighed.  “ A lot of the time things are stable, even fun.”  Finally, Bobbi Venus asked a pointed question.  “How do you feel when you come home and see his car in the driveway – are you excited or disappointed?”  Courtney’s eyes widened, “I feel sick to my stomach.”

There wasn’t any more to say.  In this way, the Venuses were able to support one of our own in a difficult examination of her life and where it was headed, through listening, prodding, and caring.
Exhausted, we went to bed.

This post was partially adapted from “The Big M” by Lynette – ebook version is called “Becoming a Menopause Goddess.”  It’s interesting that one isn’t ever really done working on these questions – we spent time in every meeting revisiting aspects of relating to our intimates. Over time, we’ve gotten better at creating time and space for ourselves while creating that new relationship (or in the case of two of us, moving on.) One of the things that helped, weirdly enough, was actually reading the book out loud to our mates, so that they could see how universal our questions and symptoms were, how they and we were not alone in working to start our relaionships anew. No longer was it “Why are you like this?” or “What’s wrong?” but how can we address this unplanned change together. It opened a real conversation rather than a disagreement and paved the way for understanding – on both sides. Stay tuned for more on this important topic.

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How Do We Inform Ourselves About Menopause?

Christmas bouganvill

That is the question that Jamie Cooper is trying to answer in her doctoral research study at University of South Florida. She is asking for participation in her online survey questionnaire.  She’d like women aged 35 -55 to share their experiences with her; your answers will be confidential and anonymous.

Jamie hopes to help improve the lives of women at midlife now and in the future. Now that’s some research we can get behind. Women sharing wisdom – that’s what we are all about. Here’s the link:

If you have questions for Jamie, you can email her at

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A feminine take on menopausal hormones – part 2

Two weeks ago (in part 1) I put my faith in your body’s wisdom. I suggested that “by changing how you see your hormones, you can actually change the way they make you feel.”  What? No discussion about bio-identicals? Or phyto-estrogens? Or progesterone decline? Or (name your hormone) gone awry?

Okay, let me just say this from the get-go. This is not your run-of-the-mill balance your menopause hormones conversation. Instead of discussing what to take to get those darned hormones to balance like they did in 1999, I’m offering what the women I counsel find far more helpful for their long-term health and sanity: 1) the real cause of menopausal symptoms and 2) some pointers to lifestyle and attitude changes that can sustain hormonal balance for the rest of your days.

When hormones become symptoms

Menopause, when defined by its symptoms, is bloating and mood-swings, heavy bleeding and insomnia, hot flashes and foggy brain, desperate irritation and parched hoo-ha’s. How are these seemingly interminable and highly unpleasant symptoms connected to your hormones?

Simply put – when your hormones are out of balance, you get symptoms.

However, the culprit isn’t your hormones …  it’s stress that turns ‘hormones’ into symptoms, not the
hormones themselves. This is really important to understand. Your hormones aren’t to blame.  When you ‘develop’ symptoms, it’s not like developing an illness or catching a virus. That’s why unless you address the things that are stressing you out, ‘treating’ your hormones won’t bring about the fundamental balance you’re looking for.  Put another way, your symptoms have one message for you: “CHANGE!” they say. “Tend to things that are stressing you and you’ll get symptom relief.”

Of course, I’m not saying don’t try and make your life more comfortable as you go through The Change.  From homeopathic suppositories (to make me juicy down there) to Lugol’s Solution (to boost my thyroid), and all kinds of things in between, perimenopause has turned me into my own walking laboratory. Wait, I think I might always have been a little adventurous when it comes to natural remedies, but things feel a little more urgent now, don’t they?  Clearly, by tending to the larger picture of the things that make you feel anxious, stressed, furious, helpless or discouraged your hormonal balance will find its life-sustaining, cruise-controlling sweet spot that feels so good.

How to support your hormones: step one

[Spoiler alert: step one might be the hardest part].

To apply a more feminine approach to supporting your hormones (see part 1 for more on this approach), you first need to align your attitudes about a smooth menopause with your intention to support your body.  This is easier said than done, as it means changing some very old habits when it comes to how you treat yourself. Here are some pointers:

  • Cultivate a trusting, open relationship with your body. Learning to listen to your body is the most important step in owning your health.

