Menopause, Well-being, Women's Health

Back to Basics …. Again

I’ve been suffering with a bad back this past week.  It sort of ‘went’ a week or so ago.  I say sort of, as this time there was no real big twang moment, more of an increasing sense of unease and restricted movement.  Eventually it did reach the point where it was too uncomfortable to really move, at which point I decided to go to yoga.  My thinking behind this was that I’d not been to yoga for a while, with one thing and another, and that I just needed a bit of a stretch.  It was also a case of kill or cure – it can safely be concluded that it was a kill and not a cure.  At all.

I’ve reached the point with slow movement, a bit of stretching, a bit of resting and a bit of sitting cross legged in the chair to keep my back straight that I’ve started to mend.  I had hoped that it would sort itself out of it’s own accord and that I wouldn’t have to have any treatment on it.  I was fairly confident that it was my glutes and hamstrings that were the guilty party, being tight enough to snap.  I decided a massage was just the thing to get me sorted and at the very least get me back on the road to recovery in the most pain free way!   I went to the amazing Art of Touch in Albfeira, where I also go for my yoga classes.

I’d like to say it was enjoyable, but that would be a big lie.  Anyone that’s had very tight muscles massaged will tell you that it doesn’t really go into the relaxing, enjoyable bracket – more something to be endured whilst you try your very best to breathe through it, understanding that it is all to the benefit of your body in the long term.

woman relaxing relax spa
Photo by Pixabay

Sadly, I was correct – my glutes and hamstrings were to blame.  This was established early on, with there being no pain in my back, but I hit the roof when my glutes were set upon!   It transpired my quads, hips and pelvis weren’t in such great shape either.  So, basically the whole of my lower body – between waist and knees is stuck together in a heap.  The final death knell was the weak core.  Not the fancy dancy abdominal muscles that everyone wants to mould into a six pack, but the really important, stabilising, deep core muscles.

Here’s the rub.  I don’t have those muscles – well they are there, but they are a bit saggy and torn.  They were destroyed a long, long time ago.  Never at any time, did I realise the impact that the destruction of those tiny little muscles would have on the functioning of my body for the remainder of my adult life.  You see, I’ve had 6 relatively minor operations on my pelvic area, but with each operation I was merrily blown up like a balloon and deflated again within the space of 60 minutes.  During the last operation, besides being blown up, I also had my insides hoovered out.  This has left me with very weak core muscles and a somewhat saggy undercarriage!  To say I was devastated by my weak core coming to light again, would be a bit of an understatement.  I’ve had these problems since I was about 14, with my insides being stuck together in a sticky, messy, heap.  I have never really had a comfortable pelvic area and prior to my hysterectomy was in pain to some degree on most days.  This alone, has impacted my posture as I have tried to stand or walk in a way that reduced the pain, which isn’t necessarily the correct way to stand.

Photo by Breakingpic

It seems that basically what I’ve been doing for many, many years is forcing those parts of my body that do work to do the work of those parts that don’t.  However, for the first time EVER, I left my massage with some hope.  I was shown some exercises to do to help improve the function of my deep core muscles.  The purpose of exercising and strengthening these tiny, tiny muscles was explained to me.  I’ve been given breathing exercises to do, been advised on the type of yoga that would help me recover, ideas on how to sit, how to manage my body during the day, things that are good and bad (sadly knitting and crochet are out for a while) and told definitely not to overdo things and take time to repair.  There is a fab women’s specific Personal Trainer on YouTube – Dr Bri at FemFusionFitness who does a whole course in regaining some function in a saggy undercarriage and moves aimed at protecting the core – from lifting, to toilet training and how to stand correctly.  So there is help out there, it just takes some finding and at least now I know what it is I’m looking for.

