'Hypnotherapy helped ease my perimenopause symptoms'
- Credit: Salsabil Morrison
Kerry Dolan knows first-hand how powerful hypnotherapy can be.
Pregnant with her oldest daughter, and terrified of needles, she took a hypnobirthing course to help prepare her for labour.
“I wasn’t the kind of person who would be doing the natural birthing thing, but I was so afraid of needles I didn’t want an epidural,” she says.
Hypnobirthing equipped Kerry with knowledge about what was happening in her body during labour and practical ways to manage her stress and fear response, such as breathing and visualisation techniques.
“That was my first real experience of hypnotherapy,” she says.
“Pretty much as soon as I’d had my first child, I wanted to teach hypnobirthing because it had just made such a difference to me.”
When she was pregnant with her second baby, Kerry trained as a hypnobirthing practitioner herself and then, shortly after her third child was born, she started her full hypnotherapist training alongside her career as a teacher.
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Hypnotherapy can be an effective tool for treating conditions such as anxiety and low self-esteem or changing habits – giving up smoking, for example.
During a session, the person receiving treatment is put into a deeply relaxed state, in a safe space.
While they are in that relaxed state the hypnotherapist will make suggestions related to what they want to achieve.
Quite often we’re in this state as we go about our daily lives, such as doing the weekly food shop, where we can do one task while thinking about another.
Kerry, who practises in Norwich, specialises in women’s health, with fertility a particular area of interest.
And her experiences of perimenopause, the changes that occur in the years leading up to the menopause and the end of periods, led her to explore the ways in which hypnotherapy could help - to ‘tranceform’ it, as she describes it.
Everybody’s perimenopause and menopause will be different, with the fluctuation and reduction in reproductive hormones resulting in a wide range of physical and emotional symptoms, which may include anxiety, brain fog, tiredness, bloating, weight gain, aches and pains and hot flushes.
Menopause used to be euphemistically referred to as “the change” in hushed tones - despite it being something that half the population will experience at some point.
But now, thanks to the likes of TV presenters Davina McCall and Mariella Frostrup who have been open about their own experiences, it is being put front and centre of the health agenda, with issues such as shortages of HRT making headlines.
Kerry is also a neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) practitioner and life coach, which enables her to take a holistic approach.
“It's such an upheaval for women, because our hormones change. You’re transitioning into a different stage of life and to some degree our hormones are fundamental in developing our ‘drivers’, our moods, our personalities even,” says Kerry.
“There’s a huge shift that goes on. So, I think on one level, using things like visualisation and coaching techniques help women to explore what’s next. All the cultural messages we receive are about staying young and youth being preferable and that everything’s going to dry up and shrivel into non-existence.
“So, giving women space or the tools to explore who they want to become and what’s important to them and reframing it as an opportunity to step into something new can make a big difference.”
Perimenopause and menopause come at a time in a woman’s life when they are often performing the ultimate juggling act – they may be bringing up their own children while caring for their ageing parents, working and running a home simultaneously.
And at the same time, what Kerry calls their ‘window of tolerance’ is narrowing in many areas, both emotionally and physically.
“Emotionally, women become less tolerant of the rubbish that goes on in their families.
"Physically the brain is less tolerant of temperature change, so that’s what hot flushes are all about,” says Kerry.
Hot flushes are one of the symptoms many women dread, but as Kerry explains that there is a hypnotherapy technique which can help.
“Ironically hot flushes are to cool us because the brain freaks out if the temperature fluctuates," she says.
“There’s a technique in hypnotherapy called anchoring, which is a way of re-experiencing anything that you’ve ever experienced.
“The physiology of something is stored, so if you imagine, for example, eating something disgusting you’ll probably start to feel sick again.
“When you imagine something, you create a physiological response, so in the case of something like a hot flush, you can teach people to access feeling cool and calm, and you can then almost set what is like a short cut on somebody’s computer that can teach them to get there quickly rather than need to do a big, long hypnotherapy session."
And, says Kerry, the physiological changes can lead to heightened anxiety - something else which hypnotherapy can treat effectively.
“All the physiological changes that are going on trigger anxiety, so we tend to have heightened anxiety and you can use hypnotherapy as a way of learning to calm that and reset, because a lot of women around this age are losing their confidence because of that.”
Kerry feeds her own experiences of perimenopause into her workshops.
“Literally I am my own guinea pig. My personal experience is that everything that has come up for me so far, I’ve been able to manage either with mindset and rest and diet and exercise and, touching wood, I’m doing really well and have been able to eradicate any symptoms that I have, other than I definitely need a good extra hour of sleep a night.”
She says that perimenopause and menopause is the time when women should be putting themselves first - ensuring that they're adopting healthy self-care habits, such as eating well, exercising and reducing their stress levels.
“They’re putting themselves bottom of the pile and they’re suffering as a result, and when the menopause comes it’s the last straw and all the cracks start to show.
"So it’s really important for women to take care of themselves. I don’t mean slow down as in stop, I mean slow down as in take better care of themselves and reassess what they want.
“The hormones we have during our reproductive years are literally designed to domesticate us so we don’t leave our babies and ditch our families, so when they subside, actually it’s an opportunity for women to check in and say, okay, I’ve looked after everybody else, now it’s time to look after me.”
For more information, including details of Kerry’s online Tranceform Menopause workshops, see wombservice.co.uk