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An Affair of the … Body

Abbots Lagoon

Connected © Ashley Jeanne Ross

Yesterday I found myself diving into the depths of the earth – down, down, down into the fathomless, bottomless, infinite earth. Around me were other meditators diving down their own chutes. Yes, this is San Francisco, the land of the experimental. And yes, we’ve been know to explore some interesting landscapes. Only this time we were taking a journey with, and into, our bodies.

The idea of this body-focused meditation is this: by imagining you’re falling, you leave behind your regular or habitual thoughts, and discover who you are – when you’ve just got your body for company. It’s quite an eyeopener really. You’re forced into an intimate relationship with this one and only familiar ‘friend’, way down there.

Similarities with the journey of menopause abound. There’s that falling feeling when the bottom drops out, flailing in the dark depths, coming face-to-face with each ache and pain in your joints, in your heart, in your temperament.  It’s in the dark that your body begins to talk to you. 

Bodies talk really, really quietly and really, really slowly. So you have to tune in to hear it, especially if you’re doing a lot of running around.  If you ignore it – like when you don’t get enough sleep or when you hang out with that person who doesn’t treat you kindly – it has to start raising its voice so you pay attention. Then one day you begin to notice … 

The Language of Symptoms

The message is simple: tune in, learn to speak the language and the symptoms will show you what you need to change to regain balance in your life. Since you’re in The Change, your body is inviting you to join it – by changing the things that are no longer good for you.

Wait, why can’t you just find the things to fix your body so you can carry on with your life? Yes, by all means partake of the ingenious array of rubs and potions and modalities that we clever humans come up with (my recommendation is to stick with the natural solutions).  So then what’s all this about cultivating a relationship with your body? Isn’t it enough that you feed it, bathe it and use it for pleasure?

Let’s look at all this from your body’s point of view for a moment.  Day in and day out, you live mostly in your head.  Your life is made up of a pretty constant stream of thinking, talking, watching screens, reading, more thinking, more talking, more screens, etc, right? All the while, your attention is in your head. In fact you can get through your day without needing to be aware of your body at all. If your body was another ‘person’, we could reasonably call this relationship a tad negligent. 

You might go on this way, ignoring your body – until it rebels. Menopause is an open invitation for rebellion. Hello, hormonal flux. Hello, brain dissolution and restructuring. Hello, chronic aches and pains, weight gain, insomnia, constipation, vanishing libido, etc, etc.  These are the sounds of anarchy, right? 

Wanna know what to do about all this?  Throw in the towel? Kinda. Seek out help? Absolutely (and the best kind is from other women who are going through it too).  Tell everyone you’re no longer who you were? Pretty much. Learn a new language? Bingo!! It’s called the language of symptoms.  When you decode it, the clouds part and you’re on your way to a healthier, more appropriate life.

Appropriate life, huh? 

If you’re in peri/menopause, you have a decision to make. Either you can continue ignoring your body’s needs, or … you can enter into a conversation with it. If you choose to talk to it, here’s what happens: instead of blaming your body for your symptoms, you decide to collaborate. You support each other, you work together, you become curious about what’s really happening and why, and you look for solutions that address the cause instead of tending only to the symptom.  This close collaboration is what allows you to not only learn the language of symptoms but to begin to trust what you hear.

Here’s the good news: coming into your body is like coming home. Sure, the route home may be unfamiliar and the obstacles on the way may be uncomfortable or even downright excruciating.  But the gift of finding refuge in your self becomes yours when you tend to your most intimate and life-long relationship with love and respect – the one between you and your body. 

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

I’m so curious to hear what you hear when you listen to your body? Or is it hard to hear what’s going on? And what are some of the ways you’ve cultivated your relationship with your body?  Let’s talk about it: as dear Lynette always says, it’s in sharing this crazy, fascinating, soul-wretching journey that we come through intact …

Ashley offers Conscious Menopause coaching in San Rafael and via Skype. Join Ashley and women from around the world for the live Conscious Menopause Circles Series online. You can read more on her website ashleyjeanneross.com.

