... at Christmas and all year round, but be especially mindful at this time of year :)
'The time to relax is when you don't have the time to relax'; a wise saying from Buddha, but if I know the normal peri/menopausal woman she'll just 'grrrrr' or '"yeah but, it's easy for you to say!" and then carry on with the weight of christmas, everyone's expectations, and her own standards to live up to through the winter season; and not spend any time for herself. Then end up exhausted just intime for the break to finish and have to go back to work without the chance of destressing and rejuvenation; does this sound familiar?
Self care is so important, it is about removing stressors from your life, and it is something that should be in your daily life, not saved up for 6 months for a 1/2 spa day. Self care may not be what you think, and it maybe easier than you think too! Adding tiny little elements in here and there throughout your daily routine, mainly as thought processes can really help ease the pressure you're under, think of it as sprinkling a little fairy dust on your own health..... physically and emotionally, and you are in charge of sprinkling as much as you like!
Stress makes your symptoms worse
Stress makes your peri/menopausal symptoms worse, that is a fact, and this is why symptoms can get worse over the Christmas period, just look at some of these pressures that you're most likely under:
You have the bulk of the christmas workload from presents to food
You're overwhelmed at the amount you have to do before the main day
You have a career and to take time off over Christmas puts extra stress on you to complete before you can 'take a break'
Various members of extended family are putting pressure on to see you/ the children in a short space of time
You're hosting Christmas for everyone
You're making this Christmas more special because of last year's
You're sad at Christmas time, this maybe a time of loss/ bad memories for you and you want to avoid it but it's everywhere, and for weeks
You don't like the winter and your energy is low so everything is a struggle
You keep getting colds and bugs
Your peri/meno symptoms seem to be worse at the moment
I bet if you're reading this you can identify with 2 or 3 of these statements, and they all put a stress on your body physically and emotionally and along with the hormonal changes you're experiencing, you're just wondering whether there is light at the end of the tunnel and will it appear in the New Year.... ?
You may not get much time to reenergise sufficiently if you leave it all in the physically realm, but if you employ selfcare tactics that are thoughtful and emotional relieving ( = mindful) this is where with just 20 minutes a day 'me' time plus viewing your daily experiences through a pair of 'selfcare goggles' is going to really make the difference to your whole life. This is how you truly allow your mind and body time and space to re-energise; let's learning about replenishing your Qi!
Replenish your Qi
Qi (pronounced Chi) isy our life force, it's the energy that surges around your body and keeps you moving, and feeling great. The enemy of Qi is cold and damp, in other words a British winter, Qi slows down with the cold, and with lack of movement, and then it gets stuck (like tight muscles) and it comes to a halt. Once it does this things don't work properly, think 'frozen shoulder', and your immunity plummets too.
When Qi is happy, you feel happy too, when it's sluggish that's how you feel, your muscles are achy, your brain won't function and your moods will be lower. The secret to keeping up your Qi is to live as well as you can and to lower your stress. There are 3 things we say in Chinese medicine that you need - good food, good air, good rest, it's a simple list, but not necessarily easy to do. I think it's great to be given ideas of what we can do but also reminded that it is good to say no to things, to give yourself space to relax, especially come January when the festivities are wrapped up, and to be reminded it's ok to have self-care, and that it is not selfish.
How to ease the stresses in your life
I split stress into 3 areas, and this helps me look at how to resolve issues, so this could be an enlightening way for you to look at it too:
Physically stress - caused by how physically you live your life, and the hormonal change itself
Emotional stress - this is how you think about things, and this separates into 2 areas - stress within your remit, and stress out of your control (mainly work).
With the stress that is out of your hands, it is difficult to let go of it, as you feel it may impact you detrimentally in the near future. Worrying about something that may never happen is wasting your energy on make-believe scenarios. Obsessively thinking about things in the past that could have been done differently, is a waste of your energy, a depletion of your Qi. If you can make amends as best as you can, apologise, or let it go, and this is the key point - letting go! (you can sing it if you like!! )
If you're not letting go of anger, decide whether the anger is now justified and if so it requires an action - take that action to put your mind at peace.