           Some ways to do this:

         ⃟   tune into your body when you exercise (instead of scoffing down People magazine on the treadmill)

         ⃟   pay attention to how you feel after eating certain foods (feeling bloated is a really helpful sign of discord)

         ⃟   be guided by a ‘body whisperer’ (somatic counselors or body workers who collaborate to bring you back into authentic communication with your body)

  • Love yourself. I know we always come back to this one, but this is true hormonal balance therapy. Choose things that attainable and nourishing and, most importantly, enjoyable!
  • Expect accountability from yourself. Stay clear about your intention – you’re wanting to feel better, have more energy and more fun.
  • Get involved with your health. Wean yourself off relying on ‘experts’ to know what you need to make way for an intimate dialog with your body.

Here’s the good news. When you make these changes, your body responds and your hormones shift from imbalance to balance, without needing to ‘fix’ them. It’s kind of alchemical –  how changing one area balances something elsewhere.

Tending to the larger picture: step 2

Your hormones respond to your whole life. How you experience your daily life, things like love, respect, sensibility, regard, comfort, appreciation, gratitude, and self-love – these keep you humming along.  I know you see this over and over again, but these are your best hormonal balm:

  • healthy food (eating well is crucial to stable hormones)
  • rest, relaxation and sleep
  • family, friendship and support
  • pleasure, laughter and fun
  • spending time on you – especially if you’re tending to others’ needs a lot
  • self-care and nourishment sisterhood and community
  • healthy emotional boundaries – and the best medicine of all – love, gratitude and integrity

What does “hormone love” look like

Here’s what you have to look forward to as you come home to your body:

  • When you’re in a loving relationship with your hormones, you’re not afraid of them. Instead you know how to listen to them to make adjustments (the language of your symptoms)
  • When you’re in a loving relationship with your hormones, you aren’t ashamed of them. Instead you get excited about the sensitivity and diversity and understanding you now have access to as you transform into your full-womanhood or wise-womanhood.
  • When you’re in a loving relationship with your hormones, you don’t feel controlled by them. Instead you reap the huge healing benefits of collaborating with your body.
  • When you’re in a loving relationship with your hormones, you notice what’s making you uneasy in your life and you reduce stress to bring it back into balance

We’ve most of us got the memo by now.  Apparently, menopause isn’t for the feint of heart. Maybe that’s why it comes along when you’ve gathered some life experience, a little insight into how the world works and hopefully some self-reflective skills to boot.  With your big girl panties hiked way up high on your hips, you bide your time in the chrysalis, being guided by your hormones to find your balance. Until, one day, you burst forth – emboldened and empowered …

Adapted from Ashley’s upcoming book, The Conscious Menopause Survival Guide.

Want to chat live online with me and other women this Thursday, April 7 @ 9-10am PST? Symptoms and Stress – the link to relief is our topic. Sign up details are here.  (If you can’t be there in person, you can watch the recording in your own time).

Ashley offers Conscious Menopause coaching in San Rafael and via Skype.

You can read more on her website

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Forging New Relationships With Intimates after Menopause

Coupled Palms © lynette sheppard

Coupled Palms © lynette sheppard

Again, I want to thank all of you who let me know what topics you want explored as we step into our next phase of Second Adulthood. It didn’t surprise me that “forging new relationships” was a hot pick. We Venuses spent all of our second gathering and significant portions of our subsequent meetings digging into this part of our changing. With that in mind, here is Part I of what we discussed and learned.

Forging New Relationships With Our Significant Others
Next to ourselves, the people most affected by our midlife changes are our intimates.  Our spouses, life partners, and significant others are not sure how to relate to the entities who have seemingly taken over the bodies, hearts, and minds of their best friends.  They want the sweet, loving, sexual woman they used to know to come back.  Well, guess what, so do we.  But she’s nowhere in sight.

One spouse, when feeling amorous one evening, told his Venus, “Honey, I just want to make you happy.  I just want to give you pleasure.”   All the Venuses hooted and hollered when she shared this – we’d been there.  At this time of our life, when we are struggling with diminished libido, hot flashes, night sweats, and life-altering insomnia, pleasure seems an elusive dream. The first responses that had bounced into our heads luckily remained unshared with our well-meaning mates, but we voice them now.  “You just want to give me pleasure?  Then bring me a fan!”  or “Great.  Then just let me sleep.”

After the laughter died down, we set about confronting the real difficulties of reconciling the new us with the old them.  Oh sure, they may be going through their own changes, but let’s not muddy the waters with that just yet.  No, on second thought, we decided the waters were already muddy, so we’d better look at that too.