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What’s Important to Post-Menopausal Goddesses?

Arch of Celebration © lynette sheppard

Arch of Celebration © lynette sheppard

OK, wow. As of this post, I am officially no longer the go-to Menopause person at Menopause Goddess Blog. I’m thrilled that Ashley Ross has taken over that position. From now on, I’m the Second Adulthood blogger here. Ashley and I will alternate weeks posting most of the time, subject to change if one of us is on vacation, overwhelmed, etc.

Now that menopause is (mostly) in my rear view mirror, I find myself contemplating how I might spend the rest of my life’s time. Not that we didn’t spend hours discussing how we might best live a vibrant Second Adulthood during our Menopause Goddess gatherings – we surely did! It’s never too early to start looking ahead and crafting a vision for the future.

Myriad thoughts and ideas swim through my head. Crafting a vision is important, but so are the changes brought about by aging, coping with elderly parents, dealing with loss. So for this first blog post, I’d like to ask what you are most interested in reading and sharing.

Because that blank piece of paper can sometimes make the mind go blank (happens to me all the time), I’ll list some potential topics. Add others as you think of them. You can post them here in the comments section or email me at lynette@9points.com. That will let me know where you’d like the conversation to start.

Potential Topics
Retirement (or being unable to retire)
Finding a passion
Creating a new relationship (with either a new person or your partner of many years)
Exploring creativity
Caregiving
Health issues
Staying / becoming healthy
Looking good
Aging
Coping with change
Travel
Redefining yourself
Legacy and giving back
Grandchildren
Me time
Nurturing self
Nurturing others
Learning

These are just a few ideas – let me know which of these is most important or intriguing to you or send me topics of your own. I’m excited about experiencing this new adventure together. Again, my direct email is lynette@9points.com  Can’t wait to hear from my sister goddesses, menopausal and post-menopausal.

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Ashley Ross Joins Menopause Goddess Blog!

Painted Lady © lynette sheppard

Painted Lady © lynette sheppard

Drumroll please. I am so excited to welcome Ashley to our virtual menopause community. As a menopause coach and holistic health practitioner with a focus on women’s hormonal issues (and one who has journeyed this transition herself), she is uniquely qualified to take over the Menopause area of the blog. I’ll let her introduce herself to you in this first of many blog posts. (BTW, Ashley is available to help in person and also virtually via Skype – details at the end of the post!)

Ash-6

Hello everyone!

by Ashley Jeanne Ross

I am so thrilled to be joining the inimitable Lynette Sheppard and the Menopause Goddess Blog community as it changes and transforms just as we all do. Menopause is after all The Ultimate Change. And MGB is about to become a fuller and more collaborative mouthpiece for Gracious Transitions and What Awaits beyond.  What an honor!

Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Ashley Jeanne Ross – holistic women’s health practitioner, counselor and coach, mother and lover of relevant and inspiring perspectives on this crazy and fabulous ride called life.

Here’s what I’m passionate about: I’m on a mission to eradicating the the obstacles that keep us from feeling at home in our bodies. With so many forces coming at us from when we were little girls until we arrive at our full womanhood – to turn away from or even against our women’s bodies – it becomes the Task of Menopause for many of us to ‘find our way back home’.

When I began working with women 20 years ago – balancing menstrual cycles, managing PMS, counseling mood swings, teaching natural birth control – women in menopause would implore me to help them, please! There was a tiny voice (you know that one, right?) that said to me: “Wait until you’ve gone through it – that’s when you’ll be able to really help them.” So I would refer them to other practitioners and waited for my turn.

It arrived almost 8 years ago, that day I began to feel The Change coming on … a story for another blog.

Since then, I’ve sat with hundreds of women in all kinds of settings and we’ve mulled over this crazy, confusing and ill-treated time in a woman’s life – to see if there might be another way to understand what’s happening to us. We’ve toyed with the idea of Change, and what it means to change. Our needs are changing, certainly our bodies are changing, our sexuality’s changing, our focus is changing. Apparently we’re changing!

