In online perimenopausal communities, two major camps or philosophies quickly emerge: women who are pro-pharma for the treatment of their symptoms and women who are on the naturopathic path. These two schools of thought each have their own merits, and many women, over time, end up combining modalities once they discover the mix that works best for them.
But what about meditation? It’s often seen as a hocus-pocus, “woo-sah” hobby some people dismiss and make fun of. But when perimenopause strikes, even the most anti-holistic medicine women find themselves turning to it.
In the drive to delay prescribed medical interventions or to incorporate a holistic regimen as part of their perimenopausal game plan, some women meditate to restore a sense of calm to the process. There different types of meditation, such as transcendental meditation, concentrative meditation, mindfulness meditation or progressive relaxation. But meditation is generally defined as “a practice where an individual uses a technique, such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought or activity, to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.”
If the real world and social media are any indication of how perimenopausal women are using meditation, then it appears to be a tactic broadly adopted or, at least, tried. Women seem to use meditation for a number of reasons, many related to mood, as they try to calm anxiety or ease depression. Others test it as a way to relieve physical symptoms, like hot flashes, chills and heart palpitations. And, finally, some women use it as a new lifestyle practice to gain perspective, maintain optimism and boost emotional stability.
But, the real question may be, does it work? Does meditation help? Is it really doing anything?
Axing the Anxious State
It turns out that when it comes to feelings of panic or doom, meditation is a solid tool. According to the University of Washington’s School of Medicine, meditation calms the sympathetic nervous system. This is key because the sympathetic nervous system, when revved up, lends to sensations of fight or flight. They say, “[t]hrough meditation, you are essentially deactivating your sympathetic nervous system and turning on the parasympathetic branch. Initial studies have found that over time this practice can help reduce pain, depression, stress and anxiety.”
This is important, as panic attacks can show up for the first time during perimenopause, when fluctuating hormones take women on a rollercoaster ride. Symptoms of panic attacks include nausea or abdominal distress, chills, hot flushes, rapid heart rate, dizziness, sweating, shortness of breath, chest pain, trembling, sense of losing control, de-realization and a few more (as if these weren’t enough!).
In one study, 56 percent of women surveyed had never experienced panic symptoms prior to perimenopause, and one-third of study participants’ panic disorder symptoms went undiagnosed and untreated.
More than Meets the Mind
Meditation, even short-term stints at it, can have measurable benefits on health. One study from 2009 reported that just five days of meditation at 20 minutes per session improved “physiological reactions in heart rate, respiratory amplitude and skin conductance response.” Brain imaging even showed changes related to emotional regulation.
Additional studies have found that meditation has many other add-on benefits, including delaying brain aging, reducing ruminating thoughts, improving concentration and attention, and even assisting in recovery from substance abuse. Moreover, meditation has been associated with reduced blood pressure, decreased pain and strengthened immune system function.
Worth a Try?
Many of the benefits that meditation allegedly and empirically improves are the very same symptoms women need relief from during perimenopause. Less anxiety? Check. Better focused thinking? Absolutely. Reduced stress and lowered blood pressure? For sure. A regained sense of personal control? Yes.
The problem with meditation, however, may be that it requires a commitment. Sure, some people will feel a difference after just one session. But in order to sustain it, meditation must become a practice – that is, a habit or a routine aspect of daily living. Most sources suggest aiming for 20-30 minutes of meditation a day. Since it can be challenging for women to find that bit of undisrupted time, some suggested time frames to do it are:
How to Find Meditations?
Just as there are many types of yoga (yin, ashtanga, vinyasa, kundalini, and so forth), there are various styles of meditation. Generally two main themes emerge: guided meditation and unguided meditation. In a guided meditation, a speaker sets the tone and verbally walks you through imagery, ideas and themes to reflect and focus on. It may or may not be accompanied by music or nature sounds. In an unguided meditation, there is no one speaking, simply silence or perhaps some accompanying music or sounds to inspire and soothe you.
There are also various types of meditation, often by purpose or topic. Meditations are available on specific themes, like Christianity, relationships, finances, stress and more. And the great thing is, meditation can be obtained for free. A quick YouTube search will unearth more meditations than you’ll ever have time for.
While HeadSpace and Calm are meditation apps popularly used, they come at a cost. Free trials or restricted free access may be available, but the unpaid experience is rather limiting.
Meditations for Menopause
Would you believe it? Yes, there are actually meditations for menopause that some thoughtful creators have put together and made widely available. This isn’t a time to get too wrapped up in particulars though – these meditations are great for perimenopause, too.
Female Hormone Balancer Relaxation Meditation
Guided Meditation for Relieving Menopause Symptoms
Hormone Rebalance Hypnosis
Magical Menopause Full Hypnotherapy Session with Binaural Beats Frequencies
Women of Wisdom Menopause Guided Sleep Meditation
The Real Peri Meno is devoted to all things perimenopause - the science, treatments, care, understanding, personal experiences, relationships, culture and more. The brain child of Keisha D. Edwards, The Real Peri Meno developed out of her own shock-and-awe experience with perimenopause and navigating the disjointed U.S. medical system in search of answers, support and relief.
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