Leavin’ Libido Loca
One change that seems to surface with the “climacteric” (scientific name for menopause) in men is that they begin to “feel older”.  They confront their own mortality in a very real way.  No longer is death an abstraction.  Time is running out.  This can lead to questions (or obsessions) of virility.  It seems to us as if they believe that if they can still get it up and working, they are not old yet. Virility = youth. As a consequence, they may suddenly be wanting sex a great deal more.  “Hey, if I can do it 3 times a night, I’m still young.”  This increased interest in ‘doing it’  is in direct collision with our waning or hibernating sex drive.

While we were on the subject of sex and pleasure, several of the Venuses blasted the so-called sexual performance drugs:  Viagra, Cialis, and the like.   Despite the Hallmark-esque commercials’ rosy pictures of happy, satisfied couples, our goddesses denounced the use of these pills as artificial.  Worse, they felt that the drugs acted as a barrier to intimacy and sensuality, reducing this intimate act of sharing to a poor mimicry of teenage prowess, a contest of turgidity and longevity, a tractor pull between the bedsheets.  Yeah, baby!   We’re ready for ESPN!

Hey, guys!  Even if our libido were running full tilt boogie, (which we think we’ve already established, it is not) we wouldn’t want a sporting event in our bedroom.  We want closeness and sensuality – not endurance.  It’s not about the thrill of victory vs the agony of defeat.  It’s about being together physically, emotionally, and mentally.  Forget chemically.  The Stepford penis doesn’t work for us. It’s artificial and we hate it.  Enough said. (Note: this feeling was BEFORE any of our spouses suffered true erectile dysfunction – the drugs can indeed be helpful in those circumstances. The trouble was when the pills were taken when not truly medically necessary. Live and learn.)

Pillow Talk

Sexuality issues are sensitive issues, not easily talked about in even the closest relationships.  Yet until and unless we confront it in conversations with ourselves, we won’t be able to broach the topic with our intimates.  The Venus group provided a way to learn and share together, to gain understanding and grow strength, compassion, and courage for the scary, delicious process of creating new relationships with our old loves.

Okay, so what do we do?  How do we reconcile our diminished sex drive with their normal or increased drive?  Lei-Venus was able to talk to her husband about the changes in this way.  “Hormonally, it’s like I’ve become a little girl again.  When I was a little girl, I didn’t really think about sex.  And now, without the physical drive from my hormones, it just doesn’t come up on my screen.  Emotionally, of course, I’m still a woman in love with her husband.  So I just need to remind myself how much I love being physically close with you, and get myself in the mood for making love.”  As we mentioned earlier in the Help Chapter, Lei gets herself in the mood by reading romantic literature or watching a movie love scene.  Bobbi sets the stage with romantic dinner, music, and rose petals.  Little touches of sensuality help get her in the mood for love.

Recovering from Lost Libido

A additional wrinkle for some of the Venuses involved an increased emotional sensitivity on the part of their lovers.  These spouses expressed a desire for their mates to initiate lovemaking more often.  Perhaps this was just another side effect of the mortality/virility question, wanting to know if they are still desirable to us.  For our part, it isn’t that they aren’t desirable to us.  It’s that we seem to have forgotten desire altogether.  If we DID lust for someone, it would be our partners. Sandy-Venus summed it up when she said, “I forget that I like sex, until my husband approaches me, and we get it on.  Then I remember – hey, this is great.  We should do this more often.”  Like so many of us, she suffers from a sort of sexual Alzheimer’s phenomenon.

Alas, our libido seems to have gone to some netherworld, maybe the land of lost socks from the dryer.  Regardless of the lack of drive, we were going to have to find ways to maintain our physical closeness in our primary relationships.  Additionally, to honor our partners, we would need to be proactive at times, not simply submissive.  Most important, we realized that we have to TALK about physical intimacy with our mates, and how we are going to adapt and grow into the changes that we are experiencing together.

Bobbi-Venus and her husband set “dates” for enjoying one another physically to make sure that this aspect of their relationship isn’t neglected.  For the upcoming year, the Venuses vowed to pay attention to nourishing the physical connection with our mates, for ourselves as well as them.

Beej-Venus and her husband follow their therapist’s advice.  All they have to do is to set a date and both agree to show up naked with a smile on their faces.  If anything happens, so much the better.
(This post was partially adapted from “The Big M” by Lynette – ebook version is called “Becoming a Menopause Goddess.” These issues not only come up during menopause, but are prevalent after the Pause as well. A vibrant Second Act will mean creating new relationships in many arenas – we’ll talk more about intimate relationship re-creation and re-bonding in my next post in two weeks.)

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