Navigating the change with poise and grace
(No, it doesn’t have to be the most horrible thing you’ve ever experienced!)
Traditionally Chinese Medicine (TCM) views the body like an ecosystem. All aspects of a person (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) are connected and cannot be understood except into relation to the whole. All work together to maintain balance and harmony within the individual. This differs somewhat from to the Western Medicine view which often looks at the body like a machine separated into components, each complete in itself.
It is believed in TCM that everything falls into the category of either Yin or Yang. Yin being a cooler, dark, feminine, night-time, and more passive energy. Yang in contrast is hot, light, masculine, shows up in the daytime and is a more active energy.
In general as we age we loose some of our “bank’ or reserves of energy which are overflowing in our youth. Women in particular loose more of their ‘Yin’ energy, which gets depleted over the years from menstruation (blood is part of yin), child bearing and living active busy lives nurturing and caring for others. As Yin gets depleted, Yang energy, or the more active hot energy starts to become prominent contributing to things like hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, restless sleep etc. as there isn’t enough Yin to balance and cool it.
Menopause is our body’s way of conserving energy to help us live a healthier, vibrant and longer life. Since we are no longer losing blood through our monthly cycle, energy is freed up to do with it what we like. This stage in a woman’s life is actually called ‘the second spring’ in Chinese Medicine and is referring to a renewed energy and purpose – often a time where many care-giving responsibilities have eased an a woman may have a better opportunity to focus on herself.
So what does all this mean and what can you do to support your body during this transition? By listening to your body, honouring your voice, taking time out for rest and relaxation, and including things that nourish the yin daily you can help support your body, encourage balance and ease symptoms commonly associated with menopause.
Some things that nourish yin include: adequate down time, quiet peaceful time, time in or near the water and in the cool damp trees/forest, meditation, healthy expression of emotions, herbs or acupuncture/pressure to balance and stimulate promotion of yin and including some Yin nourishing foods daily.
Some Yin nourishing foods include: Millet, barley, quinoa, seaweeds, micro-algae (spriulina, chlorella), tofu, black beans, beets, string beans, grapes, blackberry, raspberry, mulberry, watermelon, foods prepared in ‘watery’ mediums (soups, stews etc).
Avoid things that deplete Yin such as: heat, sun, busyness, stimulants of any sort (alcohol, medications, caffeine), repressing emotions or feelings, loud noises and busy places, hot yoga, over exercise and spicy foods.
Navigating this change can be a challenge for many people as so much of past energy has been focused on others (partner, children, careers) and our identity gets wrapped up in that. As we age it is our more spiritual and wise nature that seeks to find a voice. Because we have more of the Yang or active energy and because of our life experience, we are now better equipped to authentically express ourselves. As our energy frees up we can become more passionate about our beliefs, express our anger, stand up for ourselves, express ourselves and care less about what other people think.
Remember, menopause is NOT a disease and, going through menopause does not automatically mean that you will have symptoms. Experiencing symptoms will give us an indication of ways we are off balance and perhaps haven’t been listening to our body in past years.
If you’re finding yourself overwhelmed by the transition, seeking out the help of a professional can be highly effective. TCM, including acupuncture and herbal medicine, is a wonderful tool to help balance your body and ease symptoms, allowing you to focus your energy where you want.
Remember this time represents a big shift in your life and it is important to listen to your inner calling. It is a time you might feel desire to fulfill your spiritual or higher needs. Self-expression is key helping clarify our identities or strengthen our sense of self – it’s a journey towards wholeness. It is our second spring.