With the recent focus on mental health in the media and a greater awareness of the menopause, we asked Yoga Teacher and Yoga Therapist for Mental Health, Anneliese Wells of Birchwood Yoga, to share some of her insights on both topics.
Mental health and the menopause are both subjects that are passions of mine, so it’s very natural for me to want to write about them here. In my business Birchwood Yoga, I support women to accomplish what has taken me a long time to work out; that putting yourself first, be that in your family, your business or with friends is the only way to take care of all things.
Often at the transitional time of menopause, women are at their most busy; running a business or working long hours, managing family life, coping with elderly parents; all of which is stressful. Making time for yourself is the most important thing you can do. Women are notoriously bad at this. We feel guilty if we step away from our family. We feel that we SHOULD be there for everybody else, but this is stressful and you run the risk of compassion fatigue. Yes, it’s a thing!
We all struggle to find enough time in our day for everything that needs to be done but by being organised, by putting ourselves first and making sure self-care is prioritised, we can show up for others.
However, it is often around the time of the menopause that many women experience one of the most common symptoms, increased anxiety. It is also true that if you have suffered from trauma and it is as yet unresolved, you are likely to find it rearing its ugly head at menopause.
Doing something relaxing that allows you to switch off mentally and that calms your nervous system will benefit. Step away from technology for a time, literally.
Research shows that spending time in nature is fabulous for your mental well-being, so why not go for a brisk walk in the park or the countryside. Spending time with others, especially if they are understanding of what you are going through is extremely supportive. After all, a problem shared is a problem halved as they say. Find your tribe and regularly spend time with them.
If you are suffering from depression and finding it difficult to function, there are many things you can do. Stress is the root cause of anxiety so anything you can do to prevent or manage stress will also help. Ashwaghanda is a wonderful adaptogenic herb that supports your body acclimate to stress. Rhodiola is another adaptogenic herb that can help with stress, anxiety and depression.
If you are taking ANY other medication, it is always worth speaking with your GP to make sure it is safe to take supplements. However, you might consider speaking with your GP anyway as according to Dr Rosemary Leonard, author of Menopause – the Answers, antidepressants can also suppress other menopausal symptoms.
Diet is also important since what you eat can affect your mental health. Speak to a nutritional therapist if you need to, however the two most important things to cut down are alcohol and sugar. Alcohol may be your go-to when you are stressed but the high you receive from the release of GABA is short-lived. You go for another drink and another and soon find that you only feel that same high after a bottle.
Sweets, chocolate and carbohydrates are another choice when stressed but will spike your blood sugar levels and maybe even give you a high, but you will crash down very soon afterwards and feel hungry again. At menopause, we tend to gain weight around the middle which usually heightens your risk of cardiovascular disease. The weight gain doesn’t help your self-esteem if you are already suffering mentally.
From a yogic perspective, practising daily will support your mental, physical and physiological well-being. Observe your energy levels and mental state and consider whether to practice some grounding techniques, strong poses or gentle stretches. There is something for every mood and even a breathing technique that cools your hot flushes. Pranayama is magical for mental well-being, as is chanting and meditation. Ten minutes of practice a day is better than one hour a week. If you come to a class, try and practice at home too. At Birchwood Yoga, I send a copy of the 4-week lesson plan to you to support a home practice.
Cardiovascular exercise benefits you physically and mentally. I know it can be difficult to fit it in but ask your family to help. Perhaps they can cook for themselves once a week so that you can go to a class. You might take a ten-minute walk before eating your lunch. Little and often is better than nothing at all and it boosts your mood.
The most important thing is NOT to suffer in silence. You are not alone. I am a great believer in choice so do your research, never dismiss advice, try something and if it doesn’t work, try something else; whether that is homoeopathy, herbs, medication, yoga, meditation or counselling. What works for your best friend might not work for you, so keep an open mind.
Community, support and exercise will greatly benefit. Reach out to me or anyone else who might be able to help. If women are ill-informed about menopause, men are going to be more so. TELL your partner and family what you need; it might be the only way you get your needs met.
Talk about the menopause. The more you do, the better educated future generations will be and the easier the transition will be for our daughters.
Go well. Namaste.
Anneliese Wells runs Birchwood Yoga and supports businesswomen bring about calm, find the quality time and cultivate a balanced, healthy lifestyle. She has over 1000 hours of teacher training in yoga, yoga therapy for mental health and mindfulness as well as a distinction in cordon bleu catering and sugarcraft!
Her new programme, RELAX, RESTORE, REVITALISE, has been developed to support women to reduce overwhelm and cultivate a balanced, healthy lifestyle. Anneliese combines her trainings in Yoga, Yoga Therapy for Mental Health, Cordon Bleu Cookery and life skills to create a 9 week programme on which women will develop a toolbox of skills that will enable them to find quality time to do more of the things they love and get joy back into their life!
For more info visit https://www.birchwoodyoga.co.uk