A very surprising question emerged – what if we changed intentionally, consciously?  What if we claimed this transition, this change of life and went through a Conscious Menopause?

Here’s a taster of how that might look:

  • instead of feeling at the mercy of your symptoms, you can learn to decipher what they’re trying to tell you
  • instead of being afraid of The Change, you might use it to revamp outdated beliefs and habits that have overstayed their welcome
  • instead of biding your time to ‘just get through it’, you can make adjustments that will pay off down the road
  • instead of feeling alone in your misery, you can turn to your sisters for support and fabulous stories

So much to explore together. It’s such an honor to be here. Thank you Lynette for inviting me to the party. I am truly delighted to join the wonderful Menopause Goddesses, to share what inspires me and to be inspired as we claim this “one wild and precious life”.

BIOGRAPHY
Ashley Jeanne Ross seems to have a insatiable lifelong fascination with the rich terrain where our hormones and emotions meet. When she’s not immersed in studying the female experience, she’s an author, teacher, counselor and speaker, as well as a loving mother of burgeoning adult triplets, two girls and a boy. Her ‘day job’ is as a holistic reproductive health practitioner, professional fertility awareness educator and somatic counselor in private practice in California, and thanks to the 21st century, also online. Place her in a circle of women to observe her in her natural habitat.

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

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Menopause Goddess Blog Part Deux

Vibrant Amaryllis © lynette sheppard

Vibrant Amaryllis © lynette sheppard

Back in early December, I wrote that Menopause Goddess Blog would be going through some changes. I had hoped to introduce our new addition, fabulous Menopause Coach Ashley Ross,  by the end of December. The holidays and such got in the way, like they do, so we will be starting the new format in February.

Ashley will write on the Menopause transition and I will write about Living Our Second Act from my postmenopausal perspective. Many of our original goddesses have thankfully seen the worst of the changes recede in their rear view mirror, yet we remain committed to our sisters just beginning this rocky ride.

We will continue to showcase products in our Menopause Marketplace and keep up with the latest on the Big M. And I am very excited to embark together on our journey into Second Adulthood. Stay tuned! And if you have specific questions, thoughts, offerings; be sure to let us know by clicking on Contact Us in the left sidebar.

Menopause may be an ending but it is also a beginning. Most important is that we travel these roads together. That will take us from merely surviving to outright thriving.

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Managing Hot Flushes & Night Sweats

Flame On © lynette sheppard

Flame On © lynette sheppard

One of our goddess sisters from across the pond, Lucy Teear, shares this terrific book review with tips for managing hot flashes and night sweats naturally. And do check out Lucy’s blog at Embrace the Change.

Book Review: Managing Hot Flushes & Night Sweats  By Myra Hunter & Melanie Smith

by Lucy Teear

Whoa…. My usual chick lit abandoned for two nights in favour of truly engrossing and informative read about the menopause, not something I ever expected to say! The menopause seems to be such a taboo subject, something to be suffered in silence and ever so slightly embarrassing, but this book provides balanced informative which changed my preconceived negative thoughts and the four week self-help guide shared techniques to help manage symptoms that are uplifting and positive.

The Finding of This Holy Grail….

I discovered Myra Hunter and her wonderful book in October whilst attending a “Managing menopausal symptoms following breast cancer treatments” (bit of a mouthful) held by “Breast Cancer Care” support – a fabulous support network that saved my sanity whilst going through chemo.

Having had breast cancer the possibility of HRT is ruled out for me, so resigned to the fact I’d have to go cold turkey and the impact of chemo can make the symptoms more severe than a natural menopause… Explains the hell of the last 3yrs, major hot flushes up to 10 – 15  times plus a day at its peak, then the flooding where my period would last weeks and be so super heavy I’d be jacked up on tampons and pads giving me a cowboy stance!! All in all leaving me feel drained and incredibly miserable. Happy to report I’m in a much more manageable place but still attended like the majority of the women in the room full of hope of discovering a new medical breakthrough, a pill, a drug that would magically alleviate the suffering of the night sweats and hot flushes (now at about 2 a day), but what we covered and discovered was far more powerful and enlightening, resonating with me….