I’ve entered the London Moonwalk in May 2020.  It is a bucket list item and I really want to make it to the start line.  This alone is enough to make me listen, to go back to basics and to get some strength and stability in my core.  At the end of the day the walk cannot happen if I don’t do that.  I’ve always worked on the premise that if I push my body hard enough I can prove to myself and the world that it isn’t the total let down I believe it to be.  But it seems I have pushed myself to the limit now, and I need to stop, slow down and start to fix it, to show it some love and encourage it to smile again – possibly to smile for the first time in its life.

Alternative Therapies, Complementary Health, Menopause, Well-being

My menopause and I!

Oh it’s back – well it never really went away – but my menopausal symptoms seem to be back with a bang.  This time I am more determined to do something about it.  If procrastination was a degree course I would have sailed through years ago.  Sadly, it’s not – but what it has done has stopped me making any progress.  Apparently, procrastination is, in fact, an emotion regulation problem.  According to this article from the New York Times, procrastination has just as much to do with self-doubt as lazyitis!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’ve read too many books on the subject of self help, by too many people and at the end of the day they all say the same thing – at some point in time you’ve got to get off your arse and help yourself.  Like many lazy people, I like to hope that there is a magic wand, or a quick fix just around the corner that will instantly turn me into a svelte, toned, tanned goddess, but sadly not.  I just have to get on with it.

I’ve carried out very extensive research on HRT (I asked my two mates at the pub) and have concluded it’s not for me.  They had both tried, for very different, specific reasons and neither of them found it was right for them an in both cases it didn’t fix the thing they had most wanted it to.  Both also said they had put on a lot of weight very quickly, which they have struggled to shift since stopping taking the tablets.  I have experienced that myself, in 2005, when I was given some drugs to control bleeding.  The bleeding was controlled, but I also put on 2 stone in weight in the space of a month – a good stone of that has never shifted and I am loathe to experience that again.

I did also go to the library and found a fascinating book, ‘Your menopause Bible‘ by Dr Robin N. Phillips – husband has been thrilled to learn some menopause facts he never felt he needed to know!  One thing that I have learned is that HRT and Endometriosis don’t go well together.  Although I have had a hysterectomy, any endometriosis deposits still wallowing around on my bowel or bladder will respond to the hormones in the HRT as they would have were they still inside the womb.  Basically taking HRT risks firing up the Endometriosis again – and I really don’t want that to happen.

What I have found fascinating is the heap of symptoms that can be attributed to menopause.  I knew all the obvious ones like hot flushes, sore boobs, weight gain, menopause brain – but have been quite shocked at others!  Dry eyes, for example – what’s that about!  It would appear that pretty much anything that goes wrong with a lady of a certain age can be attributed to menopause.  I can only be thankful that post hysterectomy I don’t have to deal with some of the more painful physical symptoms alongside the emotional fiasco that I have become!  Insomnia is still the worst – some days I do just feel like I’m wading through treacle!

So – I have thrown the kitchen sink at it!  As a consequence I won’t really know what it is that has worked the best and why, but there we are. I have:

  • Started taking Menopace night time multi-vitamins to help with sleep.
  • Started using magnesium body lotion before bed every night – apparently magnesium aids good sleep and there is method in your granny’s madness in having epsom salts in your bath every day.
  • Started using an essential oils mix of ylang ylang, clary sage and thyme in fractionated coconut oil which I massage into my stomach, thighs and ankles four times a day.  I got this remedy from FemFusionFitness.  Dr Bri is a qualified women’s health physiotherapist who is herself investigating a natural approach to menopause and has all sorts of nuggets of advice and information
  • 2019-05-29 18.05.25Diet – not as in diet to lose weight – but as in making choices to support my body and avoiding those foods that I know upset me.  I find this really difficult as I don’t want to be that awkward person that everyone rolls their eyes at in a restaurant when they say ‘I can’t eat that’.  As I said before – I’ve been waiting for a magic fix – it doesn’t exist, so I’ve just got to crack on!  I have to say the big struggle for me is giving up my Soya lattes!
  • Made up a Bach Flower remedy containing mimulus (for known fears), aspen (for unknown fears), walnut (for change) and hornbeam (for can’t be arsed).
  • Set myself the target of walking 10,000 steps a day as a form of gentle exercise alongside yoga – I do generally enjoy exercise so this is giving me a focus and hopefully is something I can still manage in Bristol and Portugal.
  • Entered the Midnight Walk for St Peter’s Hospice as a focus for my walking and to give me a commitment to keep to.  I’ve entered with a friend – which always makes a difference for me and we’ve entered the 10mile version – so I need to be fit and able for it!
  • Started taking Pukka clean Chlorella – not a clue what that does – but it’s high in vitamin B12 and D – which apparently is good for menopause!

