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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.