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7 Steps to improve Mental Fitness at Menopause

by | Jun 4, 2022 | Moving Through Menopause Podcast, Podcasts

Caring for your brain health may not be top of your list of priorities around menopause but brain fog, memory loss, low mood and anxiety are all features of peri-menopause and can persist into Menopause. There are oestrogen receptors in the brain there is no denying that and declining levels of oestrogen around menopause definitely can contribute to the neurological signs and symptoms we experience. But to what extent are our lifestyle choices contributing or compounding this phenomenon and what steps can we take to improve our mental fitness? Lifestyle is important and inactivity, stress, and our western diet can all have detrimental effects on our overall health and the brain is no exception?

Save a brain cell today

It is worth knowing that brain cells do not regenerate to the same extent as other body cells and so caring for our brain cells is an important consideration for a healthy and fulfilling older age. Strategies to nourish the brain can include wholesome nutrition, increasing levels of activity and taking care of the thoughts we think. Checkout this podcast to hear our suggestions for simple changes you can make from today.

 

Exercise: You can have too much of a good thing!

Exercise is my area of expertise, but did you know you can have too much of a good thing? Introducing more physical activity in midlife is as good a time as any; in fact you stand to gain the most! But did you know that the intensity at which we exercise matters? Ideally, we are aiming to achieve the “Goldilocks effect” when we choose the intensity at which we exercise. Under-do it and you get little benefit, too much and you deplete the bodies reserves.

The perceived exertion scale is a simple way to determine the intensity of exercise. Try the talk test, it’s a simple way to measure the intensity when we exercise. In general, if you’re doing moderate-intensity activity, you can talk but not sing during the activity.

Pilates and Yoga are perfect

Moderate exercise? Check! But the benefits don’t end there! Not convinced? Why not try this session to whet your appetite. I always leave a class feeling better than when I arrived on so many levels. Muscles taught mind soothed and ready to grapple with whatever the rest of my day has in store. (Well mostly, I am human after all!)

Try this class and let me know what you think!

 

You are what you eat.

Perimenopause is the perfect time to begin to make positive changes in diet but if you are dieting you might be making the mistake of cutting out the fats so necessary for brain function. So say yes to healthy fats; polyunsaturated fats are essential for optimal function. Polyunsaturated fats contain essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6. Our brains need these fats to function properly. A recent study has demonstrated that eating high quantities of omega-3 fatty acids may ease depressive symptoms associated with menopause. Avocados are a good source of Omega 3.

Coconut oil is also worth considering for cooking and baking since it is possible that Coconut oil can help to protect neurones (brain cells) by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress.

A Mediterranean Diet

Feed the Brain

Evidence points towards a Mediterranean type diet to boost the brain amongst other things. Fill your trolley with brightly coloured fruits and vegetables and pulses. These foods can also increase intake of Vitamin C that has a clear role to play in optimal brain function. Vitamin C ascorbic acid) is a well-known antioxidant that is involved in anxiety, stress, depression and fatigue. This study from 2015 provides evidence that vitamin C has a role in the prevention and reduction of anxiety. Vitamin C oxidises easily so it is important not to prep your fruits and vegetables too early prior to eating.

You need to consume Vitamin C

The body doesn’t synthesise Vitamin C as the sailors discovered. Most sources are in fruits and vegetables, but did you know that another great source of Vitamin C is Caviar! I prefer to get my nutrients from food, but supplements known to boost brain health include Vitamin C and the B vitamins. Women can find themselves lacking in the B Vitamins that can help to calm the nervous system, if in doubt a supplement might be in order. Supplementing Omega 3 may also be of benefit but be aware of good quality sources that will reduce the risk of exposure to chemical contamination and toxins.

Food Sensitivities.

Food as medicine is not a new concept and It can be a real challenge to pick your way through the mountains of material that are out there to find a plan that works for you. I came across the book Eat right for your blood type by Dr Peter J D’Adamo and if you are looking for a plan to try, eating in accordance with your blood type may be a starting point to guide you to discover the foods that ‘agree’ with you.

Whatever else you forget today Don’t forget to drink!

The brain is 80% water and so hydration is key for optimal brain function and menopause can make maintaining hydration challenging. Regular sips of clear fluids at room temperature is the ideal way to keep up fluid levels. Caffeine and alcohol and salt dehydrate us and if you get to the point of being thirsty you are becoming dehydrated.

