Is hypnosis the key to surviving menopause?
I came away with a better understanding of my body and some tools to make me a much nicer person to live with!!
Hot flushes, mood swings and sleepless nights? How long can we blame our busy lives, stress or too much Sav Blanc before we need to accept one might be embarking on the rocky road towards menopause?
Always happy to be a guinea pig, I visited Complimentary Health practitioner and owner of Womb Service, Kerry Dolan to see if hypnosis could help tone down my Godzilla like mood swings and make me a nicer person to live with!!
I arrive at the clinic, slightly nervous and if I’m honest a little bit sceptical. I find it hard to relax during a massage so I’m not sure how anyone will calm my chaotic brain enough to put me into a hypnotic state.
The environment is simple – a bed and some comfy chairs. Ibiza chill out music is playing in the background, which automatically transports me to my happy place. It’s an incredibly hot day and Kerry offers me some ice cubes, which I eagerly run over my forehead and chest – I’m not hot flushing honestly!
The session will last 90 minutes and there will be some unusual questions designed to encourage the loosening of one’s conscious grip and elicit a little more truthfulness.
Eeeek, the interview shoe is suddenly on the other foot! I quickly fire off a few of my own questions to reset the balance (I warn Kerry this might be tricky).
Why is Menopause such a hush word?
For many of us the menopause signals the beginning of the end – we misunderstand our bodies and assume they are failing us, which feeds the negativity surrounding the transition.
We need to take time to pause, take stock and decide how we want to spend these years, finding the best ways to take care of our bodies and maximise our health. Kerry believes the less we look after ourselves – the longer menopause will take as the body is focusing on too many other things.
Why is menopause so debilitating?
In short, the menopause is when a woman stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally. For some, this might be a reason for celebration but for others it means the start of a whole plethora of horrible symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex, difficulty sleeping, low mood or anxiety, reduced sex drive, problems with memory and concentration.
Menopausal symptoms can begin months or even years before your periods stop and last around four years after your last period, oh crikey!
During peri menopause our hormones are changing massively. Remember puberty? The moodiness, the physical discomfort, the hours spent in bed. Menopause is a shift in our physiology just as puberty was, yet most of us do not have the luxury of sleeping it off. With the pressures of our careers and/or family life, we do not get the rest we need to manage this overhaul.
When we’re experiencing menopausal symptoms, our bodies are in the Sympathetic nervous system and what Kerry calls ‘turbo mode’ – our body redirects its energies to ‘fight or flight’ responses and subsequently non essentials such as digestion, fertility and rationale get shut down. Makes sense, if we’re faced with a big Grizzly Bear – it’s unlikely we’ll think about food, sex or anything other than survival.
Simply put – it’s fight, flight, freeze ‘v’ rest, digest and repair. If you are spending more than the recommended 5% of time in the sympathetic nervous system (fight, flight, freeze) then you are, by definition, taking energy away from healing, repair and what Kerry refers to as ‘general housekeeping’. Therefore the transition of menopause will inevitably take a back burner.
Our modern day Grizzly Bear is more likely to be a never ending to do list, however our lives are much more complicated these days and we need to learn to harness our relaxation response. Our bodies are undergoing renovations and in need of TLC, therefore it is essential to learn techniques which help healing and restoration.
The simplest way to do this, and it’s not ground breaking is breathe! The Calm Breath technique – in to the belly for four and out for eight, big sigh and shoulder collapsing on the out breath can help to regulate our habitual ‘turbo mode.’ You might prefer a private space (urrm toilet?) or incorporate it into daily activities such as walking to and from work. The important thing is to make this part of your routine like eating and sleeping, not just a knee jerk reaction to a stressful situation.
How does Hypnosis help ease these symptoms?
Hypnosis or hypnotherapy provides you with a way to access your unconscious mind, the part of the mind that speaks directly to our bodies. Put simply, it can help you to tap into the relaxation response that we often find hard to reach in our busy lives.
So here we go, it’s my turn to release control and let Kerry get to work.
The first thing we do is a little exercise to show how our body listens to our mind for clues. I’m asked to put my arm out and as Kerry tries to push it down, I must resist. So far so good, I’m quite strong and succeed. Next we do the same exercise but I repeat out loud “I can’t I can’t I can’t” and my arm drops like a lead balloon.
Kerry explains – the “I can’t” becomes an instruction and our body reacts accordingly but we can use visualisation and routine to break these neurological pathways.
Next we do an ‘Emotional Detox’ to show how our body listens to our mind for clues. This is an easy one to practice at home and has four easy steps.
- Close and open your eyes, inhale and exhale deeply and create a safe place in your mind and allow yourself to feel whatever is disturbing or upsetting. As you do this make a fist with your right hand and release.
- Inhale and exhale, open and close your eyes.
- Close your eyes and picture all your positives, you’re having a great day and smiling. Now as you enjoying this feeling, clench your left hand and release.
- Now inhale and exhale deeply, count to ten and on ten make a fist with both hands, relax, count to five and release on the count of five.
The next time I’m slipping into a state of vulnerability or anxiety, I’m told to visualise my two fists and focus on the positive one.
I explain it’s quite hard to focus on just one thing as sometimes everything is a blur (which is part of the problem) and I can’t single out specific moments. But this is all part of the process, I need to take the time to calmly think about myself and prioritise my feelings.
On the Couch
I settle myself on the couch and Kerry starts to talk softly about ice and waterfalls and encourages me to visualise these two things, which will act as triggers next time I’m experiencing a hot flush. The next thing I know I’m being asked to slowly open my eyes!
I wonder did I just fall asleep? I’m exhausted juggling work, school holidays and never get to lie down in the middle of the day. However, I remember hearing Kerry’s voice throughout and she explains that it’s at this stage when we’re just drifting off that we’re most susceptible to suggestion. I’d love to be able to tell you more but it’s locked away in my subconscious awaiting a hot flush to trigger the success of the session.
However, the recent heat wave has brought it’s own sleeping issues and I can honestly say that just thinking ‘ice’ has triggered an automatic cool down. Was the offer of ice at the beginning of the session part of the hypnosis? Probably yes but if you couple this with recent research in America revealing hypnosis can help reduce hot flushes by as much as 74%* – I think my initial scepticism might be waning!
The key here is ‘time’ and while this might be the one thing we all struggle with, I am resolute that I must find the time to ride out this transition, if I (and my family) are to come through the menopause unscathed!
Kerry Dolan is a qualified Hypnotherapy, NLP and Life Coaching practitioner, specialising in women’s health and well-being. For more information visit www.wombservice.co.uk
*A controlled, randomised study published on line in Menopause, The journal Of The North American Menopause Society