Feeling hot and bothered? You and 13 million other menopausal women! One in three women are going through the menopause at any one time. Maybe it’s time for a ‘life reset’.
Cultural expectations may influence how we see the menopause. In cultures where older women as seen as wise and valued for their life experience, the reports of menopause problems are much fewer. But that’s not much help if you are dealing with hot flushes, not sleeping well and feeling as if you have constant jetlag.
There is a growing body of evidence that suggests having a healthy diet and lifestyle, regular exercise and plenty of relaxation and rest can help relieve menopausal symptoms.
So, now is the time to get to know yourself again and set some healthy targets for this new phase of your life. All sorts of things may change; your skin, your body shape, your mood, your sleep pattern, even the taste of your favourite food. First do your own audit, so you know what is different, what you can adapt to and what needs attention. Then book some ‘me-time’.
Even a simple, relaxing spa day with healthy food and de-stressing treatments can be hugely beneficial. But maybe you want to address the changes your body and life are going through seriously. The good news is that many spas offer wellness packages with lifestyle and diet analysis and a few even have tailored menopause breaks.
Make time for ourselves
“Menopause symptoms can have a significant impact on our health and wellbeing as well as work and relationships,” says Dr Heather Currie, a gynaecologist specialising in menopause and spokesperson for the British Menopause Society (BMS). “Women going through it are often juggling demanding jobs, school-age children and elderly parents.”
Real life stress adds to the mix of anxiety and low moods brought about by hormone fluctuations. Now, more than ever, we need to make time for ourselves and think seriously about self-care.
On a more positive note, there is also evidence that middle age is a pivotal point in healthy aging. Get things like eating well, exercise and self-care right now, and it will mean a much healthier next phase of life.
“Menopause is not an illness” says Liz Warom, founder of luxury spa brand Temple Spa. “Some women will breeze through it and others may struggle. But a spa is a space given over to your well-being and it should feel a safe refuge, a place to listen to your body and mind and make some positive decisions about your life.”
What about heat?
Spas are meant to be hot. Hot flushes are one of the most common – and for some women, most distressing - symptoms of menopause. In everyday life, hot flushes or sweats can be made worse by the fact they are so visible. At least in a spa, you are expected to sweat!
Many women suffer in silence, even if it involves sweating away on a heated treatment bed or being too polite to ask the therapist to open the window.
Contact your spa before you go and explain what you need. With a little forewarning, almost anything can be organised. A cool treatment bed is easy if they know in advance. If you only tell them just before the treatment, they may have to wait for the bed to cool down or to reduce the room temperature.
You may prefer an older or more experienced therapist. Again, ask in advance.
The spa will be able to advise which treatments may suit you such as a facial that involves cool crystals, or a massage that alternates hot and cold stones. Most treatments can be adapted as well; treatment beds can be made up with cool sheets, a wrap can be left partly open, products with calming nurturing scents can be used, or you may just need a drink during the treatment.
Dermatologist Dr Howard Murad has identified three ways in which we age: Genetic, Environmental and Hormonal. “As women approach the menopausal years they are dealing with all three types of ageing,” he says.
Murad takes an ‘inclusive approach’ to all skincare concerns: emotional self-care, internal care (such as eating well) and topical care. He advises eating plenty of nutrient rich fruit and vegetables and drinking lots of water. He also recommends using products with phytoestrogens, plant-derived ingredients that mimic human oestrogens; and most importantly, exfoliate.
“Dullness is usually a result of a build-up of dead skin cells on your face. Exfoliation lifts the dulling film of dead skin to give you a fresh and more youthful looking complexion.” says Dr Murad.
Older skin is not always dry. Your skin may become more sensitive in some areas, or oily in others. It’s easy to become confused as to which facial to choose: anti-ageing, balancing, sensitive or radiance – or all of the above. Book in for a prescription facial. The therapist will then analyse your skin and recommend a home care routine.
The good news is that spas and product houses are starting to talk more about menopausal skincare. Murad skincare has a line called Resurgence which targets menopausal skin. Temple Spa’s luxuriant Truffle range is particularly suitable for aging skin, while Aaahhh! is a handy cooling gel that you can apply to neck, wrists and ankles.
Natural Spa Factory launched their I Am Woman skincare range this year, with products and treatments that directly address periods, pregnancy, and menopause. Pause: Me is a treatment specifically designed to alleviate the symptoms of menopause, with aromatherapy oils and an icy cool collagen mask.
“We don’t want to make a song and dance about menopause,” says Emma Webber, co-founder of Natural Spa Factory. “But to normalise the symptoms with treatments seems a great way to dispel what has been a bit of a taboo subject. It’s great that finally the stigma is loosening, and we are able to talk openly about it.”
Since symptoms are often triggered by stress, it’s worth practising ways in which to regulate your moods. Taking deep breaths in and long, slow breaths out will activate your soothing, parasympathetic nervous system and lower your heart rate. Try it when you have a hot flush.
Choose calming chamomile tea rather than coffee as your welcome drink: carry an inhalation essence which will encourage deep breathing, promote calm and clear your fuzzy mind. Perhaps sign up for a meditation or yoga class at the spa so that you can slow down completely.
Try an aromatherapy massage or sleep treatment: insomnia is another symptom of menopause, and tiredness can affect your mood and anxiety. Spas these days offer more than just treatments for the body and face. Take a mindful walk through beautiful spa gardens or simply gaze at the landscape – both will lower your heart-rate, reduce stress and give you the time and space you need.
5 ways to help yourself
Arrive early and give yourself plenty of time to get changed
Spend 15 minutes in the relaxation area, so your heart rate is resting
Take your own cotton robe if towelling robes make you too hot
Carry a bottle of water with you and stay hydrated.
Put a mini-fan or travel-sized cooling mist in your robe pocket.
Determined to sort things out? Take a couple of days to focus on what you need to do to manage symptoms and stay well.
The Lifehouse Menopause 2 Night Retreat includes a consultation with their Resident Naturopath, a Reiki treatment and a personal fitness session.
Menohaven retreat in Seaford, Sussex aims to help you navigate and demystify menopause and peri-menopause with yoga, reiki, nutritional talks and meals, healing massage and treatments and discussions on ways to help with brain-fog, anxiety, hot flushes, stress and libido issues.
Platinum Healing run a Menopause Retreat in Sussex, including hypnotherapy, a juice detox, holistic therapies with author Kate Tyler.
Champney’s occasionally run menopause retreats with Dr Marilyn Glenville, so keep an eye on their Health Management pages.
Menopause: the numbers
13 million: the number of women in the UK currently going through the menopause
45 to 55: the average age that the menopause occurs
75%: the proportion of women who have hot flushes
1-2 years: average time from the start of symptoms (the peri-menopause) until last period
12: the number of months without a period that indicate the menopause
1in 4: the number of women who have problems severe enough to affect their quality of life