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live your age podcast episode 13

Episode 013: Meditate or Medicate?

Meditate or Medicate – helpful tips for mellowness during menopause and beyond

Are you facing the tough question of whether to meditate or medicate? Each has their place, and both can help when the seas of life get a little stormy. Here’s a few ideas to keep in mind about trying meditation to help beat the midlife blues.

Meditate or Medicate?

Wowza, that’s a loaded question!

First things first. We are not advocating ever, ever, that anyone ditch pharmaceuticals or refuse the help of conventional medicine when you are experiencing challenges or concerns around your health–physical, mental, emotional or otherwise. 

If you’re struggling, get to a doctor. Or call the Crisis Lifeline at 988. Seriously. There is no shame in this game. And it is a game! Life sucks then it gets better then it gets worse then it gets all right then it gets weird then it gets all sunshiney then it sucks again then it becomes bearable then it … You get the idea. 

Now, with that said, let’s talk about the power of meditation. 

Meditation is as old as dirt. The word “mindfulness” has become a buzzword not only in the yoga room but in the boardroom as well. Maybe the term is overused and watered down but one thing is for sure–science is validating its benefits. Study upon study tell us that practicing mindfulness and meditation have enormous benefits. It can help improve mental health, ease addiction, as well as reduce mental and digestive stress. It can have a positive effect on high blood pressure AND–we love this one–women experieincing menopausal symptoms are finding releif from a little time on the cushion. 

There you have it, #podsquad, meditation can help you through this magnificent and magical transition!

“Life is already stressful enough but then add in the symptoms of menopause and holy sh*t, some days I just want to eat a tray full of special brownies, pull the covers over my head, and tell everyone to wake me up in five years when it’s over.” -Ace

Word. There are a number of medications that will address the hormonal inconveniences of this transformative transition. We’re not doctors so the conventional medicine conversation is better left to someone else. There’s a time and place for HRT to be sure, but we believe that time is after you’ve tried the TLC approach–Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes. 

The lack of hormones is problematic but is still not the cause of the condition. The body’s inability to remain in balance when the hormone levels  fluctuate and dissipate is the true cause and  that is corrected by dietary and lifestyle practices.” -Mary Thompson

So let’s take a look at three studies using meditation as one of the holistic TLC approaches to the symptoms of menopause and see what the research has to say. 

Menopause and meditation – the studies

When it comes to complaints regarding perimenopausal symptoms, hot flashes are certainly listed in the top five. They can be mild to moderate to incredibly severe and disrupting. And 80% of women will experience at least one in their journey to the Freedom Years. 

In 2007, a pilot study had a group of women who were experiencing hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms attend meditation classes two times per week for eight weeks and also practice daily at home. Meditatoin contributed to substantial improvements in all areas and changes in vasomotor symptoms–hot flashes–were especially reduced. It’s a small study, but one that needs to be recognized, as all symptoms across the board improved significantly.

Fast forward to 2016 and another study from the Mayo Clinic’s Women’s Health Clinic in Rochester, which followed 1700 women ages 40-65 for a year. This study found that women with higher mindfulness scores had fewer menopausal symptoms. However, higher mindfulness scores weren’t associated with lower hot flashes and night sweats. But on the other hand, the women with higher mindfulness scores presented with lower scores for irritability, depression, and anxiety. AND their perceived level of stress was dramatically reduced. 

A 2020 study suggests a potential relationship between meditation practice and the alleviation of menopausal symptoms as well as positive changes in HDL and glucose levels. 

While the studies specifically around menopause are limited, the research surrounding meditation and life in general is abundant. Meditation has been shown to reduce stress, control anxiety, enhance self-awareness, lengthen attention span, improve sleep, control pain, and may even reduce age-related memory loss. And how about this–it increases our compassion. As Jack Kornfield once said, “Compassion that does not include yourself is incomplete.” So go easy on yourself. 

Looking through the lens of TCM

Reducing stress is a common thread throughout the tapestry of remedies when it comes to reducing symptoms and sailing through menopause. Using the lens of TCM, Dr Claudia Welch, author of Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life, offers a good explanation.

In short, she explains that if we don’t have a lot of stress, we have plenty of the nourishing, cooling yin hormones (aka estrogen and progesterone) after menopause. However, by the time we reach this magical moment, most of us have drained our reserves of yin in service to the yang–those stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. What’s even more interesting is that now that our ovaries are clocking out earlier and producing smaller and smaller quantities of eggs, our adrenal glands are supposed to kick into production mode. But what if our adrenal glands are burnt out and crispy from three decades of pushing the pedal to the metal? They will be tapped out and tired and unable to deliver our postmenopausal requirements. 

So if anyone reading this hasn’t hit the perimenopause phase yet, read that paragraph again. You could benefit significantly from reducing as much stress as possible from your life right now in order to set yourself up for success later.

It’s time to go yin, y’all. Time to give yourself permission to pause, to block out time for meditation. This is a self-care setup for your future. Self-care isn’t all bubble baths and bonbons, it’s discipline, it’s consistency, it’s boundaries. Boundaries around your time, your energy, your hormones. 

How do I start meditating?

It’s easier than you think! Here are some guidelines to help you get rolling.
In a nutshell: set your time and space.

Time of day – pick a time of day and stick to it

Place – doesn’t have to be fancy, you can make any space sacred

Ritual – if you do the same things every time before you start your body will already start to relax and become ready for meditation. 

Sound daunting? Doesn’t have to be! Here are three ways to pass the time, try them each and see if one of them lands with you. 

  1. Empty Bowl Meditation – Follow along with this guided meditation for 15 minutes to find the pause, linger in the space between your breath, and open to Grace.
  2. So Hum Meditation – This is a classic practice that taps into the rhythmic pulse of all the things. Become aware of your breath. When you inhale, silently say to yourself “So,” and then “Hum” on the exhale. You’ll find yourself eventually syncing the words to the rhythm of your breath, “soooooooooooo – huuuuummmmmm.” Keep it up. Don’t rush it.
  3. Trataka – one of the best meditation practices for fall and winter, or anytime you need to uplift and clear your mind. You’ll need a candle and a comfy place to sit. 

Hope this gives you some inspiration to get on your cushion or simply sit your bum in a chair and set a timer for five minutes. There are many varieties of meditation, we’re sure you’ll soon experience the benefits if you stick with it. And that’s the key–consistency. Even five minutes every day is much preferable to sixty minutes once a week. 

Do you already have an established meditation practice? Drop a comment and let us know how it’s been for you.
New to the whole idea? Try one of the above for a week or two then swing back by and give us your thoughts!

Peace out Babes, let’s get our zen on.  

meditate or medicate

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