The year is underway and teachers everywhere are back into the school life again. I have numerous teachers who have joined me over the past couple of years and Paula is one of them. It’s been such a privilege to help her understand that the stress she has been under was impacting on her sleep, hot flushes, mood swings and even her gut health.
As a self confessed physically active free-spirit, busy teacher, wife and mother of two teens, reaching her menopause transition was a ‘game-changer’ for how 50 year old Paula was feeling. In her early 40’s she recognized that her body was changing, and in-spite of her own doctor suggesting she was ‘just too young’ to be heading into peri-menopause, Paula insisted she got tested. Sure enough the results confirmed her own instinct. She researched her options and found a natural cream that assisted with her symptoms for some time. But as she drew nearer to 50, as many women find, the cream stopped working. Her hot flushes arrived back along with poor sleep, low energy and a gut in turmoil! The changes in her health were confusing and frustrating.
When she looked at the MyMT Circuit-Breaker programme, she knew that it was right for her. It ‘spoke to her’!
Stress is so challenging for women as they transition menopause. As I’ve said in my blogs before, when we feel stressed, busy and time-poor, our heart rate and blood pressure become elevated. Prior to menopause this wasn’t necessarily a problem, but if we aren’t sleeping and we feel stressed and our oestrogen levels are declining in menopause, then running around with a higher heart rate and blood pressure is indeed a problem! When this happens, our chronic stress hormone called cortisol remains higher throughout the day, and it shouldn’t.
Cortisol is a steroid hormone. When used as a medication, it’s known as hydro-cortisone but we also produce cortisol naturally in our adrenal glands. This hormone has been better known in exercise and sports science because when cortisol is high, athletes don’t perform very well. They begin to lose sleep, have sore joints and muscles and their performance drops down because high cortisol also disrupts blood sugar levels and therefore, this increases fatigue. Do these symptoms sound familiar? If blood sugar concentration is low, more cortisol is released, which is why I like women on the MyMT programmes not to do intermittent fasting regimes until they learn to sleep all night and manage their blood sugar levels.
You see, when cortisol stays high (and this can also occur when women are doing too much exercise and not sleeping), then the adrenal glands ‘steal’ pregnenolone and progesterone to keep making cortisol. What this does is to make progesterone go too low in comparison to the opposing hormone, oestrogen. When progesterone is low, then women can experience hot flushes, mood swings, weight gain, thyroid problems, sore joints and changes to periods.
Paula readily admits that she had no idea how her work-based stress was impacting on her symptoms during menopause. But the thing is, when stress builds up, then sleep and gut health are affected too. Because of the way all the hormones in the body connect and ‘talk’ to each other, all our symptoms are connected. In fact, when oestrogen and progesterone decline, the stress, sleep and thyroid hormones, all try to re-balance the internal environment in order to help us to survive. But the longer this goes on then we stay in this symptom-chaos environment.
Stress and increased feelings of anxiety are the hallmark of menopause for so many women who work in careers that are challenging. Not only is this true for teachers, but nurses as well. Many are doing shift work and this impacts on sleep quality and amount as well, sending symptoms into chaos.
This is why one of the strategies that I get women focusing on in the ‘Re-address Stress’ module which is in the MyMT programmes, is to improve their deep breathing. Our lungs are full of oestrogen receptors and when we go into menopause, these receptors are affected too. This means that when we feel anxious and stressed, so often our heart rate increases as does our rate of breathing. We tend to breathe a bit like asthmatics … very shallow. This means that oxygen is not getting around the body to the lovely mitochondrial cells as it should and when this happens, our heart rate increases. Our nervous system is also affected by low oestrogen, so women who are feeling anxious will benefit from deep-breathing strategies too.
I so love it when teachers like Paula come onto my programme. It’s a busy job with high demands and for women in their 50’s who aren’t sleeping, it’s particularly tough. Interestingly, one of the biggest gains that Paula has enjoyed from the programme is simply, the realisation that menopause is the time of her life that she needs to make some lifestyle changes. As she said, “I was so stuck in my ways and your programme has helped me break a number of habits and I’m feeling so much better for it.”
“You know” says Paula, “I’m happy to share my story, because I know so many women who don’t talk about menopause. The MyMT™ programme has not only helped me resolve my symptoms, but it’s helping put menopause on the conversation-agenda in a knowledgeable way. And this is something that so needed to be done.”
You’re welcome Paula – have a great year ahead!