What is perimenopause?
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“2019 felt like the year that the world sat up and took note of the menopause,” says Rebekah Brown, the founder of MPowder, the first whole food plant-based powders designed to nourish women through the three biochemical stages of menopause.
The London entrepreneur attributes much of the attention paid to menopause to the #metoo movement. That, and the fact that a generation of women is reaching senior positions across multiple sectors and demanding better information and greater choice. “Our generation will be the first to potentially live half our lives post-menopausal,” says Brown, 46. “80% of us will transition through the menopause whilst at work. That fundamentally changes the game. About time, right?”
1. Embracing new tools for the next bit of adventure
Taking advice I don’t want to hear remains a huge challenge for me at this life stage. The perimenopause can be a time of dramatic hormone fluctuations. Many describe it as a second puberty. Unfortunately, like my teenage self, I’ve wasted a lot of time ignoring the wisdom of women who have gone before me. I’m slowly letting go of my love of red wine and really late nights in favour of a clear head and less sweaty bed sheets. I’m restructuring my routine to make exercise and meditation as mandatory as cleaning my teeth before leaving the house. It’s a process!
I’m slowly letting go of my love of red wine and really late nights in favour of a clear head and less sweaty bed sheets.
2. Reframing self-care as self-preservation
Researchers describe our age group as the “sandwich generation.” We’re often stretched between caring for kids, partners, our career, and aging parents or relatives. Unsurprisingly, with so many legitimate demands on our energy, self-care feels like a luxury. We’re smart. We know that we can only give if we’re feeling good. But a small part of me still labels self-care as self indulgence. I also have a fear, when I’m at my most tired, that if I stop, I’ll never start again.
3. Embracing aging
The media has been slow to keep pace with the growth of positive role models redefining what aging looks and feels like. From JLo pole-dancing at 50 to Phoebe Waller-Bridge scripting the best description of the menopause ever in Fleabag. But it takes time to write new narratives.
You only have to look at the menopause supplements in your local chemist to see the default picture. It looks like an end-of-life aisle. We have beauty products that position themselves as “anti-aging.” Why do we even allow that term in our vocabulary? I struggle not to feel that aging is somehow a loss of something. But I know, from our community, that it is actually the start of something equally as intoxicating as youth.
On adopting better habits—I’m a researcher at heart, so in order to accept difficult changes, I had to have proof. There is compelling evidence of the impact of nutrition, lifestyle, and mindset on managing the menopause well. The Chinese have a beautiful phrase for the menopause—the Second Spring. Not only do they manage the menopause so much better through diet, but they celebrate it as an opportunity to realise potential and set a course for the second stage of life.
“The Chinese have a beautiful phrase for the menopause — the Second Spring.”
Research also shows that women’s confidence at work increases with age. We are also much more likely to succeed with a new business idea at this lifestage than the 20-year-old daylight-deprived individual wearing flip-flops in an office without chairs. Because experience counts in entrepreneurship. I find all of that hugely motivating.
On self-care, I’ve had to trick my mind into “just trying it.” There is that famous Freud description of insanity as doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results.
On embracing ageing, I’m surrounding myself with better media and stronger voices. Check out The Middle Aged Goddess and And.Bloom on instagram for your daily dose of positivity and beauty (see below for links).
It’s actually hugely liberating. Life in your 40s becomes far less about how you want to be seen and far more about how you see yourself. It is a time of putting all that you’ve learned so far into action. You work out what you want to be remembered for. You work out where you want to place your energy. You work out which relationships you want to nurture.
“Life in your 40s becomes far less about how you want to be seen and far more about how you see yourself.”
You also work out what to let go of. In your 30s, life can feel like a scramble. This is the top of the mountain. But unlike the media portrayal, know that it’s not a summit, but a platform, a springboard even — into the next part of the adventure.
I think the generation of women going through the menopause transition right now have a much louder voice than ever before; and that is true in the U.S., too. But here, more than one-third of the daily and weekend national newspapers are now edited by women. I’m sure this has impacted on the explosion of coverage. We’ve had individual women stand up and demand better, too.
Diane Danzebrink lobbied government for menopause lessons at school because she didn’t want anyone else going through what she did. I am seeing new businesses springing up in the States that are catering for this life stage in new, interesting ways. And so many of the information sources we consume are global today. Many of the women in the MPowder community are in the USA. Many of the menopause feeds on Instagram are stateside, too. I have a feeling momentum will continue to build, and 2020 will see a similar explosion of attention as we saw here in 2019.
New to perimenopause? Read our empowering guide to everything you need to know about this under-understood phase of life.
Amy Cuevas Schroeder is the cofounder and Chief Content Officer of Jumble & Flow, the new lifestyle brand that empowers women to thrive in midlife. She started her first business, Venus Zine, in her dorm room at Michigan State University, and later sold the company. She now lives in the Chicago area, and is raising twin girls with her husband, Martin, a social worker. She’s worked as a content leader for Etsy, Minted, and Abstract, and has written for NYLON, Pitchfork, The Startup, and more.
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Amy Cuevas Schroeder
We're on a mission to empower women 40 and over. We're redefining midlife like nobody's business.
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Adventures in Perimenopause, essays by women in perimenopause and menopause
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