Updated: Oct 18
World Mental Health day and World Menopause Day take place just over a week apart during the month of October.
Here I am, right at that age that I honestly dreaded and feared. Middle-age. Menopause.
It's funny how often the thought of something we fear, is a lot worse than the actual reality. Not that I'm enjoying the changes I'm experiencing. But it's not as bad as I had feared.
There is one area of my life that feels quite changed however over recent years, which I find challenging. It's my friendship zone. This seems to be a common experience for many women around this time of life.
Friendships: key to a happy and healthy life
Good relationships are vital for our wellbeing. Science shows that this is in fact the main factor involved in living a long, happy and healthy life. Our younger years are spent forging friendships. Many friendships are made through shared experiences - whether it's school, university, work, travel, or being single together and going out. Some lasting friendships are made through becoming mothers at the same time.
Whatever the source of our friendships, there is often a sense of belonging, of having a "tribe" in our younger years. This is SO good for our overall health – physical and mental.
Changing circumstances Then, as circumstances change with time - whether that means through partnership, having in-laws and other family "obligations", moving away, having kids and the on-going parenting, ageing parents, financial struggles, less energy, health problems, not forgetting the pandemic ... the list goes on - our friendships don't form such an important part of our lives. There is just no space.
Depression, lack of confidence and isolation
Then, WHAM! Peri-menopause and menopause hit! Some of the most common symptoms include feeling anxious, depressed, lacking in confidence and even isolated. The paradox is that we need our female friendships now more than ever ! Yet we are often too busy with all the other stuff to prioritise getting together with our friends.
In my experience, it can be challenging to make real friendships around this age. On a personal level, my own circumstances have changed dramatically by becoming a mother. The fact that I was in my late 40’s may also play a part of my feelings of « missing friendships ». I do what I can to stay connected with my good friends, but solo motherhood and self-employment are pretty all consuming.
Whatever the reasons are for your own experience, you are definitely not alone.
There are a few things that may help you to nourish that sense of connection, resulting in improved mood, sleep, and overall wellbeing. Firstly, could you re-connect with an old friend, maybe someone who you've just lost touch with? Re-kindling an important friendship from the past may provide you with some sense of your more youthful self. You may be able to laugh about the fun times you used to share, and this can only be good. As a further step, could you be brave and share your own experience of peri-menopause or menopause with someone? Maybe a good friend, or even a work colleague. Maybe she is also experiencing something similar. Menopause is no longer shrouded in hush tones, and laced with a certain taboo.
Through sharing our own experiences, we build that sense of connection, which just makes us feel better. We know we are not alone.
A new tribe
Can you build a new "tribe"? There are many ways to do this. Whether it's finding your local sea-swimming group, or joining a choir. There's also some wonderful women's groups, both in-person or even online. I highly recommend Mari Kennedy's wonderful "The Celtic Wheel". This is now due to begin another season so don't delay.
Finally, you may have heard about the hormone oxytocin. Sometimes called the « love » hormone. We all need oxytocin to feel good. Another whammy during the peri-menopausal and menopausal years is that oxytocin levels are reduced.
When we connect with others, when we seek support, when we are listened to, when we feel the warmth of somebody’s care, friendship, or love, oxytocin is released.
Here’s a few of my favourite ways to help boost oxytocin - as well as a host of other feel-good chemicals.
Spending time with a good friend. If you are both too busy, be creative - get a walk in, or find just 30 minutes for a coffee, and a hug! If you can't make it in person, have a video call.
Treat yourself to a massage - touch is a powerful way to release oxytocin, as well as relieve tension and give yourself a boost.
Speak with a professional coach, or psychotherapist, who will listen and support you, with compassion and empathy.
Move your body! Dance! Yoga! Movement ticks many feel-good boxes. I personally find both dance and yoga amazing for my mental health.
Treat yourself to a Yoga class. You're welcome to try my Sunday morning Yoga class. You can join the class live online, or if you are in the area, there is usually a space for drop-in. Find out more here. Sending you special love for both of these important days this month. May this message perhaps be a signal to you, to take that one step to take care of the most important person in your life - YOU! You are amazing, you are enough!
PS I'm so excited to introduce my new class Yoga Dance which launches this month. It is a blend of uncomplicated dance moves with complementary Yoga poses. It will improve your mood, energy, fitness, flexibility, and release stress. Classes take place on Thursday evenings in Ashford, Co Wicklow. Find out more here.
Kerry White is a Motherhood Clarity Coach, supporting women who are contemplating pursuing an alternative path to motherhood.
She is also a Workplace Wellbeing Facilitator, Speaker, Shiatsu Therapist and Yoga Teacher. Kerry is especially passionate about supporting women feel well on every level - physically, mentally, socially and spiritually.
Read more about Kerry here.