The menopause. That mysterious mid-life milestone all women can expect to hit at some point in the distant future. But how much do you really know about it?
Menopause mindset coach Sally Garozzo wants young women to be better educated about this life-changing time, which is why she’s shared her own story and reveals how good habits in early life can make all the difference.
Sally, who is a rapid transformational therapist (RTT) – she describes the practice as ‘hypnosis on steroids’ – decided to focus on the menopause after realising her clients were going through the same mid-life transition as she was.
After being misdiagnosed by doctors, Sally reached out to a health coach and realised she was in perimenopause.
“I was going through around four years of physical symptoms that were really affecting my everyday life,” Sally explains. “When I discovered I was in perimenopause I realised my clients were probably in that stage too.”
Knowing what to expect
“I had such a bad time of it, so many women suffer,” Sally says. “Perimenopause – peri just means near – can last, in some women, up to 15 years before their final period. That’s a long time.”
The menopause mindset coach is passionate about educating women so they are better prepared for what to expect, which is why she’s started The Menopause Mindset Podcast.
“Most people think menopause is just when your periods stop and that’s it, but there’s so much more to menopause,” Sally says.
“I was 37 when my body started changing,” Sally says. “Menopause was not on my radar at all.
“I was feisty, I was going out drinking, living it up. My first symptom was anxiety. Then panic attacks in supermarkets.
“There are over 32 menopausal symptoms. Mine included palpitations, putting on weight around the belly and migraines. I started getting stomach acid issues. My voice started changing, it dropped loads and got rough around the edges. I got very dizzy, had poor circulation and irritable bowel syndrome kicked in. I had sore breasts and joint pain. Oh my god, the joint pain, I thought ‘what is this?, I feel like I’m 85’.
“A typical menopausal symptom is hot flushes, I don’t get hot flushes but do get night sweats. You might also get low libido and vaginal dryness.
“And then there’s the insomnia, that’s a killer. After the insomnia, you get burnout, after the burnout you get chronic fatigue. It’s horrible.
“There are so many other symptoms, osteoporosis is a big one. I don’t get any problems with my bones but I know many women do.
“I was having all these symptoms and I was going to the doctor and not one doctor thought about peri-menopause. Every time you just get turned away because they’re not looking holistically.
“Then I got a health coach. I got some Dutch tests done, and you get a complete hormone profile back. So then I knew.”
Around this time, there’s a lot of ‘life laundry’ to deal with, Sally says, and the stress can exacerbate menopause symptoms.
“So much comes to surface, for example: ‘my life’s not working for me right now with this new body that I have,” Sally says, “Or it could be ‘I don’t know who I am anymore, I don’t know if I want to be with my partner anymore, or I haven’t got any children and that’s basically it for me now my fertility is over’.
“There’s a lot of mindset stuff that’s happening, mental stuff and emotional stuff around that mid-life transition. When you’re in your twenties and thirties you’re just living your life you think you have all the time in the world. Then all of a sudden it dawns on you, you don’t!”
Stress and the menopause
As with other issues, Sally helps her clients with, such as weight loss, anxiety or infertility, she believes that reducing stress can help to alleviate some of the symptoms of the menopause.
“Stress makes all of this worse, stress can make this go on for a very long time,” Sally says.
She says that when we are stressed, our already declining oestrogen during the menopause is dialled down further as the body prioritises survival hormones like cortisol and adrenalin.
“Oestrogen is responsible for more than 400 functions in the body,” Sally says. “Every cell in the body has got oestrogen receptors. Oestrogen is brain-protective, heart-protective, bone protective, it protects your blood vessels, your digestion and more.”
So when oestrogen starts to decline, we feel it everywhere. That creates more stress in the body which makes menopause symptoms worse. It’s a vicious circle.
Finding solutions to menopause symptoms
In her work as a menopause mindset coach, Sally works with her clients on stress response, symptom alleviation and education. But one thing that is really important is the emotions around this time.
“The emotional element of the menopause is what my speciality is really,” Sally says. “Dealing with the pain of feeling worthless in a world that promotes youth, in a world that promotes fertility, sexiness. What happens when you start losing your sexiness, and all of a sudden you feel like you’re not a valid person any more? It’s helping women to understand that they’re not alone.
“I see women who feel like they’re over the hill, there’s nothing down for them anymore, they don’t have the relationship, they really wanted children. Really it’s about clearing that programming and helping them to relax and be with what is and to embrace what’s happening to them.”
What you need to know about the menopause
Sally believes we should know what to expect from the menopause as early as possible.
On what she would tell women in their teens, twenties and thirties, she says: “Expect the unexpected. Never rule peri menopause out, even in your late thirties. Women can get thrown into early peri menopause so you’re never too young to learn about the menopause. But don’t scare yourself.”
And how can we avoid the worst of the menopause?
“It’s really all about your attitude to health,” Sally says, “If you’ve got a good attitude to health, the better chance you will have of minimising the symptoms.
“Create some foundational health habits right now. Come off the sugar as much as you can. Obviously don’t deny yourself, have the occasional cupcake or have a glass of wine, but create those foundational habits now.
“Learn your mindfulness and meditation so that you can become adaptive to stress, get yourself to the gym. Resistance training is so important for women in the menopause. Sarcopenia (muscle wastage) can creep up on you.
“Get into some good sleep habits. Boundaries with your phone, boundaries with your work. Eventually, it’s going to come, so start as you mean to go on.”
Ask your mum and build your support system
“I would say to anyone, ask your mum about her menopause,” Sally says. “It can be very similar. If your mum went through it at 51, you may go through it at the same age. Ask her what symptoms she had.
“Some women sail through menopause and don’t have any symptoms. But other women they really suffer.
“It’s based on your lifestyle, how well you sleep, your routines, your habits, your attitudes to health and your beliefs about yourself that comes from childhood. Do you have a daily meditation routine, are you mindful? Do you have a support system? Women need other women. We need friends when shit hits the fan, that’s what is going to get us through.”
The two most important messages Sally wants to get across is to encourage women to talk about the menopause and to release the taboo.
“One of the big things about menopause is the taboo, Sally says. “One of the symptoms is vaginal dryness, and it’s taboo to ‘go there’. But it’s more than just your period stopping or vaginal dryness. It’s more than just low libido and hot flushes.”
Education is really important when it comes to the menopause, and a recent campaign #makemenopausematter means it will now be taught in schools from this year, a move Sally welcomes.
“Menopause education is now in schools as from this September. It’s coming, it’s just that in-between generation,” Sally said. “Women need to know this stuff.”
To learn more about the menopause, listen to The Menopause Mindset podcast: www.sallygarozzo.com/podcast.html