If however you're holding onto anger for the sake of it, question this, as the only person you're making ill right now is you. Thich Nhat Hanh, zen master said (and it's backed up with Traditional chinese Medicine too):
"One minute of anger weakens the immune system for 4 to 5 hours..."
What is happening to your immunity if you've been angry for hours or days? Is this where autoimmunity issues stem from?
I use this chinese proverb to help resolve a flair up of anger, that really doesn't need to hang around, try and let anger go in 10 seconds, read this mandala:
On the flip side he also had this to say:
"One minute of laughter boost your imune system for 24 hours"
So take a minute to look at your pet's goofy expression, or watch something funny on you tube, it doesn't matter what makes you laugh but just do it - this lowers your stress, and raises your immunity - this is a perfect example of some self care, and it only takes a minute :)
Letting go - a powerful message
This is one of the most powerful self care lessons you can take on board. Letting go of emotions and thoughts that are only negative to you, it took me 3 years of study and years of practical experience to finally get this message, so please don't be as dense as me!
'Holding on to letting go', not only is it a song but it's also a major drain of your energy, it saps your Qi and lifeforce. Holding emotions that make you feel bad, absorb into your physical self, this is why so many ailments and illnesses and of course stress are self induced.
Letting go is freeing, you feel a weight lifted, you feel your spirit calm, life is easier, why hold onto anger, resentment, regret when these bog you down? These are past emotions where as anxiety, worry and fear are about an unknown future, again they are draining, and may not come to pass. Write down your list of these thoughts, and then question which ones are within your remit to do something about, which ones will never happen (most of them) and what can you truly let go of?
This is something you can do every day, you may or may not be getting good sleep, and if you do have terrible insomnia, read my blog to help you here. You may sleep deeply and wake up feel tired to the bone, so you may need this recharge at some point in your day. You may need time out from the kids, or colleague or partner, in fact you don't need an excuse at all, you just need to recognise that you need the time out. Some great things to support you are meditation apps, sound healing vibes, listening to nature, they all have one thing in common, they slow down your brain waves and switch your body back into the parasympathetic state - this is a healing state.
We should only be in our stressed 'fight or flight' response for a few minutes at a time, but in the modern western world you're more likely to be in this state than out of it, and so anything you can do to encourage your body back into the healing state is so beneficial.
A good way to think about rest;
"When you're resting because you are worn out you need to remember that you are not wasting your time doing nothing. You are doing exactly what your body needs you to do. You are recovering."
Resting can be walking the dog, nature bathing, knitting or having a bath, and it can be a more mindful process like meditation.
Winter is a time you can feel burnt out, I know I did last January, after a long 2020, so I made some changes and I was lucky enough to start feeling so much better in a matter of weeks, but if you don't recognise the signs and you push on you'll feel it like everything is against you, that it's all an uphill battle, and also 'what is the point of it all?' These are burnout signs, especially when you feel a lack of motivation or enthusiasm for things you know you love doing. So don't let this be you:
Recharge yourself like you would recharge your phone!
Turning relaxation into restorative time
Relaxing on the sofa but watching a series or film that is adrenalin fuelled maybe relaxing for your body or so you may think but if it's giving you adrenalin rushes this is using up your valuable Qi in an unsatisfactory way. It maybe that you can't even watch certain things anymore because they make you too jumpy, this is your body telling you it's stressed enough and it really doesn't need this type of entertainment (I used to be like this with Masterchef!).This is the difference between thinking your relaxing and having restorative relaxation.
If you can turn your rest time, even if just short bouts of 20/30 minutes a day into rejuvenation at the same time then you're onto a selfcare winner; it's about being mindfulness, getting back to nature, or being absorbed in something you love that also calms you, and switches on your healing system.
