3 Reasons Why Women Are Suffering in Their 40s and 3 Things We Can Do About It
Reason 1: Women enter their 40s clueless about THE CHANGE.
Perimenopause – the period of change that normally starts in our 40s and can last up to 10 years prior to menopause – could be the best kept secret of women’s lives.
I didn’t hear about perimenopause until I was 44. Most of my 40-something friends first heard about it from me, as I eagerly shared the knowledge that our bodies had already begun a period of transformation that would take us beyond our reproductive years.
Women usually discover perimenopause when they’re in the thick of it, drowning in symptoms – night sweats, migraines, depression, weakened immune system, tender breasts, brain fog, eczema, heart palpitations – and desperate for cures.
During this time, women can bounce between doctors, who often do not connect their symptoms to midlife change; and alternative practitioners, who may also be lacking in knowledge that menopause doesn’t only happen in an instant (one year after our last period), but the build-up takes years.
Perimenopause, just like adolescence and pregnancy, is a time when women’s bodies are destined to change.
Perimenopause is not a disease or time of decay. But it is a time when a woman’s body will be extra protective and will send her messages (that will create discomfort) if her life is not balanced.
What can we do?
Get educated (this website is a good place to start!) and share your knowledge with other women!
Got a 40-something woman colleague, or even a 30-something woman colleague? Talk to her.
Got a 40-something family member who’s in crisis? Talk to her.
Sitting next to a 40-something woman on a plane or a train and you’ve got through all the polite chit chat? Talk to her, too!
Reason 2: For decades we’ve been told that women at midlife are suffering from an epidemic of malfunctioning hormones…but it’s a myth.
Blaming our hormones has become a convenient way to explain discomfort in women’s lives.
Yet, when a woman feels different before her period or postpartum or during perimenopause, it isn’t a sign that her hormones are getting it wrong; it’s a sign that her hormones are working their magic!
Modern medicine, which has created the most phenomenal life-saving procedures in emergency medicine, has failed at a simpler task: to view a woman’s body with awe.
As a result, modern medicine has developed such theories as:
A woman’s vagina isn’t properly designed to give birth, so best we perform a routine episiotomy or cesarean. (In the US in the 1970s, more than 60% of vaginal births were accompanied by an episiotomy. Today in the US, over 30% of births end in a cesarean.)
All women’s breasts from the age of 40 onward are likely to malfunction (or become killer organs) so let’s expose them to routine bouts of radiation in the form of mammograms, even though mammograms were never designed to analyze a 40-something woman’s breast. (In recent years in the US, recommendations have changed for 40-something women. In Switzerland, mammograms have been banned altogether.)
Since mid-last century, modern medicine has also been promoting the idea that when a woman’s body naturally reduces levels of estrogen, we need to pump those levels back up.
Estrogen doesn’t abandon us at midlife. Evolution, in its genius, has assured that a woman can live beyond her reproductive years, being useful to society without also having to tend to a baby suckling at her breast.
What can we do?
Don’t assume that modern medicine gets it right all the time! Ask yourself questions such as:
Why would a natural part of your lifecycle – perimenopause and menopause – be anything but brilliant?
Does it sound reasonable that your body can’t handle moving beyond your reproductive years even when at every second of everyday a myriad of miraculous events are happening in your body to keep you alive?
If it’s part of the design that we (and two other species on the planet) can show up to help younger generations with our wisdom even after our fertile years, do you think it’s part of the design that we show up sweating and depressed?
Reason 3: The stories we tell ourselves and the identities we’ve created.
By the time we reach midlife, we are truly entrenched in our identities and beliefs about ourselves. If we’re lucky, midlife will help us discover that every part of our identity and every part of every belief we hold, is made up. All of it!
Our so called strengths and weaknesses, our problems, our disappointments, our careers, our patterns of behavior, the things we should do, be, have. All of these things derive from our thoughts – thoughts that we’ve created.
Because we’ve learned to take our thoughts very seriously we believe they are set in stone and that we are best served by holding on to them.
If your beliefs about yourself keep you living in fear, or stress, or distant from your dreams, your body knows that isn’t healthy. At midlife, your body will try very hard to get your attention so that you make a change and connect to the gentle whispers inside that you’ve ignored for too long.
What can we do?
Stop taking those assumptions about yourself so seriously and stop assuming that you can predict what will happen tomorrow, next month, or over the next decade based on what happened yesterday, last month or when you were in your 30s.
Start stepping beyond the limits of what you believe and stop caring about those little/big thoughts that hold you back. Then, when intuition strikes you, journey somewhere new/try something dreamy/be someone you never dared to be.
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Truly tired of rushing between practitioners, trying to cure your perimenopause symptoms? Check out The Wiser Woman Course.