Hello dear friends!
This post is in response to a special request from a client of mine, who has really been struggling with this stage of her life. If you are currently approaching menopause, or know someone who is, please share this blog!
Each season of a woman’s life has its own distinct physical, emotional, and spiritual makeup. As we transition from adolescence, to adulthood, to our mature years, we may experience a range of signs and feelings that are our bodies’ ways of trying to communicate with us. We then interpret these signs through our relevant cultural lens, learning to view them as either positive or negative, and congregating with others who are having similar experiences. While our changing physical bodies can bring us closer as a tribe, there is a tendency to view this transition as a negative thing. And now is our chance to change the conversation!
The transition known as menopause is widely talked about, but often in a less-than-happy context. Women are taught that this signals the end of their youth, and thus, their worth in society, and this emotional framework only adds to the discomfort which is often initiated by physical symptoms. Our ancestors, on the other hand, along with several modern cultures across the globe, viewed menopause as something to be celebrated. This marked the shift into a powerful new energy (sometimes called the “crone” energy in goddess terminology), infusing a woman with a divine, sovereign presence and a new, higher position in the tribal hierarchy. Before society began to fear death, and thus obsessively worship youth, we stood in awe of our older women, our elders, our guides. These women were leaders, healers, priestesses, shamans, and the go-to resources for wisdom and guidance.
All of this is to say that we’ve gotten it quite backwards these days. We’ve lost touch with our reverence for the divine feminine and its cycles, and the ability to handle these transitions with grace. And the more we can work to shift this mindset, and practice shifting our inner beliefs about menopause, the better off we will be as individuals, and as an entire sisterhood.
One of the most distressing symptoms of menopause is the hot flash, which is a brief flush of heat throughout the body, typically accumulating in the upper torso, neck, and face. Hot flashes sometimes come with other temporary discomforts, such as heart palpitations, dizziness, headaches, shakiness, and sweating. They usually last anywhere from 30 seconds to upwards of 10 minutes, and can happen several times every day. Along with irregular periods, hot flashes are often considered a key sign of the onset of menopause; this time is labeled “perimenopause” and can last for several years before menopause is officially reached. It’s estimated that around 80% of women experience hot flashes, and while most are pretty mild, some women report their flashes interfering with sleep, work, or other vital daily activities.
So, what causes hot flashes in the first place? Well, we have a structure in our brains called the hypothalamus, which is part of our autonomic nervous system, and this controls things like our body temperature, heart rate, sleep patterns, and more. The hypothalamus is extremely sensitive to hormone levels, which are often fluctuating during menopause and perimenopause. Even the slightest dip or uptick in our estrogen or progesterone levels can trigger our hypothalamus, which has a moment of “readjustment,” before leveling out our body temperature again.
While it may not be realistic to expect to transition into menopause with no hot flashes whatsoever, there are things you can do to meet these moments in an empowered way. With practical action and some emotional inquiry, you can lessen the frequency and severity of these flashes, and bring some balance to this season of your life.
Here are some ways that you can reduce your hot flash discomfort:
1. Try herbal medicine
For thousands of years, women relied on the power of plants to quell their menopause symptoms, and we have the option of doing that today too. Many herbs have been shown to help through the perimenopausal years, and reduce hot flashes, including:
- Black cohosh
- Dong quai
- Red clover
- Chaste tree
- Maca root
- Wild yam
Herbs may be taken in a variety of ways, including teas, tinctures, capsules, and topical creams. Talk to a qualified herbalist and your doctor, before trying these plant medicines, and to find the ones that will work best for your unique constitution. I have created my own medicinal tincture for menopausal and peri-menopausal women, available in my Etsy shop. Come check it out!
2. Use essential oils
Essential oils are a potent form of herbal medicine, and are used in different ways from the herbs listed above. They are quite strong, but can be diluted and mixed easily with other things, so they’re great additions to your daily self-care for menopause symptoms. You can put them in a diffuser, make an aromatherapy spray, or create a topical rollerball blend. There are several oils that are supportive to women and their specific needs into menopausal years. Here are a few to check out:
- Clary sage
- Roman chamomile
- Ylang ylang
These are wonderful to use on a daily basis, but also can be applied immediately during a hot flash for quick relief. I also really like this blend from doTERRA- ClaryCalm!