So there we are – off on the menopause roller coaster – I’ll get back to you on how I’m progressing.

 

 

Alternative Therapies, Complementary Health, Menopause, Mindfulness, Well-being

Dreaming of sleep

I tend to go at everything like a bull at a gate.  I have to do it now, I have very little patience and can’t really wait for the reward.  If I have a parcel through the door, I have to open it straight away, I struggle with learning golf because there is no discernible progress from one week to the next.  I like to be successful now!  How I ever managed to learn musical instruments or how to swim is quite beyond me!  

The same is happening with my year to fixing myself.  I want to do it all now.  I want to take all the supplements change my diet habits and to make myself better now.  Unfortunately, this will fly completely in the face of what I set out to do and to find out slowly what it is that might make me feel better.  

I have reached the end of my second month.  So far I have learned:

  • Alcohol does make my hot flushes at night worse.  It also gives me restless legs.  Now, if it weren’t 10,000 degrees in the UK at the moment, I might not be suffering from this quite so much!  I researched restless legs and the heat – the heat doesn’t make the restless legs worse – but more than likely does reduce the capacity to cope with them.  Either way, this alone is enough to stop me having a tipple!
  • I don’t drink enough caffeine as to make a difference.  I probably have two or three cups of coffee a week and otherwise drink green tea and a wide selection of herbal teas.
  • I love exercise and am grumpy on the days I don’t do it.  In addition it does improve my chances of sleeping.  I have managed to maintain my commitment to exercise and including walking have exercised a minimum of 5 days per week.  My mileage for the year is currently 922 miles, so I’m hoping to achieve my target of 1000 miles during August.  I’ve also really enjoying trying a range of different exercise classes at my gym.
  • I haven’t given up anything that would cause me any inconvenience, nor have I tried introducing something that I might struggle to commit to on a daily basis – I’ve gone for the easy option!
  • Gradually I am starting to change.  When I go to the fridge to get a snack I am tending to reach for healthier options as I increasingly feel awful if I eat junk.  I’ve also started to spurn cakes, as shop bought cakes just tend to be too big and too sickly.  I’m not sure if this change is due to being more mindful in my choices, or because I am writing a daily food diary and so am more aware of how foods are making me feel, but generally I would say I am starting to make better food choices.
  • Daily meditation does make a difference.  I feel calmer and more in control of situations as they arise.  I haven’t yet worked out how to manage the situations, but at least I am more aware of them as they happen!

I have done some research this month about being a lady of a certain age and the effects it can have on your body.  I’ve also read about the different supplements you could introduce.  However, I have decided that approach for the next few months is to tackle those things that I believe affect me the most. Exercise is a must, but besides that, the things that currently annoy me most are:

  • Sleepless nights – bit chicken and egg, not sure which comes first, the hot flush or the sleepless night, but the combination of both with the added bonus of restless legs drives me to distraction
  • Slugglish bowel habits – a bit too much information there!
  • Brain fog – it’s like I’m in a permanent daze – a prime example is putting my mobile phone on to charge and then five minutes later searching high and low, even ringing my mobile from the landline because I can’t for the life of me think where I might have put it.  If I’ve forgotten to take it off silent, the problem is compounded.

