We're all familiar with the menopause, but have you heard of perimenopause?
Whether you're experiencing some subtle hormonal changes you can't quite put your finger on or feeling like your mindset and life goals are changing and can't work out the root cause, you could be perimenopausal.
If want to be prepared for the perimenopause but aren't sure what to expect, our guest blogger Kate Codrington, a menstrual and menopause mentor, walks us through the different seasons to help us navigate perimenopause so we can ensure we're taking care of ourselves during this phase of our lives.
Welcome to Autumn the Season of Perimenopause
Perimenopause comes as a sudden weirdness. A feeling that something’s gone slightly askew. You might not want to go out so much, be getting pissed off at your previously brilliant job, finding your premenstrual irritation with your sweetheart goes on longer. But menopausal changes happen to other, older people right? Definitely not to us, not now! It comes as a massive surprise when we start to notice things shifting in our 40’s and one that we are not taught to expect, most especially not the psychological aspects.
The truth is that there’s a natural shift in hormones which can start anywhere from your late 30’s onwards. It can be super-subtle too, so that you may not notice it at all till your late 40’s. All of this can be termed ‘perimenopause’, which means the time preceding your last period. To be menopausal means that it’s been a year since your last period, after which, you are postmenopausal. Simple right? Well actually not. Since when has a female body conformed to a linear expectation? Because often, periods stop for months only to reappear, you’ll flood then have a whisper of blood… ‘Was that an actual period??’ There is an enormous range of ‘normal’ experience from no symptoms at all to a barrage of misery. No wonder the most common feeling is of having lost your bearings.
In this time of period power where we are ditching the shame attached to periods, it’s time to change-up our view on perimenopause. Far from being a looming catastrophe that strikes too early, perimenopause brings a much-needed life de-cluttering that is so insistent we cannot ignore it. Anything that is not aligned with your inner-self, or that remains unhealed, is going to surface for healing here. AND YOU ALREADY KNOW HOW TO NAVIGATE IT.
Feeling the seasons
Using a seasonal model will show you how this works. Spring starts at your first period. A season for discovering who we are. Hopefully, our young self will be looked after by our culture and families. This season equates to the time after your period and before ovulation.
In Summer we naturally want to go out and party, hang out with friends, get intimate and express ourselves just we do at ovulation. In our late 20’s and 30’s we start to get our shit together creating businesses, projects and maybe having babies too. This pressure is particularly painful when, for whatever reason, we’re not able to manifest the goods. The yang qualities increase to the max in high Summer, we are definitely ‘out there’. This is the Wonder Woman way of being, this multi-tasking, sexy Queen can do anything she sets her mind to, just like the middle of your cycle.
Summer heat; the parties, ice cold watermelon, Pimms with cucumber. It all passes so quickly and even before you know it, twilight comes a little earlier and you start to crave cosy jumpers again. Hello Autumn! This is where the yang begins to wane and the yin qualities increase again. This is the beginning of perimenopause. You can see why we pulled up short; it’s no longer a season for partying. It’s time to come home and tend to some adult business, sort out what’s working and what is not. Those premenstrual rages? Yes, that’s your Autumn speaking. This is where you crave yin qualities like slowing down, editing stuff out and being quiet, just like in the premenstrual phase. If we were educated to expect this, it would save a lot of misery. We would be let off the hook from ‘pushing through’ the fatigue and pain, only to feel that we have ‘failed’ when we burn out.
Here’s the kicker; the self-care you use in your menstrual autumn, the premenstrual phase, will support you in your perimenopause. Everyone is unique, but you already know what you crave before your period, even when you cannot get hold of it!
The season of Winter, like your period, is the time of deep menopause. This is a time for rest and healing, whatever that looks like for you. A time whereby allowing ourselves to rest, potter a little more and connect with nature and our intuition, we can bring this cycle to a gentle ending so we can blossom into Second Spring. Yes, a whole other spring! This is the secret that no one is telling you; postmenopause offers a whole new life of creativity IF you have managed your stress through your menstruating years.
Our hormone system is incredibly complex and subtle, but one thing is for sure; stress will make everything much, much worse. More period pain, worse flooding, more moods, rages, anxiety, practically all aspects of your physical and mental health, most especially in perimenopause. There are some things that we cannot change, but what we are in charge of is how we react to things, and how we manage our stress.
Here are some questions to get you thinking about what sort of self-care you can build into your premenstrual phase and your period, and how you can amplify that as you enter perimenopause. You can journal, or use them as topics to explore with your friends.
If you want to use these as prompts for free writing, set your timer for 3mins for each one and keep your pen moving on the paper. If you get stuck, just write ‘stuck, stuck, stuck’ or re-write the prompt to get yourself started again.
Before my period, when I’m stressed I long for…
What really soothes my nervous system is…
I can’t rest because then…
What makes my premenstrual phase worse is…
We'd like to thank Kate for her insightful blog post and we hope you found it useful too. Kate is taking over our November livestream to give a free workshop all about perimenopause sign up here
Some useful products for perimenopause
More about Kate...
Kate Codrington is a menstrual and menopause mentor, a writer and facilitator and has been a therapist for more than 25 years.
She has trained in Women’s Yoga Therapy with Uma Dinsmore-Tuli and in Menstruality with Alexandra Pope. Now, in partnership with Leora Leboff she runs Woman Kind retreats, facilitating virtual and real-life retreats for groups of menstruating and menopausal women and therapists to build more kindness into their lives.
Her mission is to change the way we regard menopause and show how to relax into our own, inner authority through our cyclical nature and menopause process.