Including:

What is the menopause
Symptoms
Pharmacological approaches to alleviating symptoms
Non-pharmacological approaches (natural remedies etc.)
Cognitive behavioural approaches
Self-help strategies

All the above is covered in detail in a readable and engaging format in the book.

So, we didn’t get the pills and drugs but instead  CBT.

So what is “Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)”:

CBT is a therapy that helps manage problems by enabling you to recognise and ultimately change the way you think and behave in connection with the problem. Combining a cognitive approach with a behavioural approach, CBT encourages you to notice how your thoughts and actions influence one another.

It was clear that most of the women in the room felt the menopause was a taboo topic, something viewed negatively by society and therefore a source of great embarrassment… This is where CBT kicks in, as how we think will ultimately have an effect on how we experience the symptoms – makes sense right?

The below slide highlights the negative thought cycle:
hot flush cycle

My personal experience with hot flushes are they tend to arrive at the most inconvenient times, an example being a business meeting I had with five guys in a very small room, knowing it was going to be a challenging negotiation I was pretty pumped up and as soon as we started, it started… heat building, sending my pulse racing, panic rising along with the heat “My god they’ll notice” was all I could think, just intensifying the whole darn experience! In reality I’m sure it looked like a normal stress related response to the situation, and had I read this book then my perception would be just that and I’d have handled differently, controlled my breathing and had a very different internal dialogue.

Although a complete rookie yogi, I’m a newbie fan of mediation/mindfulness and often use it to help with the stresses of work (Construction industry is a hive of stress), and hadn’t thought to apply it to menopausal symptoms but having read the book I now see the correlation between the reduction in my flushes and the reduction in stress since practising meditation daily. At the seminar Myra guided us through a paced breathing exercise and calm spread through the room, even the most skeptical looked more relaxed and chilled out!

Right, lets take a look at this book….

Managing-hot-flushes21

Firstly the authors credentials:

Myra Hunter (the speaker above) is professor of clinical health psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London. She’s worked in the area of women’s health for over thirty years and her research on menopause has established her as an international expert in the field…. Knows her stuff for sure.

Melanie Smith is a clinical psychologist who has specialised in helping people to manage physical health conditions through the use of cognitive behavioural therapy. She is currently working with the Manchester and Salford Pain Centre.

The format:

The book covers in more depth what we touched on in the “Breast Cancer Seminar” and is divided into two sections:

Information about the menopause, hot flushes and CBT explained
CBT Self-Help Guide

There’s also download link which provides an audio recording guiding you through a relaxation and breathing exercise, which I love  listening to first thing in the morning to set me up for the day, as feel amazingly refreshed and positive after – Also great just before going to bed if you need to let go of the days fuzz buzzing around the mind!

Although both academics this book is clearly written by women for women, the first section shares current knowledge based on really accessible and easy to understand research data, along with the latest information on why we experience hot flushes and night sweats – It’s not all about the hormones! It looks at how different cultures experience the menopause which is fascinating, and makes you consider if society was less judgmental about the ageing process then maybe as women we wouldn’t judge ourselves so harshly and feel the embarrassment quite so deeply!

It covers the principles of CBT, the theory behind how it works and the relationship cycle between: Thought – Feelings – Behavior – Physical reactions and how this cycle impacts on menopause symptoms.

I found it a compelling read and I’m usually more of a fiction gal! Even reading aloud parts with much excitement to Teear (my husband for those who haven’t read my intro)… not sure how much he took in but feigned sufficient interest!

The second part of the book sets out an interactive four-week programme using CBT, exercises and worksheets designed to enable women to develop strategies for managing symptoms. This approach is based on the authors’ research and has been shown to be effective in recent clinical research trials.

