October is World Menopause Month. Menopause is a topic that is finally receiving wide-scale debate and awareness, thanks in part to female ‘celebrities’ in the public eye experiencing the significant changes that can come at this time in a woman’s life.
Menopause hasn’t previously received much airtime and campaigners claim that the medical profession is not equipped to support women adequately.
During menopause women can experience life changing side effects. More widely acknowledged are the physical side effects such as intense hot flushes, heart palpitations, headaches and the changes to a woman’s menstrual cycle. Lesser known effects caused by the drop in oestrogen can impact a woman’s mental health, such as depression and loss of memory, low mood and heightened anxiety.
Thanks to social media we are engaged with and watching more and more women turn to cold water swimming to tackle the damaging side effects that menopause has had on their mental health. Advocates for cold water swimming to benefit their mental health include presenter Jo Wiley, journalist and author Bryony Gordon, presenter Louise Minchin, author and socialite Davinia Taylor and presenter Susannah Constantine.
There are still no definitive studies on how or why cold water swimming aids mental health but there is a significant amount of anecdotal evidence which has led to widely held beliefs. Many agree that the shock of the cold water releases the body’s stress hormones, the liberation felt from putting yourself into such a vulnerable position and managing it delivers euphoric feelings and the mindfulness it demands, as you immerse yourself into the cold water and your brain is forced to focus wholly on the here and now. Not to mention the sociable aspect of open water swimming – the nature of it necessitates it being a group activity.
Helena Bailey, specialises in coaching women at Phoenix Coaching. She kindly contributed to this blog with her insight: “I work with woman in midlife who are often feeling restless, dissatisfied and are searching for more. Midlife and all that it brings can act as a catalyst for change but often women are held back by long held beliefs about not being good enough or putting the needs of others before their own dreams and desires. Sometimes taking up new challenges or new activities which push us out of our comfort zones can have a far reaching effect and helps shift energy and mindset in other areas. I have seen clients benefit hugely from cold water swimming - tapping into that knowledge that you can overcome fears, find that inner grit and build on that sense of achievement. Coaching is all about helping clients to be the very best versions of themselves, cold water swimming and similar activities that strengthen will, resolve and smash through limiting beliefs are very helpful in this.”
We all still have so much to learn about the effect of Menopause on the female condition, but we are thrilled that more and more women are discovering the virtues of cold water swimming to relieve some of the symptoms.
Helena Bailey is a fully qualified UK life coach who specialises in coaching women, empowering them to successfully navigate midlife and everything it throws at women such as menopause. In 2013 Helena qualified as a UK based Co-Active Coach (CPCC) after studying with the Coaches Training Institute, recognised by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), as the most rigorous coach training and certification programme in the industry. Since then, she has also gained ICF accreditation as a UK based Professional Certified Coach (PCC). www.phoenixcoaching.me.uk