alarm clock analogue bed bedroom

As a consequence, I have decided that I would like to tackle sleepless nights next – to my mind having a decent nights sleep will improve the brain fog situation, if nothing else.  And so, I have researched what I need to do to improve my chances of getting a good nights sleep.  I referred to a book ‘New Natural Alternatives to HRT’ by Marilyn Glenville who recommends:

  • A good quality multivitamin for women of a certain age
  • Magnesium supplement – I was given this many years ago by a nutritionist who tested my magnesium levels, so it didn’t surprise me in the least that this could be a contributory factor
  • Valerian – to be taken alongside the magnesium one hour before bed time.
  • A camomile based hot drink prior to bed.
  • A hot bath with a lavender based bath oil – I might have mentioned that it’s currently 10,000 degrees in Bristol, so this isn’t currently an option!
  • Placing an essential oil on your pillow!  Lavender is a popular choice, but I do already have DoTerra Peace blend which was recommended to me by my kinesiologist.

aroma aromatherapy aromatic basket

This does also fly in the face of only trying one thing per month.  If I do all of the above, how will I ever know which was the one that helped me sleep.  I have to admit, I don’t really care!  I am so desperate to have a good nights sleep that I’m quite willing to throw the kitchen sink at it and see where it takes me.  By my thinking, if I sleep better I will be better able to cope with the brain fog, I might not even get it, and it is also a contributory factor to a healthy digestive system – so a winner all round!  I also so keen to get in to a regular sleeping habit that I have reached the point where I am quite prepared to take the supplements on a regular basis, I am quite determined to see the month out and am quite positive about the results.  I know there will be many doubters who think it’s all a load of nonsense, but at the end of the day, if I believe it will help me and I believe it will improve my life, then that’s all that matters.  It would be interesting to learn other people’s hints and tips for achieving a good nights sleep.  

Menopause, Well-being

Reflections on Alcohol

As June comes to a close and I embark on a new month, I thought I’d reflect on my month of cutting down alcohol.  I didn’t manage to cut it out completely, however I did cut down quite significantly.

  1. People are very disconcerted by someone who doesn’t drink.  I get lots of strange looks, as if I have multiple heads.  Followed by the obvious questions, ‘Why don’t you drink’? ‘Where’s the fun in not drinking?’ or statements along the lines of ‘oh, you’re very good’ or ‘Oh I couldn’t do that’.  Many people continue to justify to me why they drink, and tell me more often than not that they are the black sheep of the family and that no one else in the family drinks as much.  No one as yet has made a positive comment about the fact I am choosing not to drink.  It’s not generally the bar owners, they have been amazingly supportive, in fact, one bar that we frequent in Portugal has made virgin cocktails to brighten up the monotony of sparkling water.  Both of our favourite bars add a variety of fruit, or put sparkling water into a nicer glass so that it looks more special.  It’s generally the other customers who seem to have a real problem with a non-drinker in their midst.  This has got me wondering what would the situation be if I was genuinely an alcoholic.  This is a choice I have made because alcohol makes me feel a bit rubbish, it’s not an addiction I am trying to quit.  Are people generally so lacking in understanding that they think it’s acceptable to grill someone on their reasons for not drinking?  I can easily understand why anyone who was struggling with an addiction to alcohol would choose to avoid bars as it’s an incredibly tough environment to be in as a non-drinker.
  2. Generally, the choice of non-alcoholic alternatives in bars and restaurants is fairly rubbish.  Don’t get me wrong, many places do offer a full range of alternatives:  soft drinks, fruit juices, even virgin cocktails, however, these are usually fully laden with sugar.  Whilst sitting waiting for friends in a local restaurant I ‘googled’ sugar content of drinks – many alcoholic drinks have lower sugar content than non-alcoholic drinks.  Yes, I can hear you shout, what about the diet versions?  But what about sweetener – the effects of which are equally as bad, if not worse, than sugar.  So taking all of this into account, I am pretty much left with sparkling water.  You might argue I am being too picky – but I don’t see the point of going to all the effort of cutting out alcohol, just to replace it with a different version of bad (in my eyes).
  1. Drunk people can be rude, insensitive and invasive.  Some, not all.  For some reason, after some people have had a drink, it becomes their prerogative to interfere in all aspects of your life – suddenly no topic is off limits.  They know everything about you; they know everything you have done and have done it at least a million times better; they know what you need to do to fix / improve every aspect of your life; they become incredibly nosey and ask the kinds of questions that they wouldn’t dare ask when they are sober.  All of a sudden they are experts on each and every aspect of your life.  Now, this could be because I am now sober in the bar – but my capacity for dealing with this has diminished and I can feel my frustrations rising.  I can well understand that previously, I didn’t really hear, or really didn’t care due to the wine I had consumed myself.

