Women's health in midlife

By Katharina Lehman

Just as turbulently as the female hormones establish themselves over the course of a few years during puberty, they also decline again in midlife. In my golden fifties as a "queenager", I discover many similarities to my pubescent "teenagers". Moods fluctuate unpredictably, there are periods of low energy, sleep phases change, headaches occur as a stress reaction and joint problems arise. At the same time, a process of self-discovery takes place. Relationships and hobbies are (re)discovered and developed, completely unique perspectives emerge, body image changes, self-acceptance is a concern, as are the big questions in life: what do I really want?

From an Eastern perspective, the first spring after puberty is followed by summer. Our femininity is in full bloom, which may express itself in the development of our own creativity, professional career or motherhood and starting a family. During menstruation and pregnancy, the sister hormones oestrogen and progesterone provide balance. They form the cyclical resting point and balance out our stress levels. Even with little sleep, we are very efficient and can cope with a variety of tasks.

As in every great cycle, the fall follows, a gradual decline with some tumultuous transformations. During perimenopause (usually from the age of 40), hormone levels fluctuate and then fall further, leading to physical and emotional symptoms that vary from woman to woman and are dependent on our genetics, health, diet and lifestyle. Because of these different influences, each woman experiences the menopausal transition and menopause (the break 12 months after the last period) in a unique way. To stay with the image of the seasons, around a third of women hardly react to this winter period, a third are affected and a third are severely affected.

Common physical and mental symptoms during the menopause are

      • Hot flushes and night sweats
      • Sleep disorders and insomnia
      • Digestive problems and weight gain
      • Dryness of the hair, skin, vagina (genital region)
      • Loss of libido
      • Joint pain, migraine
      • Sarcopenia (muscle wasting), osteopenia/osteoporosis
      • Mood swings
      • Irritability, anger and rebellion (explode)
      • Anxiety, depression, burnout (implode)
      • Concentration problems (brain fog)

They often come on gradually, which makes it difficult to recognize them and react early. We get used to being less resilient and yet carry on as before. If life crises such as family changes or illnesses then come along, this can weaken our vitality and prompt us to embark on the unique journey of exploring self-discovery and self-care.

Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world.

Today I am wise, so I am changing myself. (Rumi)

Fortunately, we can support our health and vitality in order to regain our strength during this winter period, the maturing stage of the menopause, and to realize our full potential for the post-menopause, our second spring of life.

We can connect with the living changes in the body, supporting hormonal balance and revitalizing the energy within. Dietary and lifestyle recommendations can help address the specific causes of hormonal imbalance, balance hormone levels and soothe overreactions.

I would like to describe the five areas of our lives that particularly need our attention and active self-care, but first I would like to focus on the hormones.

Just as the nervous system communicates through electrical impulses, hormones communicate on a chemical level and ensure that we are in a good relationship with the world around us. The stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline make us ready to deal with dangers and challenges and ensure our survival, which is why they always take precedence. Cortisol gets us out of bed in the morning and melatonin gets us to sleep in the evening; this is where the fascinating art of rhythmically organizing our lives in harmony with daylight takes place. The sex hormones are responsible for reproduction and create the necessary calm, security and devotion. Dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin anchor us in the "here and now", intensifying our joie de vivre and closeness to our loved ones. Insulin brings energy into our body cells, our entire metabolism is of course inextricably linked in its interaction with the hormones and now it is already clear which five areas of life we should take a closer look at in order to support the hormones in their balancing act for our regeneration through mindful interventions:




Stress reduction

Social relationships and boundaries

Our mindfulness is our mental communication tool and, like hormones on a chemical level, prioritizes our activity (rajas) and calming (tamas) and allows us the clarity (sattva) to act sensitively as best we can with what we have and where we are.

We can take care of our regeneration by adopting the principle of rhythm and ensuring regular meals and sleeping habits. What distracts us and what helps us? The biological clock is controlled by hormones, as is the metabolism, so it makes sense to ensure stability and reliability to relieve the entire organism; rhythm replaces strength.

The diet is preferably high in fiber and protein and contains valuable fats (resolute fasting cures should be viewed with caution if they cause additional stress). We want to get to the bottom of rapid energy regulation through sugar and salt, caffeine and alcohol and question their effect on our mood and performance. One effective measure is journaling over a few weeks to understand in which situations, at what times and with what emotions the cravings arise. The goal here is not strict abstinence, but instead to use our sincere and compassionate vigilance to get to know ourselves even better and to make meaningful changes individually. This also includes limiting the additional exposure to toxins (hormonal disruptors) that enter our bodies from packaging materials, clothing, cosmetics and unfiltered drinking water.

Our stress reactions may have served us for many years and decades, but they have still taken their toll. Our bones, for example, become weaker and more fragile. They have again and again released the necessary minerals that keep our nervous system functioning (e.g. calcium, magnesium, phosphates). Regular exercise and relaxing breaks have a balancing effect on our nervous system and the reduction of stress hormones in addition to strengthening our muscles and bones. Even small units of activity and relaxation and calming measures such as deep breathing for a few minutes have a positive effect on our composure.

If only I had spent more time with those who are dear to me, is a common regret in old age, why not start now. What can we shoulder in our relationships, how much can we help others, who builds us up with their presence? The yes, if it wants to be said, as well as the no are based on our needs and values, which brings us to the underlying meaning of life.

It is helpful to be clear about a handful of values that guide the change to an authentic way of life. They are effective in the background of all the areas of life mentioned and it is exciting to look back at the individual areas. I will list a few values in words here, which can of course be freely added to. Which words resonate? Which three most important qualities crystallize on closer inspection and careful sorting out? This can also be exciting material for an intimate conversation.

Self-Responsibility - Self-Confidence - Connection - Consistency - Dedication - Vitality -Helping - Determination - Discipline - Sharing - Purpose - Accountability - Achievement - Strength - Adventure - Self-reliance - Balance - Commitment - Community - Respect - Competence - Ease - Efficiency - Empowerment - Perseverance - Pleasure - Enthusiasm - Excellence - Experience - Family - Friendship - Intrepidity - Flexibility - Freedom - Fun - Gratitude - Magnificence - Growth - Happiness - Independence - Joy - Knowledge - Leadership - Mastery - Motivation - Optimism - Passion - Achievement - Perseverance - Playfulness - Productivity - Purpose - Resilience - Stability - Strength - Self-Actualization - Structure - Success - Sustainability - Teamwork - Usefulness

I look forward to hearing about your experiences ♡ and am grateful for the variety of information I am drawing on here[1].

You are welcome to contact me via my website https://www.kathayoga.net/ or by email at info@momentum-regeneration I offer consultations online and in the practice in Berlin.

Our yoga practice can be designed to specifically address many of the symptoms we women experience in midlife. Is it about strengthening, relaxing, being aware of the breath in a friendly and conscious way and directing energies, regulating the nervous system and taking care of the wellbeing of the soul with loving kindness? Again and again we make new choices in accordance with what is happening and what is important to us in the depths of our hearts.

Your Katharina

 [1] Dr. Claudia Welch (Ayurveda and TCM), Scotti Mc Larren (Nutrition), Lara Briden, Dr. Sara Gottfried, Petra Coveney (Yoga), Molly Galbraith