The main components of the self guide include:

Being informed about menopause symptoms;
Understanding what can help you cope with your symptoms
Learning steps to use relaxation and paced breathing
Taking steps to reduce general levels of stress
Identifying and modifying triggers of hot flushes
Dealing with negative thoughts and behavioural reactions
Practicing relaxations and breathing at the onset of a flush
Dealing with hot flushes in social situations
managing night sweats and sleep

We’re now embarking on the four week self-help guide, Diane (who’s also reading the book) and I are doing this part together so we can compare notes and we’d like to invite fellow suffers to join in, feeding back your experiences and reviews – If you fancy giving it a go you can buy the book on: https://www.routledge.com/products/9780415625159.

Available also in the US at Amazon: click here.

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Menopause Goddess Blog: New Directions

Dubrovnik Walled City © lynette sheppard

Dubrovnik Walled City © lynette sheppard

It has been over a month since I posted to Menopause Goddess Blog – mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. How did this happen?

Well, for starters, I traveled to Croatia and Slovenia including a side trip to Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina with five girlfriends of a certain vintage. Yep, Dewitt was calling us the Menopause Vagabonds. We sampled history, stunning beauty, and some of the best white wines we have collectively encountered. Hmmmm, vagabonding. We may be on to something here.

Recovering from jet lag has proven to be an arduous process but I am finally on Hawaii standard time and my molecules have rejoined me. (They were spread across two oceans for a while.)

The holidays took another bite of time – Thanksgiving celebrations, Christmas parade, tree trimming, gift buying. Whew.

Now, for some big news. Menopause Goddess Blog will be changing in 2016. No worries, we will continue to bring you the latest news and reality checks about the menopause journey. In addition, we will be expanding our focus to Life after the Pause – how will we live a vibrant, joyful Second Act?

A fabulous menopause expert and coach will be joining me as a principal writer of the blog. She will be illuminating all things pausal and I will be exploring “what comes next.”  I’ll introduce her to you all before the end of the year. Stay tuned for new perspectives, new insights, new visions.

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Feel Fab After 40: A Webinar for Menopause Goddesses

Flame On © lynette sheppard

Flame On © lynette sheppard

Health and wellness company Root Fitness across the pond is offering a free webinar with help for menopause goddesses on Wednesday 22nd Oct. at 13:30  (1:30 pm) Pacfic Time.  To sign up, just click here.

This ‘Feel Fab after 40’ webinar gives ladies the opportunity to understand what causes and exacerbates menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, weight gain around the middle, poor sleep and irritability.   They then follow up with NATURAL solutions to keep these exhausting symptoms at bay so that women can go back to gliding through life with energy, vitality and confidence!

For more information about their program, Hot Flush Free  visit https://www.facebook.com/hotflushfree or www.hotflushfree.wordpress.com

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Healthy Heart Talk for Women

Heart disease is the number 1 killer of women. And a woman’s symptoms of heart attack often vary greatly from the classic symptoms that men suffer such as crushing chest pain radiating down the left arm. Women are much more likely to suffer jaw or neck pain, pain between the shoulder blades, or shortness of breath with sweating (heck that’s me every day on my run). There may be stomach or chest pain, but heart attack may also present as fatigue. Speaking as a former coronary care nurse, I can also add “feeling of impending doom” associated with any of the symptoms as a red flag. Don’t be stoic, get to an ER right away and get checked out. Oh, and if you have that feeling of impending doom? Call 911. I personally know a number of women who did and didn’t that suffered heart attacks. Getting medical help pronto saved heart muscle.

But better than getting treatment is prevention. Our pals at University of Florida shared this helpful infographic about the ins and outs of heart disease. Of course, prevention can be boiled down to a few simple interventions. A nurse friend of mine who also happens to be a hospital administrator has her own three point plan: eat well, destress, and keep moving. I couldn’t have said it better.

heart-disease-101-the-basics

For more info, click here.

