"I must be a mermaid, I have no fear of depths, and a great fear of shallow living." Anais Nin
I love this poem, it resonates in so many ways. First because, I am pretty sure I am a mermaid, I love the water and as I step out of bed some mornings my feet feel like the ground I stand on is the enemy. I am pretty sure I am a mermaid, certainly a menopausal one as I am growing increasingly expansive like the sea and fear growing small, as would be the want of menopause.
If you're here, I am pretty sure you will have seen other offerings from me, be that on instagram sharing alternative and natural soloutions to deal with menopause symptoms. Maybe you've been to a yoga class with me exploring our feminine connection to the element of water. Maybe you've joined me on retreat, only last weekend I had the pleasure of swimming with a group of mermaids who expressed how they had found and benefitted from being in the water, particularly cold water, since experiencing symptoms of perimenopause.
Here are some of the things I heard...... "I've been anxious during menopause, the water calms me" ..... "My mind has been working overtime, the water stills me" ..... "When I am in the water, the fogginess lifts" ..... "You never regret a swim" ~ I totally agree with that one! So what are the benefits? I read an article earlier this week written by a busy 40 something who, trying to cut down on alcohol needed to find a way to unwind, relax (sound familiar). So she booked onto a yoga, sea and meditation retreat and in her research she spoke to Dr Catherine Kelly, a senior lecturer at the University of Brighton who sits on the Blue Space Forum and author of 'Blue Spaces: How and why water can make you feel better', here's what she said. "When we see water, our breath slows, our shoulders drop, our adrenaline and cortisol levels are decreased - it's a therapeutic landscape, allowing us to come back into our senses and our bodies".
So what of cold water then, is there a distinction? If you watched the recent BBC programme Freeze the Fear with Wim Hof you would perhaps agree that yes, there is. Why does the temperature of the water change our experience and what are the benefits during menopause?
cold water is the perfect antidote to hot flushes, the impact of the cold water boosts circluation by pumping blood through the arteries, capillaries and veins. A hot flush, a so called vasomotor symptom is a product of arteries not dilating as they should, causing a temperature misfunction.
cold water stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which can bring about a feeling of calm and contentment which in turn can aid a good nights sleep
cold water immersion helps to increase alertness and clarity easing brain fog
cold water releases a rush of endorphins which will increase the feel-good factor
if you experience joint pain and stiffness as a symptom of decreasing estrogen, swimming will have you suspended in water and cold water will reduce inflammation in your joints
at times menopause can make you feel like you're invisible, barely there, go jump in some cold water, you'll feel more alive, existential than ever before
Not only does cold water offer these benefits and more, finding a wild swimming group be that in the sea, river or lake can bring you into contact with like minded people, increase your friendship group and lead to shared experiences. The cold water is a great leveller, all in the same boat together (or, I guess out of it) you'll make new friends very quickly. Navigating menopause can be so hard for so many, our lives change, our relationships change, our bodies change, the way we feel about the world can change. I remember saying to my husband a few years ago "I feel like I have lost a part of myself". Well, I feel that no more, I have never felt more alive, in my body and in control.
If you're minded to try taking a cold water dip, now is the time to start. The sun is at last beginning to warm the water, but it won't be at it's warmest until September/October time. So start taking short dips now, build up the time you spend in the water, then as things start to cool around December time, you'll naturally cool and adjust with it. A good way to start is to take a cold shower. Do this at the end of your shower, turn the tap to cold and breathe steady and slow for 10 seconds, then gradually increase. What do you think? Are you minded to give it a try? Or do you think I'm crazy? I'll leave you with another poem - let me know if you do decide to dip.
Salted - Those who dip in the sea to start the day are not nuts. They just feel more ready, salted - Pippa Best