The thoughts we think

Everything that we think, our body feels! Rehashing stressful situations, focussing on our worries and anxieties can all cause our body to feel what we think every time we think it. Focussing on symptoms of menopause will reinforce how those symptoms affect us whereas positive affirmations can help turn the tide and prevent negative thought spirals.

Try This!

Brain Health

Imagine focussing in on your hands becoming warm, generating heat in your hands as if you were holding them in front of a fire or under the hot tap, now think of having a hot flush. Getting warmer? If we are anticipating having a hot flush, there is a very real chance that we will in fact generate that feeling in the body.

Hypnosis can be used to create a calming and even a cooling effect in the body, everything we think about we can generate and so we could think thoughts that can decrease our symptoms. The more vivid a picture you paint in your mind and the deeper we dive into that experience, the more likely we are to experience the desired effect.

There is a great deal of conversation going on now about how Trauma held inside the body has the capacity to contribute to physical illness. Counsellor Tamar Chalice recommends that processing trauma can yield health benefits. The body keeps the score is written by one of the world’s experts on traumatic stress and offers a new paradigm for treatment, moving away from standard talking and drug therapies and towards an alternative approach that heals mind, brain and body.

Essential Oils

Essential OIls

The scents from essential oils can instantaneously help us to regroup, make our way back to the body and be present.

  • Peppermint oil is cooling and grounding, it can help to calm us when we feel anxious and perk us up mentally; great if we have something we need to remember. Rosemary or eucalyptus can be substituted if you are not keen on the aroma of peppermint.
  • Frankincense is a wonderful oil and a small enough molecule to cross the blood brain barrier.

Why not try putting a blend with Frankincense, peppermint and rosemary in a diffuser in the room where you work to boost your brainpower.
The wood oils like Cedar can be grounding and Geranium oil is a balancer of hormones.

Decrease your exposure to endocrine disrupters

We might be unaware of the harmful effects of environmental exposure to endocrine disrupters around the home. But small changes can really add up! Moving away from use of plastic can only be a good thing. Ensure food containers are BPA free and never heat food in plastic! Also consider removing air fresheners that contain formaldehyde. My go to home aroma comes from the Doterra essential oils that I love. It might also be worth minimising your exposure to pollutants from foods that have been sprayed with fertilisers or genetically modified. Opt instead for organic fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy. Also choose grass fed meats, wild caught fish where budgets will allow.

7 Steps to better brain function

  1. Moderate exercise such as Pilates and Yoga is a step in the right direction. Try this beginner session.
  2. Soothe the brain with healthy fats in meals or snacks with these brain boosting recipes.
  3. Curate your thoughts with some positive affirmations.
  4. Transport yourself to a place of deep relaxation for a few minutes every day to reduce your stress and cortisol levels.
  5. Experiment with a blend of essential oils in a diffuser.
  6. Dry skin brushing stimulates the circulation and removal of toxins.
  7. Why not turn the shower to cold at the end of your shower? Cold water immersion has been demonstrated to challenge the nervous system and shown to help manage mood disturbances.

Find a few minutes minutes every day to boost your brain with movement, food and the thoughts you think.

Follow us on Facebook and join our Moving through Menopause Facebook group.

Join me, Phillipa to try your hand at Pilates or Yoga and move more to think and feel better. Use the code FIRSTFREE at checkout to sample a class.

Thanks to my contributors
Phillipa Butler: Chartered Physiotherapist, Certified Pilates Teacher, Yoga and Meditation Teacher
Tamar Challis: Person centred counsellor, coach and mediator specialising in women’s mental health as they move through life transitions such as menopause, divorce, retirement.
Claire Ottewell: Aromatherapist and Medical Astrologer
Jacquie Whur Clinical Hypnotherapist
June Tranmer Acupuncturist and Kinesiologist

Biomechanics-Lower-Body-Myofascia-Diploma-Course-Phillipa-Butler-2
Pilates for Menopause for Massage Therapists and Manual Therapists  - NAT Diploma Course with Precizion 10 CEUs

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Join Precizion for regular online Pilates and Yoga classes.  All led by Phillipa Butler, a Chartered Physiotherapist, Clinical Pilates and Women’s Health Expert. One-on-one consultations also available.

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