As yet, I can’t say that there has been a startling improvement in how I feel or look.  In particular, I have been looking for improvements in hot flushes, tiredness and quality of sleep, all of which can be attributed to menopause.  As I mention previously, weight loss isn’t as high a priority for me as feeling and looking healthy.  

barefoot basket blooming blossoming

Hot flushes:  there has been little or no difference in the number / intensity of hot flushes, particularly over night.  Now, it is super hot in the UK at the moment – but still – no change.

Exhaustion:  I still have days when I feel utterly exhausted, like I am walking in treacle.  Clearly, having a glass of wine didn’t improve them, but it would seem they weren’t caused entirely by wine consumption.  I suspect they are more related to hormones and I need to continue the research to find a solution to this.

Sleep:  Still rubbish, and still very intermittent.  I still haven’t managed to sleep through the night without interruption, although I’m not sure how much the weather has been a contributory factor in this.    

There have, however, been some improvements:

  1. The restless legs have calmed down.  I haven’t been quite so plagued by my legs kicking through the night.
  2. I feel a little brighter in the morning when I wake up.
  3. I’ve recovered a little sense of myself.  I feel a little more like the old me, and am increasingly confident about walking into social situations knowing I am going to order non-alcholic drinks.  Because I feel more at ease, I am more relaxed and generally a happier person to be with.  I’m not putting myself under pressure to be someone I’m not, and as a consequence am enjoying going out much more than I was before.

aroma aromatic art artistic

I’ve decided that each month I will cut out one more thing and add in one thing.  As I only started exercising properly at the beginning of last week, I’m going to continue increasing the level of exercise throughout July.  The temptation to add in something else is immense, but I’m keen not to take on too much at once, which is something I find particularly difficult.

So, beside continuing to cut alcohol out of my diet I am also going to cut out caffeine.  Apparently, this is another contributor to hot flushes due to menopause, so we’ll see how this month goes!  Clearly, if the weather continues they way it is, it may not be the best month to be judging how effective it is to remove caffeine from my day! 

Menopause, Well-being

A Year to a Healthier me.

On 28th May I turned 47, which I concluded is a bit of a non-descript age – too old to be in my mid-forties, but too young to be ‘nearly 50’.  However, it did make me realise that I only have 3 years to go to the next big milestone birthday and got me thinking.  The best way to describe myself is ‘fair, fat and forty-something’.  I don’t want to be ‘fair, fat and fifty’ – clearly there is not an awful lot I can do about the fair and the fifty part!  Over the past week I’ve been reading ‘A Year of Less‘ by Cait Flanders, the premise being to live a year of spending less money and really thinking about what she is spending money on and why.  This got me to thinking – what could I change between now and my next birthday to try to tackle the ‘fat’.

Being realistic – I’m not hugely overweight, as like many people I could do with losing a bit of weight – but my major complaint is that I do feel unhealthy.  Often I feel quite sluggish and as if I’m walking through treacle, some days I really struggle to get going and I am fairly confident that what I put into my body is a key factor in this.   I know I could be healthier and my birthday was the trigger to change.  And there is not getting away from the fact that I am a woman of a certain age and the big ‘M’ word is looming on the horizon!

