Breathing your way through menopause symptoms ...

Unfortunately the Menopause doesn’t take a wee break because of COVID-19. Whether you’re on the frontline working or going stir crazy at home trying to entertain and home school kids hot flushes still happen, joint pains are niggling and anxiety levels are probably soaring.


Keeping an eye on your mental health is paramount, as is watching those alcohol and caffeine levels, plus…make sure you still take some exercise even with restrictions in place.

It is becoming more common to hear this global crisis being referred to as a marathon, making it so important to get into the habit of regularly taking a moment now and then for yourself. Very hard, I know, if cooped up with all your family 24/7...for some slightly overwhelming…but do try and take 10 minutes out, focus on you, your symptoms, how you’re coping with them, is there anything you could be doing to help those symptoms, because if you’re coping that has a direct effect on the rest of the family!


Many people are finding they’re doing a lot more sitting, time on computers, sitting talking to friends, facetiming, whatever you’re up to spare a thought for those joints and bones. Make sure you slot into your day some simple exercises…it doesn’t have to be complicated just moves to make sure you’re putting those joints through their full range of movements. If you’re flicking on that kettle do a few squats, while you’re cooking get your favourite tracks on and have a good old dance around the kitchen…get those endorphins released…helps to lift that mood…small things make a big difference.


Have a rummage in the shed or cupboard — have you got an old skipping rope kicking about or hoola hoop that’s been dismantled you could pop together again?

There are numerous pilates and yoga teachers popping routines and advice on line, so if your wifi is up to it…ours is currently being challenged!…make sure you do the odd session every week. Last night our wifi managed to stagger through my local online pilates session…heaven…this weeks session a tad different to last weeks as the rest of the family were off doing other forms of exercise around the house! The previous week had been shall we say a little chaotic as I made the mistake of getting all my kids to join in the session with me…maybe one at a time would have been a better idea…sitting room not quite large enough for flailing arms and legs…I’ll leave it to your imagination…shall we say periods of calm interjected with intermittent wrestling and lots of hilarity…plus then the dogs decided to wander in too…not the usual benefits felt at all! But they’ve finally had an introduction to pilates now and can see the benefits so all good!


Staying mentally strong just now with all the restrictions in place is going to be a struggle for some people, add to that those declining levels of oestrogen, if you find yourself in those perimenopausal stages and it can feel like you’ve got a double whammy to cope with.

Most important thing to focus on…to breathe…well that’s flipping obvious you’re probably thinking we all have to breathe…but take the odd moment throughout the day to really focus on your breathing, especially if you feel those anxiety and stress levels rising.

Ok so what am I banging on about…


Paced breathing...diaphragmatic breathing…belly breathing…then there’s diaphragmatic ribcage breathing for all you yogis out there…whatever you want to call it, if you suffer from anxiety or stress learning simple, calming breathing techniques really helps to reduce anxiety levels, giving a sense of calm and control back. For those suffering from hot flushes and night sweats it can also help to diffuse these, reducing their intensity and frequency.

Practising techniques is a good idea so when you really need it your mind and body is hardwired for it to become second nature for you to naturally lapse into.

I’m not going to go into the intricacies of breathing for yoga purposes so for all the yogis out there please stop screaming expletives at your screens!

Let’s just focus on simple, calming breathing techniques!


Most of us are naturally chest breathers rather than belly breathers but when we become stressed and anxious, so overwork those muscles in our upper body, it can all become rather exhausting, much better to engage that diaphragm a bit more, a muscle designed for the long haul!


So, very simply explained, when you’re stressed or anxious your breathing can become shallower and usually your chest is going up and down which only adds to those anxiety levels with not enough oxygen getting to those blood cells creating all sorts of internal imbalances.


Instead what you need to do is slow that breath down…but in a certain way…when you take a breath in focus on taking it in through your nose plus, you want to be getting as much oxygen into those lungs as possible, so instead of your chest going up and down your tummy should be going out. Push that diaphragm down to increase lung capacity. Agree not the most attractive of looks but think 3/4 months pregnant, pot belly and you will have nailed it!

As well as the breath in you need to focus on that outward breath. It's just as important and try to breathe out through your mouth.

So...in through nose ...out through mouth...got it!


A handy tip when practising is to put one hand on your tummy and one on your chest - then you know if you’re cheating!

Some find it useful to count in for four and out for four…whatever you find most helpful…make sure it’s calm, slow and consistent. By focussing on your breathing you're effectively turning your brain off from that anxiety. The same goes for those hot flushes and night sweats, helping to diffuse those as well.


So practise practise practise…start off lying down on your bed do a few before getting up in the morning or going to sleep, then graduate to doing them sitting on a chair or standing up and before you know it you’ll have cracked the technique. Incredibly useful tool to have under your belt.


Even if you’re not stressed or experiencing hot flushes it’s a good thing to do now and then throughout the day and has lots of additional benefits…helping you to relax, helps rebalancing, can help recovery after exercising, helps that digestive tract and strengthens those lungs.

Here’s a simple diagram to help you visualise…


Kindness

Always a successful way to cope with anxiety…showing a little kindness…thinking of others…

Do make sure you keep tabs on those around you - many people particularly those on the frontline will be trying to put a brave face on but will be crumbling inside, overwhelmed by the enormity of the task ahead whether that’s working within the NHS or on other various frontlines. Spare a thought for those who will be struggling with self isolation, having to stay at home maybe alone with no-one to talk to, their usual support networks splintered and fragmented because of the current situation. Facetime or skype where possible, seeing a face as well as hearing a voice can make such a difference…but just hearing a friendly voice every now and then, knowing someone cares can be an invaluable lifeline.

Stay well and safe everyone.

Useful websites:

Women's Health Concern : https://www.womens-health-concern.org

Calm App : https://tinyurl.com/sjtkny6

Headspace App : https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app





 

Any information is as accurate as possible at time of posting and is for information purposes only. The information and support that Let’s Talk Menopause provides is for your own personal use. It is not intended to replace or substitute the judgement of any medical professional you may come in contact with. You should always seek advice from you healthcare professional regarding a medical condition.