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Regain Bladder Health with AZO

maypole London

Having to go urgently is truly uncomfortable and can be embarrassing as well. I remember several years ago visiting London with my husband. We had had a glorious time photographing children in fluffy dresses and ribbons dancing around a maypole in the shadow of the Tower bridge. We wandered over to a patch of tents selling all manner of crafts and even bought a stuffed bear named Pipkin. (We still have him – he lives on our bed – ok, too much information.)

The upshot of all this is that we both urgently had to urinate. And there were no public restrooms to be found. We hobbled across the bridge, thighs pressed tightly together, groaning and wondering what the penalty might be for public relieving. As we left the bridge walk, we came across a convention center draped with a 10 foot high banner proclaiming “Overactive Bladder”. We were laughing so hard we almost didn’t make it to our hard won goal of the restrooms inside.

For those who suffer urgency and frequency, though, it is no laughing matter. Remember those good old UTI days? Well, some of those symptoms can occur as we age. How sucky is that? I used to have a coworker who could not be 2 hours out of bathroom availability.

So when Menopause Goddess blog was offered a free sample of AZO Bladder Control to try, I contacted one of our satellite goddesses who suffers urgency and frequency to evaluate it. She used it for two weeks before she began noticing relief. After a month, she was delighted to report that her symptoms had eased so much that she felt “normal” again.

AZO

AZO Bladder Control is a drug-free, natural product with the active ingredients being pumpkin seed extract and soy isoflavones. Pumpkin seed extract supports bladder muscle integrity while the soy isoflavones help relax the muscles and maintain muscular strength in the pelvic floor.

Best of all, it’s available at your neighborhood drug store or grocery store. AZO has a range of other products that promote urinary and vaginal health that we didn’t try, including AZO Bladder, AZO Cranberry, AZO test strips, AZO Urinary Pain Relief, AZO Urinary Pain Relief Maximum Strength, and AZO  Yeast.

Find out more on their website:  www.azoproducts.com or follow AZO on Facebook:
www.facebook.com/AZOproducts

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New Treatment for Vaginal Atrophy: Mona Lisa Touch

Prism Heart © lynette sheppard

Prism Heart © lynette sheppard

Vaginal atrophy affects 4 out of 10 women after menopause. (I’m surprised it isn’t more.) We’ve had a number of posts regarding lubricants and other remedies that can help with this often painful condition. Everything from avoiding sexual intimacy to discharge to daily pain unrelated to activity has been a symptom of this all too common malady.

Recently, the FDA approved a laser treatment designed to rejuvenate the lining of the vagina. Now I am always a proponent of the least invasive remedies for any condition. Still, for women who suffer despite HRT, lubricants and the like, this may be life changing.

The treatment involves 3 office visits where the CO2 laser is inserted into the vagina and emits the treatment to the wall to stimulate collagen growth. It is painless and lasts only 5-10 minutes. The only caution is that sexual intimacy be abstained from for 24 – 48 hours after the treatment.

I spoke with Holly, a 49 year old woman who was having symptoms including dryness and itching. After one treatment, she noticed immediate improvement and says that her tissue feels “more full.” Full disclosure: Holly works for Medical Aesthetics of North Dallas, where the procedure was performed.

Holly relates that many of their patients have had worse symptoms than she and have enjoyed relief after the first treatment. Some women prefer this for the convenience factor – not having to mess with creams or gels.

They know of no side effects so far. The treatment has been done in Italy since 2008. It’s pricey – approximately $2700.00 for the series. Alas, insurance does not cover the procedure yet.

It’s good to know such an option is available. Would I do it? No, I don’t mind the inconvenience of vaginal estriol and good lubricants. For me, the least interventional option that gets me the desired result will always be my go to remedy. For those where nothing else works, who cannot take estrogen, or who are really bothered by the creams and gels, this might be a viable possibility.

For more info, check out Medical Aesthetics of North Dallas and this article from Medical Daily.

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