Type ‘on average how long …’ into Google search and the four words that automatically completes the search inquiry are ‘… does the menopause last’.
The answer (from the NHS, just in case you were wondering which site comes top of Google’s results) is that menopausal symptoms last an average of four years from your last period.
Which is a staggeringly long time to be sweating through the night courtesy of an internal blast furnace , lurching from Dr Jekyll to Mrs Hyde in the blink of an unpredictable eye, struggling to sleep and piling on weight quicker than a baby Orca.
It’s enough to say that while there are a lucky few (and let’s be honest, they’re a don’t-know-just-how-lucky-they-are lucky few) whose bodies seem to effortlessly deal with what is pretty much the hormonal equivalent of a Hadron collider particle accelerator operating non-stop 24/7 for 1500+ days, the majority of the world’s female population find the menopause to be a very different experience.
There’s a reason why the words on average how long does the menopause last top the Google charts and it’s because it’s generally a bloody miserable existence.
So, what’s the solution? Not straightforward, would appear to be the answer, since controversy lurks around every corner of the menopause debate.
There’s a high degree of suspicion around synthetic Hormone Replacement Therapy (the type your GP would prescribe) with many women rejecting it due to fears that it could be a contributory factor in some cancers and heart disease.
There’s actually very little concrete scientific evidence to support that view, but the mere perception of risk has been enough to cool the willingness of significant numbers of women to try it.
Bioidentical HRT, also known as body identical HRT, is made up from natural chemicals and compounds that are found in the body’s natural hormones and has won cheerleaders in some quarters – TV presenter and author, Emma Forbes, is one of its most recent poster girls – but it can be expensive.
And let’s not forget the other option – the good old-fashioned British trait of living with it. That’s actually a more popular choice than you might imagine, but it needs a pretty sanguine and pragmatic view of life to tolerate what are some fairly unpleasant symptoms.
There is, however, another way.
Being calm is the new superpower and you can use it to deal with all sorts of things – including The Change. Because if you can find calm in the chaos, you take control of the situation and own it, which immediately has a beneficial impact on your emotional and physical wellbeing.
Mindfulness is brilliant for the menopause because it teaches you to be ‘present’ with your own sense of self. Being present is about inward acceptance of your physical and emotional state, which includes your menopausal symptoms, to allow you to become more accepting of your feelings and thoughts.
What that leads to is a reconfiguration of how the negativity that we all allow ourselves to succumb to from time to time impacts on us. Using mindfulness, we can change the story we’ve created for ourselves, becoming more aware of our inner world and gaining a wider perspective.
By finding calm in the emotional maelstrom, we can negotiate our thoughts by questioning their validity, and then, as a consequence, change our external actions to make better choices in how we react to ourselves and to others.
That can reduce the negative impact of all sorts of aspects of life, but with specific regard to the menopause it will mitigate the sense of frustration and anger you might feel at how your symptoms get in the way of life, improve tolerance (which is particularly helpful in dealing with those hot flushes) and relieve the self-imposed pressure we have to ‘fix’ the problem.
In essence, mindfulness allows you to be kinder to yourself and to be more accepting of the decisions you make.
There’s a good deal of evidence to show that mindfulness has a positive impact on women experiencing the menopause. The journal of The International Menopause Society recently highlighted research showing that mindfulness results in women experiencing fewer menopausal symptoms.
The study, published earlier this year and involving 1,700 women aged between 40 and 65, showed the higher the women scored in mindfulness, the fewer symptoms they experienced.
The symptoms the women were experiencing as a group ticked pretty much every check box on the symptom list, from memory fog and hot flushes to irritability and anxiety, sleeplessness and depression.
Researchers working on the project found that with mindfulness the women could manage their symptoms much better.
There is often a stigma around menopause that causes shame and embarrassment. Yet mindfulness is a healthy and risk-free alternative that can complement or even replace HRT, which at the moment is the only prescribed Western medical alternative.
So. If you’re going through the menopause (or you know someone else who is) and you’re looking to turn down the noise of the symptoms with a natural, risk-free approach that will have the added benefit of improving other areas of your life, why not get in touch?