Tips for unleashing female leadership qualities.
Originally posted in Psychology Today
All you hear about menopause is that we women must bear a bunch of negative symptoms while going through the inevitable decline of estrogen and progesterone. I do not deny that many suffer from dryness, hot flashes, irritability, insomnia, headaches, anxiety, and more. You can’t not know this when you read anything at all about the subject.
Menopause, like our period, can be an embarrassing subject, and almost everything about it seems to be a downer. I think differently about menopause, even though—please be sorry for me now—I had to give up tea and coffee. (Caffeine suddenly triggers migraine headaches in me.) Besides this obvious traumatic loss, there are great and wonderful things about menopause, especially after the body has adjusted to the hormonal drop. Yes, there is happiness on the horizon as we manage our symptoms and stop the brainwashing that has occurred across civilizations.
The average time for having symptoms of our transformation is three to four years.1 The toughest symptoms are most likely a lot shorter, especially when mitigated with these tricks:
- Exercise a lot more than usual; stretch every single day.
- Adopt a healthy diet that avoids refined sugar.
- Dress in layers and uplifting colors.
- Sleep eight hours in the nude (to cool down quickly during night sweats).
- Take generous naps and frequent periods of creative non-doing.
- Pamper yourself with lotions, vaginal creams, lubricants, and essential oils.
- Be extra kind to yourself when feelings are more intense.
- Have a hair clip and a fan handy (I have a fan that plugs in my cell phone).
- Take deep breaths during a hot flash.
- Consider renaming the hot flash a “heatwave” because the heat comes, stays, and goes like a wave.
- Let the wave come over you without resistance.
- Never worry about forgetfulness; laugh it off.
- Reframe all experiences as “interesting”—life never gets boring for a woman.
- Take herbs and herbal (iced) tea to alleviate discomfort.
- Share your experience with others; do not hide your menopausal symptoms while treating it as a natural phenomenon.
- Get advice from older women.
- Talk without shame about feelings of loss; avoid judgmental people who cannot relate.
- Seek medical assistance if needed.
- Express yourself artistically; everybody can do it.
- Read cool books about menopause.
- Meditate with candle lights and listen to affirmations for mastering menopause.
- Listen and sing along to music; dance.
- Let nature heal you; if you don’t have access to a park or body of water, surround yourself with plants and sounds of running water. (See Go Wild and Grow Happy.)
I am sure you can add more skills to master the transition period as you consult with others. Besides being mindful with all that’s happening in your mind and body, try thinking about menopausal symptoms not primarily as a loss of youth or fertility, but as a passage to something new and powerful. When a caterpillar retreats into a chrysalis, its transformation is neither easy nor quick. If the caterpillar society convinced all caterpillars that the chrysalis stage was a terrible phase of imprisonment and that the caterpillar shape was superior to all others, they would be forever blind to the beauty and freedom yet to come. This is what happened to Homo sapiens.
According to historians,2 with the onset of civilization, a portion of men were relieved of the duty to hunt and gather, freeing them to rise to political power. Gradually, the mere perception of female power had to be forgotten. It took violent subjugation to hide the obvious and, until then, widely celebrated power to create and nurse life.
But women’s power was never only about the womb; other abilities evolved simultaneously. These included self-awareness, cooperation, effective communication, and focused attention on details in proximity (men see better in the distance). In short, women are blessed with leadership qualities. Whether they have offspring or not, they bring to the table qualities that the group urgently needs for its survival.
There are only two other species that undergo menopause; the killer whale is one. While most males die in their 30s or 40s, female orcas live to be in their 80s. Because they stop reproducing, they are free to support and lead their groups, guiding members to all-important food sources. It is the grandmothers’ experience and wisdom that makes the difference between life and death in frigid waters. The Center for Whale Research that has discovered the matriarchs’ power explains why menopause provides the advantage:
“Our research has shown that it is a combination of the help that older females can provide the group and the costs of reproductive competition caused by reproducing at the same time as their daughters that drives the evolution of menopause in Southern Resident killer whales. These are the very same mechanisms that are hypothesized to drive the evolution of menopause in humans.”3
And indeed, having grandmothers pays high dividends in human evolution, as anthropologist Kristen Hawkes showed in a study.4 She worked alongside mathematical biologists who confirmed the “grandmother hypothesis” in a mathematical simulation with a hypothetical group of primates. Having grandmothers would inevitably lead to longer life spans. Human development is hardly imaginable without the beneficial traits of women who can and want to give back to the group.
Thank goodness, civilization has now also freed up the time of women. No inventions seem greater to me than running water and washing machines. We women can now use our wisdom and skills to lead humanity and make sure that progress does not come at the expense of destruction. Menopause marks the end of our personal fertility and the beginning of undistracted, devoted, and wise leadership, which Earth and earthlings so desperately need.
- Harvard Health Publishing, June 2009. Perimenopause: Rocky road to menopause: https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/perimenopause-rocky-road-to-menopause
- Craig G. Benjamin,The Big History of Civilizations. Audible Audiobook: The Great Courses.
- Center for Whale Research, https://www.whaleresearch.com/orcasurvey
- Peter S. Kim, James E. Coxworth, and Kristen Hawkens. Increased longevity evolves from grandmothering. Proceedings of the Royal Society B.24. October 2012. 279,4880–4884. Pdf:https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/pdf/10.1098/rspb.2012.1751
© 2019 Andrea F. Polard, Psy.D. All Rights Reserved