This month we talk to Pamela Spence, a medical herbalist, writer, educator and established industry expert on herbal medicine. She also teaches menopausal groups as a guest speaker for The Prince’s Trust.
Pamela runs her own private health clinic where she empowers patients to improve their health through the safe use of natural medicine. She regularly appears in the media as a herbal expert, including Woman & Home, the Financial Times, OK! Magazine and The Telegraph as well as regular contributions to Your Healthy Living and We Are the City and has written and presented an online series for BBC Scotland.
If you are struggling with menopausal symptoms, chances are you may be worried about how they will impact your enjoyment of the festive season. If the idea of juggling hot flushes with hours in the kitchen making that special annual meal, having to deny yourself fizz so that you don’t end up feeling like you drank the whole bottle the next morning, and dealing with all the exacting requests from every one of your loveable family and friends without losing the plot entirely is stressing you out – then read on!
The typical menopausal symptoms of hot flushes, irritability, anxiety, poor sleep and a slower metabolism can certainly make this time of year seem more of a chore than before, but all is not lost. If we can manage to take a little time for ourselves to look after our own needs then we can still kick back and enjoy – menopause doesn’t need to spoil the fun.
Firstly, make a list of the things that trigger each of your symptoms. That way you’ll know the things more likely to trip you up so you can take preventative steps to avoid them. Some of the top things my patients talk to me about are:
Getting stressed and overheated while cooking
It’s really no wonder – if you have a large family gathering for the BIG meal or other events and you are the one having to play Masterchef in the kitchen then the pressure, not to mention the heat, can make that a pretty uncomfortable experience.
Think about ways that you can cut down on the tasks ahead of you this year. You can always go back to it if you feel like it next year. Do you really need to cook the veg from scratch or would premade in trays take the pressure off? Heck, do you really need to be the one cooking? Could someone else take it over, or could you buy ready prepared dishes or even a take away or a meal out instead. Do what feels right for you – everyone else can adjust.
Too much of a certain food triggering hot flushes
We know it’s easy to overeat at this time of year so think about whether there are any dietary triggers for you that you could plan to avoid. Many women find that too much protein can make hot flushes worse, for others it can be spicy foods. If you have a trigger, plan your big meals to avoid them and try out something new. Your guests will probably love the change and you’ll know that you are eating to support your body.
Too many of certain drinks triggering hot flushes or insomnia
The big culprits here are caffeine and alcohol so have a think about whether you can buy yourself something else that feels like a treat instead and keep these to a minimum. There are plenty of delicious herbal infusions around to help you cut down on the caffeine – or if those don’t appeal, drink decaf. The market is flooded with new non-alcoholic drinks that are getting better and more sophisticated all the time, so have some fun trying them or opt for mocktails if you’re out.
Managing expectations / guests / events causing way more stress and anxiety than it used to
Your adrenals are responsible for your stress hormones and in menopause they also get involved in oestrogen production for the first time ever, meaning that they are under more pressure than they ever have been. So do yourself a favour – don’t plan too many events close together, reduce the size of any gatherings you may be having and make sure you plan in some time for yourself.
By taking a little time now to really think through what you can manage this festive season, you’ll have the opportunity to head off challenges before they happen, and instead of feeling overwhelmed, you can enjoy Christmas along with everyone else.
To find out more about Pamela or for more resources, head over to her website.