Christchurch, New Zealand is called the ‘Garden City’. Renowned for it’s beautiful botanical gardens and lush, green surrounds, it was a garden of a different form that it was known for this week. It’s been in the world news for all the wrong reasons and the thousands and thousands of flowers laid outside the Botanical Gardens have never been placed in such abundance on a New Zealand pavement before.
As I wandered down the path on my visit here this week, the tributes were heart rendering. I was blown away when I saw this pencil drawing from an un-named artist. ‘You are Us’ was the cry of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, herself a young mother under enormous added stress this week as New Zealand was thrown into the international limelight, but her empathy and sensitivity embedded in this quote was poignant at the bottom of the drawing. I had tears in my eyes.
With all the grief in the city from the senseless killings, I nearly called off my seminar. But I didn’t. Not only did I know that Ginni had flown straight in from a conference in Kuala Lumpur to attend, but I felt that at a time of such intense chaos, the women of Christchurch deserved to know about the menopause chaos that distracts us from performing a role that we all play endlessly and repeatedly – helping and caring for others. I knew there were nurses in the audience who have had to endure such incredible challenges to their usual work at the hospital over the past week and then there were teachers and mothers who have had to support children, young and old, through the emotional upheaval and questioning of the role that we all play in living our lives in beautiful Aotearoa, New Zealand.
Ginni is a secondary school teacher in Christchurch, New Zealand. It’s been a stressful week for all teachers and other women in ‘caring’ careers.
I was so excited to see her at the seminar a couple of nights ago. She was beaming with her newfound confidence in how to look after herself in mid-life. After struggling with hot flushes, poor sleep, weight gain and a body that felt sore and ‘old’, she looked a picture of health. Ginni has been with me for over 6 months now, firstly, on the MyMT Transform Me programme and secondly, on the ‘Rebuild My Fitness’ programme [ON SALE THROUGHOUT MARCH]. Enthusiastic as ever with sharing posts onto the coaching pages about her progress, Ginni was the ‘perfect student’. She shared this photo of her on the Old Ghost Road in New Zealand’s South Island, as she worked through the 12 week online Rebuild My Fitness programme.
It’s always such a privilege to use my knowledge and expertise to help women like Ginni get their energy levels and menopause symptoms under control at a time when we need to be performing at our best. As I said in the seminar, as mid-life women, so many people rely on us, not only in our day-to-day roles in whatever we do, but also in times of crisis as the Christchurch community has been facing this week. As a PhysEd Teacher at a local high school as well as teaching technology papers, I knew that Ginni would be having to sensitively and pragmatically help her students through this difficult time.
It’s why I loved hearing that she is back doing the exercise that she enjoys most – at a time of stress and emotional turmoil, exercise is just one way that we can build our mental and physical resilience in order to help us cope. But it’s not only exercise that helps – it’s being able to sleep all night too. When we sleep all night, we heal our body; decrease our chronic stress hormone called cortisol and it’s overnight that we also burn fat. Without sleep, we cannot function – mentally and metabolically. Stress is a funny thing. We cannot live without some stress in our lives (it can invigorate us) but we also can’t live with too much of it. Especially in menopause. When we are feeling stressed emotionally and we have a build-up of inflammation and stress in our body, as I said in the seminar, this makes our adrenal glands make more of our chronic stress hormone called cortisol. We aren’t supposed to have so much cortisol in our body all day long and when we do, this can upset our fat-burning, energy levels and our sleep and moods. As well, for our body to keep making cortisol, it ‘steals’ beautiful calming progesterone. I’ve talked about this in my blogs before so, if you haven’t read this article, I share it with you again here.
In her role as a Teacher, Ginni had no idea about the link between stress and her symptoms in menopause. So, when she told me this, I knew that she was back feeling confident and resilient again …
“It’s the ‘kete’ of habits that I’ve learnt that are the most powerful. And understanding that I need to exercise differently in menopause. I had no idea. I’ve loved my learning and I’m now back doing the swimming that I love. It’s pure magic doing my Saturday swim in Akaroa. You’ve challenged me to go back to my childhood movement patterns on this programme Wendy, and I’m loving it. And after doing your Transform Me programme, I think this is the best I’ve looked in a swim wetsuit for a few seasons ???? I’ve definitely slimmed down, yay!”
Kete are traditional flax-woven baskets made and used by New Zealand’s Māori people. I now think of Ginni filling up her Kete every day with the right strategies that her body needs during her menopause transition – giving her energy, confidence and sleep!
It’s difficult to know the right support to offer at a time like this, but as I said to her, “I’m so pleased that you are back doing the exercise you love to enable you to cope at a time when others need you to be there for them.”
At my seminar I talked about the research on the cultural influences on our menopause symptoms. It’s an interesting dimension of menopause research and clearly, in societies where older age is revered, there appears to be a link towards less symptoms being reported. In many western societies the opposite is true … the more we fear ageing, the more symptoms are reported.
With Muslim women on our minds this week, I also spoke about the reporting of symptoms increasing in places where women have to cover themselves up when they appear in public. It seems that hot flushes become worse in many of these women, which, as I’ve learnt in my studies too, is typically related to our changing ability to absorb Vitamin D from sunlight and other aspects of our lifestyle, including how we respond to stress. With our skin being the largest organ in the body, the importance of sunlight to our health is only just getting more scientific evidence behind it.
I’m always blown away by the women from all around the world who come on board with me in the MyMT programmes. It’s a daily reminder that although we may differ in culture and geographical location, what we are all united by, is our natural transition through menopause into the next life-stage, our biological ageing. This transition for many is challenging as it was for myself, but as Ginni has found and thousands of others, it gets a whole lot better when you have your ‘kete’ of solutions from MyMT at your side.
If menopause symptoms are getting you down and you would like to learn specific, scientifically evidenced lifestyle solutions that I’ve discovered as I untangled my own ‘kete’ of symptom chaos, then please read up on how I can help you with a revolutionary 12 week learning programme, by clicking on the link here.
Wendy Sweet, PhD/ MyMT Founder & Lifestyle Coach