I now witness first hand the mass capitalisation of the disconnection of women from the most sacred period of their lives. This disconnection from ourselves and from our spirituality is the cause of much dis-ease. The medicalisation of menopause has been around for decades but there has been an exponential increase in the numbers of women receiving “treatment”. And they are younger than ever. This one size fits all approach results in detaching women further from the most powerful stage of life and a most spiritual one . There is nothing wrong with seeking pharmaceutical help to get you through a difficult time but please remember it is doing nothing but plastering over deeper issues that will manifest one day or another. So take the help if you need but do the work too.
In this and my next article my aim is to give an alternative view of menopause and to bring to the forefront the beauty and magnificence of the Divine creation that is woman. It is to remind us that the woman’s body has secret wisdoms and knows exactly what it is doing through its Divine programming. It is to wake us up to fact that menopause is intimately linked to our deepest emotional and spiritual bodies. This post will concentrate on perimenopause and what we can do to prepare for the inevitable.
Menopause is not a disease . Its a natural part of our cycle through life. It is a transition. Profound transitions are not often easy. They call us to re-evaluate our belief systems but menopause also calls us to re-evaluate our very existence. The pre-occupying question we ask ourselves changes from “what am I doing?” to “what am I being?” Without a doubt this transition where the mirror is directed at ourselves is hard, very hard…physically, mentally and emotionally. This calling actually starts very gradually many years before and builds momentum over time and we can sometimes resist the challenging inner conflicts and push on. But recently I see a trend of medicalising the symptoms and so women resort to pharmaceuticals like anti-anxiety/depression, pain relief , anti-inflammatories etc. Although there are benefits to the western medical method, it only really numbs the symptoms which are actually messengers alerting us to deeper issues. Plastering over these with medicines and hormone treatment results in us not addressing the root cause. But by embodying this feminine cycle , we can blossom into the final phase of our lives and embrace a truer, more authentic self.
Western culture, which has now infected the east too, has led us to embrace the masculine energetic self often causing us to resist these natural changes. However, if we have established strong rejuvenation practices in our 5th cycle of life (ages 30-40) and honoured the natural calling towards detoxification in our 40s then we have laid the foundations for an easier transition through menopause, our 7th cycle of life.
As we head into perimenopause the ovaries produce less and less progesterone, a key hormone in regulating our cycles. The body will and can adapt to this by turning to another secondary source, the Adrenal glands. Often the journey through menopause is linked to the state of our Adrenal glands. Women suffering burn out, chronic stress, emotional overload and adrenal fatigue (most of us!) will most likely have a stormy ride!
The Liver and Kidneys
We also must look at the health of our liver , which is responsible for the flow of blood and qi (life force energy). A blocked liver will cause stagnant qi and blocked emotions, especially of anger and we certainly do see this in women- think menopaue rage!
Kidneys become depleted in YIN energy. Years of worries and fears cause this depletion and hence we see this amplified during the menopause. Both these organs when imbalanced produce the common symptoms of hot flashes, dry itchy skin and those crazy tears that come from nowhere.
By being mindful about rejuvenating practices pre-menopause we can store our essence for an easier transition. This “treatment” is profoundly different from the western medical practice which works against the nature rhythms of the body.
Rejuvenation Practices in Perimenopause
A golden opportunity to make changes in mind, body and soul , this age , starting around the mid-30s, is calling us to start being aware of what we actually want to be and how we want to live out the final part of our lives here on this planet .
There is a lot that can be done but most important is a huge mindset shift. From the prevailing narrative of a crazy, uncontrollable deterioration to seeing these years as approaching The Second Spring as its beautifully known in Chinese medicine .
HAVE AN INTENTIONAL PERIMENOPAUSE
- Look at the patterns in your maternal line to give you some idea of what you might expect over the next few years
- Trust the wisdom of your body. Disengage from the mainstream fear based narrative. Realise that the symptoms you feel are the sum of the choices you have made throughout you life. These symptoms are a gift and force you to stop and become aware and conscious, to awaken.
- Develop body awareness by tracking your cycles and moods. Write down patterns , triggers and soothers. Be aware that the premenstrual period is very similar energetically to the perimenopausal .So you can start to put in place behaviours that bring peace to that phase of your cycle and that will translate to a calmer perimenopause.