 

Unfortunately, in the two weeks since my birthday I have changed precisely nothing – and so I am starting again from today – 11th June!   Husband is a great believer in doing things one step at a time.  There is little point in my changing everything at once – how will I know what works, what made me feel better, if I do it all at once.  During the course of the year I am going to try cutting out certain foods and drinks, adding in other foods, increasing the amount of exercise I do, taking different supplements and also trying some alternative therapies to see what the impact is on my general health and wellbeing.

Obviously – in order to measure this I need a benchmark!  I don’t use scales so can’t use that as a measure, but do have other variables that I can monitor.

  1. I drink one large glass a day, five days a week
  2. I eat cake or have a dessert three or four times a week.
  3. I eat a single chocolate stick (e.g. one twin stick) most days of the week.
  4. I exercise once or twice per week – mainly yoga and swimming.
  5. I walk an average of 3 miles per day.
  6. I have one cup of milky coffee first thing in the morning
  7. I probably have one piece of fruit a day.
  8. I probably have one or two portions of veg per day.
  9. I don’t eat much by way of bread or pasta.
  10. I take a multivitamin sporadically.
  11. I go for reflexology and / or kinesiology once a month.

Clearly, this list is not exhaustive and I suppose describes the average person – not particularly unhealthy but not particularly healthy either.

This month I am focusing on cutting out alcohol – and thus far have not done a very good job at it!  I really don’t drink vast amounts – but the impact on my body is as though I do.  This past Friday I had a glass of wine with my lunch.  We went out in the evening and I had one cocktail and two large glasses of wine, interspersed with a few glasses of sparking water.  I lost most of Saturday because of how awful I felt – as in bone crushingly awful – I had a headache, I ached all over, I had no energy and just wanted the day to pass me by.  Why, therefore, do I do this to myself?  I genuinely wish I knew the answer.

I know that I went all the way through university without drinking a drop.  Followed by time spent in America, followed by getting married and settled at home, followed by a subsequent divorce and moving back to my home town.  All of this was achieved without drinking a drop of alcohol.  I knew what the consequence was and chose not to drink.  I can even remember key events where I was persuaded to drink and how they were ruined: a friend’s hen night which I missed because I had one glass of champagne early in the evening; another friend’s wedding where I spent the evening familiarising myself with the ladies because I’d had wine with the meal.  Even now, I have crushing headaches as a consequence of drinking one or two glasses of wine.

I’ve given this some thought – and I don’t like to continually blame teaching for everything – as clearly I have a choice in the matter.   But I increasingly turned to the odd glass of wine (and more than the odd packet of Haribos) as a mechanism to cope with the pressures of the job, particularly in one challenging school.  At that point I can only think that I really didn’t care what the impact was on my health – or that I was in so much of a fog anyway that I didn’t really notice the effects of the alcohol.  Either way, I was drinking an increasing amount.  Again, it’s not huge amounts, it probably amounted to one bottle of white wine per week – but the consequences of that wine on my body, it might well have been one bottle per day.  But then, I think it became a social thing – I finally ‘got’ why people drank when they got to the pub, and how it does make an evening more enjoyable, but each and every time it came with a consequence.  A consequence that I’d now like to banish.

 

IMG_2650Husband has another theory – that you have to reach a point that you want to change – if you’ve not reached that point then there is little point in trying as more than likely you will struggle to succeed.  My 47th birthday was that point.  I don’t want to feel like this at 50.  Julie Creffield of The Fat Girls Guide to Running also has a theory.  That you must have accountability – that you have to put yourself out there loud and proud for the world to see.  So writing this today is me being visible and me being held accountable.  I do genuinely want to see what the impact is of these changes and experiments on my health and well-being.  I anticipate some will make no difference whatsoever and some may have more of an impact than I ever thought possible.  So, besides giving the alcohol a miss for a while, I’m also going to commit to posting more photographs of myself, being visible in my own life.  Hopefully, that will also serve as a measure of my journey from here to healthy.