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Menopause and HRT Holistic-online.com

Alternative Medicine for Menopause

Mind Body Medicine
Relaxation – Reframing – Stress Management

Invoking relaxation response can reduce the intensity and duration of menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes as well as reduce the frequency of their occurrence. Several research projects have shown that women who practice a daily relaxation-response technique have fewer hot flashes. One of the reasons for the success of relaxation response might be because of its effect on stress. Stress is known to make hot flashes worse. In one study, twenty-one postmenopausal women who reported frequent hot flashes were closely monitored in the laboratory. The women experienced significantly more hot flashes during lab sessions when they were subjected to psychological stress than in a non-stress session.

Rest, relaxation, and a variety of leisure activities will help you keep active and mentally alert. You also need self-affirming thoughts to maintain your self confidence and prevent self-criticism. Never allow yourself to think that you are unattractive, lackluster, or out of touch. The strong interaction between your mind and your body means that you can make your menopause more difficult with negative thoughts. In other words, if you believe you're sick, you can start to behave like a sick person.

Here are some affirmations you can use to manage the negative effects of menopause. As you repeat them every day, you will gradually become convinced of their truth. Positive thoughts and attitudes will maintain your self-esteem.
bulletMy body is strong and healthy and can become healthier each day.
bulletI'm calm and relaxed.
bulletI work efficiently and competently
bulletMy female organs are in good shape.
bulletI'm learning to handle stress.
bulletI have the freedom and confidence to enjoy life.
bulletMy life belongs to me and it brings me pleasure.
bulletI devote time to myself each day.
bulletMy friends and family are more enjoyable than they have ever been.
bulletI'm going through menopause more easily and more comfortably with each passing day.

Alice Domar, coauthor of the book "Healing Mind, Healthy Woman," and Director of the women's health programs at Harvard Medical School's Division of Behavioral Medicine, collaborated on a study of controlled relaxation on hot flashes. Thirty-three women ranging in age from forty-four to sixty-six years were selected. All women had their periods stopped for a minimum of six months. They experienced at least five hot flashes daily.

The women were divided into three groups; two control groups and one who learned to elicit the relaxation response and did so daily for seven weeks using a twenty-minute prerecorded audiotape. The relaxation-response group reported a significant decrease in the intensity of hot flashes (28 percent), anxiety, tension, and depression, while the two control groups showed no significant changes. While the relaxation-response group also reported fewer hot flashes, the group size was so small that the change was not statistically significant. The researchers suggested that with a larger group of women, significant reduction in hot-flash incidence would have been observed. Three other research groups who followed this study reported that reductions in hot-flash frequency of 40, 60 or 70 percent was observed with simple forms of relaxation training including belly breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.

Joan Borysenko of Mind Body Clinic of Harvard Medical School and author of "A woman’s Book of Life" described vividly her experience with menopausal women at numerous clinics and weekend retreats. She says that women who had invoked relaxation response found that their symptoms of menopause had decreased as a result:

"Many women reported that headaches, anxiety, depression, mood swings, and hot flashes improved as a result of the program. Some women commented that hot flashes decreased in number and that they could also dramatically reduce the duration and intensity of hot flashes using belly (diaphragmatic) breathing. This simple technique involves taking one deep cleansing breath, like a sigh of relief, and then imagining that you can breathe directly into the belly. Feeling the belly expand with the inhalation and flatten with the exhalation, you can count ten on the first in-and-out breath, nine on the second, all the way down to one. This controlled breathing elicits the relaxation response and short cuts the fight-or- flight response. Heart rate and blood pressure decrease, the mind calms, and even hot flashes begin to dissipate."

Herbert Benson, M.D. of Harvard Medical School and author of "Wellness Book" described how relaxation response can be used to get relief from hot flashes and stress:

"Marjorie, fifty-two, was in her second year of menopause and had hot flashes every few hours, day and night. A teacher, she was frustrated because she had difficulty concentrating during a hot flash. In addition, she reported that she often had a hot flash when her class became unruly, which only compounded the problem. During the second session of the Menopause Program, Marjorie noted that although she started to have a hot flash during the relaxation-response exercise, it lasted only about 30 seconds, a fraction of the normal time.

Within several weeks, to Marjorie's delight, she was having hot flashes only a few times per day, and each one lasted less than two minutes. In addition, she was able to practice mini-relaxations whenever her class acted up and could actually prevent the onset of a hot flash."

Joan Borysenko suggested that women can cope with the adverse effects of menopause by reframing their thoughts. Treat hot flashes as a psychological and spiritual opportunity rather than a bothersome symptom. Research shows that this positive point of view should decrease the number and severity of hot flashes. Joan believed that women used hot flashes as a means of "burning out" their stresses and worries. When you have a hot flash think of what has been stressful for you lately. Are your exhausted from traveling, worried about work, or worried about your children? Say a little prayer of thanksgiving for all the good things in your life, and then offer the specific things that are stressing you to the inner spiritual fire of the hot flash in much the same way that people talk of giving up their troubles to God. Joan Borysenko believes that hot flashes represent a rising and rebalancing of the life-force energy that can help women burn off stress, rather than adding to it.

Americans generally view menopause like another "disease" that need to be coped with. This may be one of the reason there are more prevalence of menopausal side effects in western culture. Women in other cultures view menopause more positively. A study at the prestigious Karolinska Institute in Stockholm found that menopause was a time of increased self-esteem for many Swedish women, as it is in many indigenous cultures. In cultures that celebrate menopause, women suffer fewer "negative" symptoms reinforcing the suggestion that mind-body interventions can be used successfully to manage menopausal symptoms.

British psychologist Frances Reynold of Brunel University College tested the hypothesis that negative feelings might make hot flashes worse. She recruited fifty-six women, none of whom felt that they had any control over when or if a hot flash might occur, although some did recognize that they could control their feelings about them. Those women who were embarrassed by the hot flashes, or who had thoughts about being over the hill and unattractive, reported significantly more distress than women who took them in stride.

Two researchers at Guys Medical Hospital School in London decided to see if changing women's attitudes toward hot flashes might reduce their frequency or severity. They studied twenty-four women who had complained about menopausal symptoms to their physicians. They were divided into three groups. One group was given hormone replacement therapy. The second group was simply monitored. The third group was given psychological training on relaxation and stress management. Some women went into the training group right away and others were enrolled after a waiting period to control for the placebo effect. The women in the training group attended four one- hour classes over a six- to eight-week period in which they learned deep breathing and relaxation techniques, and a "cognitive component" that centered on becoming aware of and changing negative feelings about the symptoms. Women who were monitored or in the waiting period for the training did not improve. But those who took the four classes had 50 percent fewer hot flashes. Three months later over 90 percent of the women in the training group reported significant improvement and a quarter of them had no more hot flashes at all.

See Also: Stress Management

                Relaxation/Meditation

Next Topic: Nutritional therapy

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