BUILD YOUR SUPPORT STRUCTURE
- Before the deep winter of menopause really begins and we naturally want to withdraw inwards, we should try to build nurturing connections with loved ones. Build a community of women, a tribe where you feel deeply understood and listened to .Women who will not judge but who will help each other with practicalities (like cooking, cleaning, shopping or just a listening ear) for the times when the body just says NO.
- Your husband/partner can be a pillar of strength. He is going to be the one who will feel the brunt of the change. He is the one who will care for you and support you while you detoxify and transition. It is wise to examine your feelings towards him and your behaviour. What kind of wife are you? Could you work on some aspects of your relationship and yourself to bring tranquility into your home? If needs be is it prudent to attend couple counselling? Could you drop some other activities to spend more time with him? And as the time approaches closer perhaps talk about this upcoming transition and dont be afraid to ask for support.
- Begin to ask your children to help more around the house and with chores and encourage their independence. These are life skills and instill self-sufficiency
- Allow yourself to ACCEPT nurturing , affection and love. Let go of your perfectionism and trust others to care for you.
- Most (actually ALL) physical symptoms are actually expressions of emotional baggage. Its time to take a look inward. Who are you becoming? Shadow work is tough but necessary in order to ascend as a human. In Islam we have Taskiyah Al Nafs, purification of the soul, and this time is the gift Allah has given to us women. What is the true state of your heart, what do you hold on to, where are your attachments….deep and difficult questions only you can answer. Journaling and contemplation in nature can be helpful activities.
- Remove any excess and unnecessary activities that could be increasing cortisol. Could you reduce working hours or stop those gym classes where you push yourself to the limit, saying no to your ego, saying no to events or people that will exhaust you . There is a lot you can eliminate.
- Get out in nature and walk. Ground / Earth by going barefoot or tree-hugging.
- Allow yourself to express emotions and move through them safely. Allow yourself to feel anger , grief, sadness and be mindful not to dwell in it. Understand emotions are energy and must be moved through the body. Understand you are a softwear programme and a lot of your beliefs must be de-programmed. Seek help if you need in the form of alternative therapists.
- Liver, kidney and spleen are slowing down and we need to clear the stagnations in order to move into vibrancy. Look at doing nurturing flowing, relaxing movement, eat deeply nourishing foods that give you comfort and are part of your cultural heritage, remove or reduce the usual suspects of ill health ( seed oils, sugar, highly processed foods)
- Quit smoking, reduce excess caffeine and phosphate consumption( cola etc)
- Remove as many chemicals from your home and skin care routine. Deodorants, nail polish, cheap make up, harsh cleaning products. Check for mould in your environment and clear it.
- Hijama/cupping is one of the best way to detoxify the blood.
- Work on your lymphatic system with massage or rebounding .
- What do you do to fully bring utter peace to your body? Fully relax? Set a few daily /weekly/monthly non-negotiables to put in your routine.
- Prayer and connection with the Creator, deep reflection and contemplation of the world around us, recitation and chanting (DHikr)
- Massage, acupuncture,
- Yoga, walking ,Qi Gong, gardening
- Breathwork, meditation, gratitude
- Sound Therapy
- Supplementation , especially Vitamin Bs, C , D, Magnesium,
- Get your bloods done but be aware that the testing available is limited. Consider thyroid function.
- Nurturing foods: Ghee, coconut oil, coconut water, green tea, berries, turmeric, cinnamon, chamomile, black seed oil, raw honey, real salt.
- Express your creativity, be beautiful,and make things around you beautiful.
- Experiment with relaxation activities and incorporate the ones that really work for you into a regular routine
So you see? Do you see what an unbelievable opportunity perimenopause is? We can slowly and gradually eliminate the Stressors and replace with the Nourishers. We can work on eliminating our bad habits and dark side and replace with light and compassion. Its all good news. And that does not mean its easy. Its a very hard phase but through anguish is ascension. Did you know the tree only stands tall and firm because it battles against the winds?
As Muslim women we can see that menopause is actually a time for fully engaging in our connection with Allah swt. He is asking us which stage of Jihad al Nafs we are at and to evaluate our behaviours, our beliefs, our attachments so that we can purify our hearts , address our spiritual diseases and elevate our characters before time has run out.
What an absolute blessing! Alhumdullilah. In my next post I will talk more about menopause and post-menopause, especially from an Islamic/spiritual perspective.