Women's Health in the 21st Century
The way we are living our lives has changed dramatically over the last century, particularly for many females. According to the Office of National Statistics more women are now working than ever before, and many will have to work well into their 60’s. Alongside work, women frequently hold responsibility for running the home, family life, budgeting etc. It is therefore little surprise that women often have times when pressures may feel excessive – throw all of that in with our changing hormone levels associated with peri-menopause and menopause and no wonder that this is a time when we could all do with a little extra help.
The Mental Health Organisation Health Statistics report that women in the UK are more likely to have an anxiety disorder and this is most common between the ages of 45 to 54 – but why? And what can we do to protest our own emotional health?
This is a time when many things can be happening in women’s lives; there may be children leaving home, worry about getting work and also dealing with the peri-menopause and menopause. Hormones are essential for women’s health and changing levels can affect us both physically and emotionally. As we approach the menopause, our oestrogen levels drop; oestrogen has many functions, including a direct impact on the stress hormone Cortisol. As oestrogen levels drop, Cortisol levels can rise which means that Adrenalin (our primary stress hormone) can easily be triggered in the body leaving us feeling anxious and stressed. On top of dealing with our changing hormones we also have to tackle the bad press that Western society tends to place on the menopause where our youth-obsessed cultures emphasise "loss" of fertility, rather than transition and the gain of wisdom and freedom. The medical or "disease" model of menopause seems to be dominant.
It is surely now time to challenge this attitude; the menopause is not an illness, but is rather a natural gradual process whereby a woman’s body moves out of childbearing years and aims to head into a liberated and more relaxed phase of life. Maud Mead (anthropologist) describes her own positive experience of giving up PMS for PMZ (post- menopausal zest).
However, we cannot ignore the fact that women can experience some common physical and emotional symptoms associated with peri-menopause and the menopause, but women should be able to feel empowered to look for support to help them deal with symptoms they experience and not feel they are ‘ill’ or are less valued in society.
How could Reflexology help?
Reflexology is a complementary therapy that is based on the theory that different points and areas on the feet, lower leg, hands, face and ears correspond with different areas of the body. Reflexologists believe that working these points or areas aids relaxation and helps improve wellbeing. Reflexology may also help improve mood, release tension and aid sleep; helping us to cope better and easing the stresses during this transitional time.
Three common symptoms that women can experience in peri-menopause and menopause are hot flushes, poor sleep and anxiety. A study has been completed in Iran, looking at the effect of Reflexology on menopausal women and showed a reduction in hot flushes and an improvement in sleep. Reflexology has also been shown to significantly reduce anxiety state associated with ‘an increased feeling of ease and a reduction in anxiety.
Reflexology acknowledges that every person is a unique individual, the only way to know if reflexology will help you is to try it!