3. Make friends with crystals
Mother Nature, the literal embodiment of the feminine forces in us all, has many gifts that we can incorporate for our own healing. Crystals and stones carry specific vibrations that may help us feel calm, cool, and collected, which is helpful during the transition into menopause! When choosing your crystals, take the time to cleanse them and personally connect with them, before using them in your daily life. You can carry crystals in your purse, wear them (as jewelry/in your bra), place them near your bedside or office/workspace, meditate with them, or infuse them into your water (only those in the quartz family) for noticeable benefit.
Some crystals that may help you feel grounded and empowered, and may help with hot flashes include:
- Lapis lazuli
- Rose quartz
Experiment with using any or all of these stones, and think of them as friends you can carry with you wherever you go.
4. Know your triggers
Just like with migraines, hot flashes have external triggers that are important to understand and avoid. Everyone is different, of course, but many women find that certain things tend to bring on a hot flash, or make it worse. This will take some investigation, and journaling your hot flashes can greatly help with this. Make note of different foods, sounds, environments, or emotional states tend to go along with your flashes, and make small changes in your lifestyle to avoid them.
Some women notice that the following things can trigger a hot flash or make them more severe:
- Alcohol, especially wine
- Smoking, including second hand smoke
- Spicy foods
- Extreme heat, like in a sauna, hot tub, or overheated room
- Emotional distress
- Certain chemicals or toxins, including perfumes, cleaning products, etc...
- Overwork or overexertion
Your body and your hormones are unique to you, so be patient and notice if you are sensitive to any or all of these things. Making the most out of menopause sometimes means adjusting your outer world a bit, so your inner world can find more harmony.
5. Shift your mindset
It won’t happen overnight, but working to shift your attitudes about menopause, and aging in general, can go a long way to making this transition a smoother one. Like we discussed earlier, seeing menopause as a negative thing is a relatively recent attitude, and not one that is shared by many other cultures, or our ancestors. In fact, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, this time of a woman’s life is known as the “second spring,” and this particular culture’s reverence for aging and the feminine may contribute to their extremely low rates of menopause-related distress.
We all know that our thoughts and beliefs carry energy, and that they can affect our physical wellbeing. So now is your sacred invitation to change your relationship to your body, and the transition that it is making. Read about other cultures and/or our ancestral view of menopause. Look up the crone goddess wisdom. Connect with other empowered aging women online and in your community, especially those steeped in wise women traditions like herbalism, acupuncture, energy work, doula/midwifery, crystal healing, and other earth-centered trades.
In addition to surrounding yourself with more hot-flash-friendly influences, it’s important to have personal practices that you can count on when things get uncomfortable.
Some things that may help you on a daily, or moment-to-moment basis include:
- Meditation- either seated or walking
- Breathing or pranayama exercises- especially “alternate nostril breathing” and “cooling breath”
- Affirmations- saying something short and positive every time you feel a hot flash coming on
- Yoga poses or tai chi moves- emphasizing ones that cool and quiet the body
- Prayer or chanting
- Ritual work- smudging/space clearing, maintaining an altar, journaling, connecting with the moon and nature
- Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)/Tapping- specific to hot flashes or other menopause symptoms
While the transition into your second spring may not be completely painless, there are many ways to make it as joyful and empowering as possible. With the wealth of natural tools available to you, you can find the ones that work in your daily life, and make you feel capable of weathering this physical shift. Horrible hot flashes are not a requirement of aging, nor are they automatically your destiny, no matter what your family history (or even your doctor) says!
Try these holistic hot flash remedies and be open to the positive shifts you may notice in your body, mind, and spirit.
So, friends. What are some of your tips for handling hot flashes with grace? Or other menopause symptoms? Please share!
And as always...
~ Hoping you feel as well as possible ~