By Cassandra Young
In Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM), menopause is called the 'Second Spring' in a woman's life. It represents the renewal of energy and opportunities as there is a shift from fertility and reproduction, to conserving and nourishing the self. In Chinese culture, there is a sense of looking forward to old age as ageing is widely celebrated and elders are revered. With age comes the gift of wisdom, innate confidence and life experience.
With this in mind and on a personal note, I have a fond childhood memory of observing my Por Por (grandma) walk through her self care routine. She worked physically hard on the farm during the day, then before dinner she would pamper herself with a bath, self massage, and gua sha, while drinking a warm soupy herbal tonic that was for 'good health and hot flushes'. Following this, she would slip on her beautiful jade and gold jewellery, fine silks, wools and cashmeres - like she was royalty. In my eyes, she was like a queen and I remember fiercely admiring her strong grounded feminine energy.
Looking back at this scene as a Chinese Medicine practitioner, I now recognise that Grandma was gracefully dancing through her journey into her Second Spring - a title that I think speaks wonderfully of the possibilities and space that opens up during this special stage of life. A female reaches menopause when menstruation ceases for one full year. Leading up to menopause and the one-year following is a period referred to as perimenopause. In Chinese Medicine, when our body ceases menstruation, the qi and blood is redirected to our Heart, where our 'Shen' or Spirit resides. It is this shift in qi and blood that allows us to access the vibrancy, courage and creativity that accompanies our Second Spring.
Of course, the accompanying hormonal fluctuations of perimenopause can indeed be challenging for many of us. Pre-existing imbalances may present with symptoms such as hot flushes or night sweats, sleeplessness, vaginal dryness, changes in libido, headaches, fatigue or fuzziness, thirst and dryness, bloating or digestive discomfort and emotional disturbance or irritability.
The good news is that this is not something you have to suffer through alone, and there are many things you can do at home to support the process. My key recommendations involve going back to basics with the self-care practice of Yang Sheng (nourishing life).
Here are some of my self-care tips to ease your transition into the Second Spring:
- Give your body adequate rest. Burning the candle at both ends rapidly consumes blood and fluids.
- Eat nutritious balanced meals at regular intervals, incorporating real food and removing all processed foods.
- Ensure that your meals are cooked and warm (broths, stews and leafy greens are great!)so that the digestion is well supported. This means less salads, raw and icy foods as they are cold in nature and take more energy to digest. The body will need to work harder to produce more heat to counterbalance the cold leading to less moisture circulating throughout the body.
- Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol, smoking, greasy foods and hot pungent spices such as chillies, peppers and garlic. These can be very stimulating and can dry up the fluids in the body.
- Incorporate gentle to moderate movement every day.
- Give yourself time to nurture your emotions: Allow all feelings and emotions to be there as they are all expressions of Qi
- Notice your feelings and find outlets to express them. This might be through movement, breathwork, meditations, hobbies or community.
- Look at ways to do less of what you don't want to do. Or explore what it is that you truly love doing and add more of this to your day.
- For some, this may not necessarily look like adding things in, but asking the question, 'what you are taking out and letting go of?'
- Listen to your body as it is always communicating with you.
- Herbs and acupuncture can help you get there too! What I love about Chinese Medicine is that it works so well to help support this transition by naturally harmonising the hormones and addressing the underlying issues from the ground up. In a consultation, we use chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture and lifestyle advice to help you:
- Ease physical and emotional symptoms that arise
- Reframe the current dialogue around menopause
- Apply tools to make this a more balanced journey
- Move intentionally through perimenopause and into your second spring
With this information, we hope this has helped shed some light on the menopausal journey and illuminated it as an incredibly uplifting and beautiful time. Remember that it is possible to balance your hormones naturally and that you don't have to go through it alone. In fact, no matter what stage of life you are at, hormonal challenges can be incredibly impactful on our quality of life. We want you to live your best life through all phases, whether that be in your reproductive years, perimenopause or your Second Spring.
And we believe that it is always better going through this journey with a community who cares about it too.
Yours in warmth and health,