Restorative time is when you specifically do something to nourish your mind, body and soul. This can be anything from having a hot soak whilst listening to sounds of nature, restorative/yin yoga , running a guided meditation, or listening to healing sounds, search 432 or 528hz meditation on you tube (healing frequencies for the body and you can also look up more specific sound healing, and find a type that resonates with you).
An alternative to saying no!
A lot of the time you'll be given the advice that it's ok to say 'No', and this is completely valid, it absolutely is but I also know a lot of women feel incapable of just saying no, so let me offer you an alternative that then relieves the stress you're putting yourself under when you really don't want to do what you're being asked to do!
Place a 'Pause'
This is when you're put on the spot, maybe to do something by a certain time/date. Bite your tongue to stop yourself saying 'yes', you'll only need to do this a couple of times :) Then say: "I'll check my diary". This creates the pause you need, get back to them pretty swiftly with a 'sorry I'm busy', or 'I can do on such an such a date', they can then agree or pass; this has created an agreement between you that leaves both parties knowing where they stand, and removes doubt and expectation which are both stressors.
Did you know that noone makes you 'feel guilty'? Only you can do that. It is complex as to why we feel guilty but recently a therapist told me it is 'punishing yourself', a pretty traumatic thought, but it gets the point across.
I learnt to eradicate guilt when I was studying my chinese medicine as part of understanding empathy v sympathy. You can understand someone's emotional state/plight without becoming emotionally involved yourself, this is empathy, where as sympathy is to feel it, and this is where guilt can be triggered. Plus there are people who are very good at pushing your buttons to make you feel this way, to either make themselves feel better or to get you to do something they want.
Again you can create a pause when you feel someone is saying something to you that then triggers guilt, then remember a lot of the time it is your own thinking that can create the guilt, and that is something within your own remit to resolve. Reach out to a professional though if you feel you want to remove guilt but haven't got the tools to manage this.
Did you start reading this blog looking for handy tips on how to look after yourself? I'm sure you did, but it may not be the ideas you were expecting. This is because at its foundation selfcare is how you feel about yourself and what you know you are worth. It is tied in with self worth, your value, and if you're feeling at rock bottom you may not think you're worthy of any of the above, but this is exactly when you need to work on your selfcare.
Making small changes using the ideas above will mean that you can get to bed earlier, have more free time, more 'me' time, better 'Qi' and energy, a calmer mind, and less stress emotionally and physically and this is what self care really really is.
This is what Thich Naht Hanh has to say about our energy:
"We have a finite amount of energy to spend every day before coming exhausted. Mindfulnesss helps you use your energy wisely, spending it on situations, people and causes that bring you the most joy, meaning and peace".
Here are 2 fantastic quotes to think about as you embark on your new selfcare:
"We delight in the beauty of the butterfly but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty" Maya Angelou
Before you have the butterfly you have a caterpillar, it then cocoons itself for about 1/4 of its life to transition into what you see but what sizeaable energy and transformation has it undergone to achieve this? And this is you, right now, you're changing and you're in your 'cocoon', and you need energy, time and reflection to change, and selfcare is a major component of this.
"Bear in mind your own resolution to success is more important that any one other thing" Abraham Lincoln
So succintly put, the only person that can make it happen, make the change, and give the self care you need is you, and if you don't, why are you punishing yourself this way?
Self care is not selfish, it's essential.
My book 'Understanding Your Menopause' can help you relieve physical symptoms and tap into different ways of thinking, this will lead to less stress in your life and this a major key to relieving your symptoms as stress and adrenal fatigue are a major underlying cause of the severity of symptoms.
I'm Andrea, a shiatsu and chinese medicine practitioner and I've been working on my health, my mindset and my selfcare for coming up on 20 years now, it never stops, and the great thing is that with each step you take the happier you become. If you'd like help or to understand how to move forwards contact me for a free chat here.