We’ve got a 26-page special menopause section in the August issue of Top Sante, which is on sale now. In it, you’ll find all the latest health, fitness and nutrition info you need including special menopause retreats. The ones in the mag are different to the ones here, so to find out about those too, check out the August issue
“We want women to feel positive at menopause”
Jo Behari, 40, a writer in the property sector, from East London, experienced early menopause at 37. She’s the inspiration behind a new &Breathe Menopause Retreat this autumn.
‘I had my second child at 36 and immediately went back on the pill. But when I experienced spotting and weird bleeding I stopped taking it. Within a couple of weeks I started having hot flushes, night sweats, extreme mood swings and feelings of intense rage that I couldn’t control, all of which I knew were classic symptoms of menopause. It felt like I was losing my mind at times.
I already knew I was a carrier of a genetic mutation called Fragile X Syndrome, one of the symptoms of which is early menopause. So, I went to my GP and blood tests confirmed my suspicions. The GP prescribed HRT and within two weeks the night sweats and hot flushes stopped and my emotions improved.
But during the whole experience I felt so alone. Friends were supportive but none of them had gone through it so I felt isolated.
One of my friends, Clio, had set up post-natal wellbeing breaks called &Breathe, and hearing my story inspired her to add a menopause retreat to the programme, the first of which takes place this September. The aim really is to create a relaxed, comfortable, supportive environment where women experiencing menopausal symptoms can talk openly, share stories and basically not feel alone.
Guests will be able to do three exercise classes a day, and there will be experts on hand to offer support about diet, nutrition and wellbeing, too, all tailored to how your body changes during menopause. For example, strength training is good for menopausal women because it helps to support the bones.
I’m hopeful this will be the first of many menopause retreats and that in talking about the subject we are breaking the taboo that surrounds it and helping women embrace this stage of their lives. Both Clio and I are keen to help other women feel positive about the future.’
Retreat name: &Breathe Menopause Retreat
When: Sep 28 to Oct 5, 2019.
Where: Manoir La Croix de La Jugie in South West France
Cost: From £1,000 per person shared, to £2,500 for a superking en-suite.
More info: andbreathepostnatal.com/menopause
“I’ve now got enough energy for two jobs!”
Sandra Chapman, 52, a life coach from Bedfordshire, didn’t realise she had entered perimenopause a year ago. She attended the Love Your Menopause day retreat in 2018.
‘Even though I was 51 I didn’t realise I was in perimenopause. It sounds ridiculous too as I’m a life coach and am savvy about my health and body. But because I’d never experienced it with anyone in my family, I didn’t know the signs to look out for.
It was only in April last year, I was talking to my acupuncturist about how depressed I had been and about the fact that I thought I was going mad, that she mentioned menopause. Suddenly it all clicked and I realised she was right. My mood swings were so bad and unpredictable that I didn’t want to burden my two children with them so I went to my GP, who prescribed anti-depressants.
At about the same time I heard about the Love Your Menopause Day Retreat. When I went along I was still in a dark place. Despite the fact I wasn’t myself at all and was lacking the energy I usually had, Kate and Leora who run the retreat, put me at ease.
The day was very much focussed around the emotional side of menopause, with an exploration into how to embody the process we women go through.
We learnt about the “seasons of life” – a circle divided up into four segments representing spring (when you first start your period), Summer (when you give birth to new things whether that be babies or businesses), autumn (which represents perimenopause), and winter (last stages of Menopause).
Understanding these phases helped me realise that it was OK to go back and forward between the seasons, because we are not linear beings, and that my periods were still coming but were getting less and less frequent, so I had no idea how much longer my autumn would last.
The best part was realising you get to go around the circle again! So once you’ve had your winter (menopause) this often triggers a second spring! This gave me hope and the realisation that there was something to look forward to.
Even though only a day long, this mini-retreat took me on such an amazing journey of understanding and recognition. It allowed me to see there are other things I want to explore. I felt hopeful and realised what I was going through was also very normal.
Not long after the retreat I started a new job as a teaching assistant, alongside running my existing business. Previously, I would never have imagined I’d have had the energy for both of these things but now I feel great!’
Retreat name: Love Your Menopause
When: Nov 3, 2019 (10am-5pm)
Where: Harlow Study Centre, Essex.
More info: woman-kind.co.uk
“I was empowered on this one-day retreat!”
Helen McGoun, 48, an IT worker from Nottinghamshire, started experiencing menopausal symptoms in her 40s. She attended the Approaching Menopause Retreat in 2018.
‘The first signs I was starting menopause came in my mid-40s and began with lots of little things that were easy to put down to something else: pins and needles in my arms and legs, being unable to sleep at night, and feeling exhausted.
Blood tests came back clear at that point so I just put it down to always having been iron deficient and leading a busy life as a mother and with a demanding job in IT.
But as symptoms continued and I started experiencing anxiety and brain fog – one minute I could be having a conversation, the next I completely lost my train of thought – I realised it was definitely perimenopause. I carried on having regular periods but they were extremely heavy.
A friend of mine, also a GP, said I was displaying the typical symptoms. Rather than going on HRT I wanted to try and manage it myself, which is why going on a menopause retreat appealed so much. I couldn’t justify going away for a week, so a one-day retreat was perfect.
Upon arrival, Katrina, a women’s health change coach, introduced to us the concept of self-care, and the day started with a discussion of menopause symptoms. It was amazing to realise that all of us were sharing the same experiences. We learnt about what happens to hormones and how the body compensates, which has a knock-on effect that can cause anxiety, sleep disturbances, weight gain, fatigue and hot flushes. It was interesting to learn about the things that can exacerbate symptoms, too.
We had an aromatherapy session, did tai chi, and had a talk from an expert about how the menopause affects our bodies in an intimate way – no questions were off-limits!
Learning about our biology was enlightening and empowering, especially as this time when a lot of us don’t feel in control. It showed we could do something proactive to alleviate symptoms, for example, using essential oils to manage moods and also physical symptoms, and use mindfulness to help with anxiety. We also learnt how diet and exercise can help reduce symptoms.
The retreat made me see that menopause is not a taboo subject. I felt empowered to talk about it not only among friends but also back at work and among male colleagues.’