You have likely heard about the practice of mindfulness. Whether it’s in yoga class, on the news or in casual conversation, "be mindful” is a buzz phrase and health tip. While the practice of mindfulness is a growing trend, the origin of mindfulness practice dates back hundreds of years and is rooted in Hinduism and Buddhism. More recently, mindfulness has evolved into a secular practice (for some) and migrated into the Western world.  "Being mindful” may sound intimidating if the concept is new to you. But mindfulness can be an approachable and highly effective tool in reducing stress and anxiety, which are two very common symptoms experienced in menopause.  

What does it mean to be mindful?

Mindfulness is all about slowing down and making observations about yourself and the things around you. Mindfulness is about being present, here and now. It can greatly optimize mental and emotional wellbeing by being aware of your own internal state and surroundings.  When we allow ourselves to be more present, we create space to observe our thoughts without judgement, bring forth curiosity, and be more intentional about our actions and behaviors.  

Mindfulness is the opposite of operating on autopilot, or being driven by anxiety and heightened emotions.

How mindfulness can be helpful during perimenopause and menopause

Gennev doctors and dietitians often hear from patients how they don’t feel like themselves anymore, or they feel like they are disconnected from their body in menopause. Mindfulness teaches us to be connected to our own bodies once again. When we are mindful, we listen to ourselves and the signals our bodies send us. Menopause can be a season in life where stress and anxiety are amplified, and the busyness of the daily routine can distract us from these signals. By tuning in to our body’s signals, we may notice a need for rest, hydration, movement, seeking food for nourishment, creating boundaries and even saying “no” more often.  

"Mindfulness allows us to build awareness and know when our minds and bodies have reached capacity. We all have limits that need to be honored." - Monika Jacobson, RDN at Gennev

Another way to look at mindfulness is through a neuroscience lens. When a stressful event leaves us feeling anxious, or perhaps you naturally have a nervous or worried demeanor, our sympathetic nervous system is activated. This “fight or flight” response causes a release of hormones into the body and the accompanying stress can often manifest into physical symptoms. These symptoms may include a racing heart, increased sweating or hot flashes, heightened pain sensations, digestive issues, and difficulty sleeping due to ruminating or racing thoughts (all these are common menopause symptoms too). By practicing mindfulness, we can retrain the brain to find homeostasis, recover, and ultimately spend less time in “fight or flight.”

How to start practicing mindfulness in your daily life

Here are five practical ways to start practicing mindfulness in your daily life. Remember, it will take some time for the practice of being mindful to become second nature. Be curious and compassionate with yourself, as both are key components of mindfulness.

  1. Take time to pause (and breathe) between tasks and daily activities. It’s easy to move from one thing to the next without allowing space to tune into your own needs. Many of us breathe very shallowly throughout the day, especially when feeling stressed or hyper focused. Close your eyes and try 1 minute of slow, deep breathing in through your nose and out your mouth. This exercise can be very grounding and effective at bringing us back from “fight or flight.”  
  2. Try a mindfulness meditation. The idea of meditation may sound intimidating but mindfulness meditation is simply about observing the world with your senses without using any judgement and meeting yourself with curiosity. A mindfulness mediation may be as short as 1 minute or as long as one hour-you get to decide what serves you best in that moment. An approachable way to try this is through a free mediation app (like this one).
  3. Try a body scan. The goal isn’t for relaxation but rather to train the mind to become more open and aware and accepting of the body’s senses. This can be accomplished on your own or through a guided meditation like this where you lie on the floor or sit in a chair and scan your body from head to toe. You may notice the way you carry your body or a certain area of the body that feels tense, tired or filled with pain.  
  4. Experiment with mindful eating. This can support your body’s natural weight and allow you to nourish yourself with what you really need from your food-both physically and emotionally. Practice slowing down, limiting mealtime distractions and tuning into all your senses with that food (smell, touch, taste, see, hear). Sometimes we may grab a certain food because it’s there (opportunity strikes) or when we are feeling stressed, but when practicing mindfulness, we can get curious with ourselves. For example, “am I actually hungry, or am I seeking comfort right now?”
  5. Try a moving meditation. Physical activity helps to complete the body’s natural stress response. That’s why sitting in front of a computer screen when highly stressed usually doesn’t help but taking a 15-minute walk will calm you down. Yoga, tai chi and really any movement outside in nature can be meditative and part of a mindfulness practice.  

If you need support in taking the steps to manage the many symptoms of menopause, you are not alone. Together with LifeStance Health, one of the nation's largest providers of virtual and in-person outpatient mental healthcare, Gennev offers access to menopause-trained OB/GYNs, psychiatrists, psychologists, licensed therapists, and dietitians who provide guidance, prescription support, and lifestyle therapies for your mind and body through this important stage of life.  Learn more about how Gennev patients receive integrated care that addresses both the physical and mental health symptoms associated with menopause.

The information on the Gennev site is never meant to replace the care of a qualified medical professional.  Hormonal shifts throughout menopause can prompt a lot of changes in your body, and simply assuming something is “just menopause” can leave you vulnerable to other possible causes. Always consult with your physician or schedule an appointment with one of Gennev's telemedicine doctors before beginning any new treatment or therapy.


Monika Jacobson

May 17, 2023

Medically Reviewed By

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