ACH Blog

Mid Life Transitions

Isobel Cosgrove - Tuesday, June 30, 2020

I am doing a Webinar, “40 years of Treating Menopause” this week, and I have been reflecting on all of the life transitions we go through.


So many school leavers have been unable to do a proper ending with friends, teachers and mentors this year. This is a big loss for each student, as acknowledging this ending facilitates the process of moving on into work or college. In a similar way, those who are graduating from University or college this Summer are doing so without the familiar rituals which have marked the end of higher education. There has been a loss of closure.


group of fresh graduates students throwing their academic hat in the air


After graduation, we begin to form our adult lives, both professional and personal, between the early 20’s and early 40’s. In Chinese Medicine it is understood that the period from 42 to 49 is a time when we can make some lifestyle changes. In the West we now call this time Peri Menopause. Chinese doctors have long understood that to transition through a healthy Menopause we can prepare by making sure that we start paying more attention to eating well in our 40’s. Instead of coming home late, and having a main meal at 9 in the evening, we can eat protein early in the day [as it takes 6 hours to fully digest protein] and have a lighter meal earlier in the evening.


cooked dish


To avoid menopausal symptoms such as night sweats and insomnia, daytime hot flushes and dryness, anxiety and low moods, we need to find a different rhythm to our working days, taking short breaks, drinking more water, avoiding intense exercise so that we can wind down slowly before bed. And perhaps most important, we must challenge and put aside the negative cultural messages we hear in the West, that maturity and reaching Mid Life is inevitably accompanied by physical decline. We are told that “ 50 is the new 30”, and encouraged to “stay young” by continuing to do intense exercise regimes in gyms, stay up late, drinking or clubbing or both, eat as we have always eaten: to ignore the changes in our hormones, and in our lives and bodies in general as we enter the Mid Life phase.


bird drinking water


These messages undermine the work we all have to do to make the transition from Peri Menopause into Menopause, and into the mature time in our lives. Moving from youth into maturity brings many opportunities and gifts. Transitioning from a predominantly Yang stage of life, which usually is career and action oriented, into a more Yin phase, offers us the chance to have a deeper relationship with ourselves, and then with others.

Life can move at a different pace, we can go through our days more gently, having more time for reflection, for creativity and for contact with those we love and care for. We can move into the next stage of our lives as Second adults, who support and nurture the growing alpha adults of the next generation.


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Transition Out Of Lockdown

Isobel Cosgrove - Wednesday, June 17, 2020
What can we all take out of this period of lockdown, which is valuable and relatively new for us in the next stage of our lives?

For myself I have been fortunate to have an extended family, husband, daughters and grand daughters, who have all, in their different ways, helped me to expand my online skills and the platforms I use. For example, since March, I have been working on Zoom with clients who want some time with me as a practitioner. Through acting as a practitioner online, I have been able to help patients in many different ways. I have also used twitter to widen the readership of my blogs and my digital presence. I hope I will take all these attributes forward into the next part of all of my life. To further the therapeutic connection, I will also be doing a webinar on Menopause later this month.


Flowers, Flower, Tulips, Menopause

Colleagues I know have designed new websites, and updated existing ones. They are also offering Tai Chi classes, yoga groups and meditation online. I have personally gained a great deal from spending some time each morning doing Qi Gong exercises, followed by a meditation before bed. Both have given me a sense of somatic awareness which I want to continue to develop as I get older. I need all the help I can get to take care of myself in the later years of my life. These professions have offered many different forms of support for health and wellbeing to people of all ages, which can be taken forward into the future.


The other highlight from lockdown is that I now know many more of my neighbours. We had a socially distant cello recital in early Spring, when we stood under umbrellas in the rain and heard part of Beethoven’s 9th. Later we had a gathering when we all brought drinks outside, still maintaining social distance, and exchanged greetings, news and names, while children rode around on bikes. Since then artists of all ages have given us wonderful foxes, fish, birds and uplifting messages as chalk drawings on the pavements. And more recently, Bramshill Forest, a big and very beautiful wall mural, has appeared, and is the collective expression of an enlivened community spirit in the street. Connections with neighbours are more alive and well now than I have found them in the last 10 years, and I very much hope they will continue.


  



So what will you take into late Summer and Autumn this year? How will your life be impacted after this time spent differently, increasingly at home? What opportunities have we been given to change how we live and work? And how can we continue to grow and develop our new skills, contacts, connections and perspectives? 

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All health is connected to nature

Isobel Cosgrove - Thursday, June 11, 2020

While doing ‘the sphere’, (one of my Qi Gong exercises) this morning, I had a moment of insight. When holding ‘the sphere’, we connect to nature around us, the wind in the trees, sunlight on leaves, a birdsong. We bring this energy from nature into our energy centre, or sphere. We hold this connection for a few minutes, while taking in the gift of nature. 


Bird, Kingfisher, Twigs, Bean Bird


When I was young, I spent weekends and holidays with my grandparents and relatives who farmed in Northumberland. I helped make hay, with lambing and milking cows. I learnt to love and simply connect with the natural world. During lockdown, many children have had time to connect, through sowing seeds, planting vegetables, and listening to bird songs. Chinese and East Asian medicine, which I have studied and practiced over 40 years, has enabled me to stay connected with nature, even while living in cities. A connection with nature is forged through the plants used in herbal medicine, bringing ancient wisdom into modern life. 


Chinese Medicine, Western Medicine


The 5 element teachings were brought from Taiwan and China to the UK in the 1960’s by J.R. Worsley. Those of us who were able to study with him in the 1970’s and 80’s learnt that our energy, and that of our patients, is closely linked to the energy of the seasons and the natural world. Spring is a time of growth and opportunity for change. Summer warms the heart, gives us the outdoors to play and rest. Late summer is the harvest time, while Autumn mists and shorter days ask us to quieten and re-connect with our inner lives. Winter is the end of the reproductive year. The energy of the trees, flowers and shrubs returns into the Earth, and we need to learn to slow, quieten and settle down in the Winter. 


Sky, Clouds, Landscape, Sunset, Beach

Here are some wonderful writings which can inspire you, and your children to have stronger connections with the natural world. In ‘Braiding Sweetgrass’, Robin Wall Kimmerer writes of indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and the teachings of plants. 16 year old Dara McAnulty has written the ‘Diary of a Young Naturalist’, in which he details a year in his home in Northern Ireland, spending the seasons writing. Finally, Patrick Barkham’s ‘Wild Child’ aims to inspire future generations by showing us how to help reconnect our children with nature.  


"Braiding Sweetgrass" by Robin Wall Kimmerer

  


"Diary of a Young Naturalist" by Dara McAnulty


"Wild Child" by Patrick Barkham 

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Chinese medicine and our connection with the Earth

Isobel Cosgrove - Monday, June 01, 2020

In previous blogs, I have written of how we have been able, through lockdown, to plant seeds, grow vegetables and fruit, and cook from simple raw ingredients in a way we could not in our previous working or school lives. 


Here are some further pieces of Chinese wisdom on how we can eat to promote better health and wellbeing:


Our bodies take in nourishment most effectively early in the day. Our stomachs have more digestive energy in the morning, before 11am. When we lived on the land, before the Industrial Revolution, our day began early. We milked the cows, checked animals out in the fields, fed those in barns, and then came in for a farmhouse breakfast. In the 21st Century, we are more likely to grab a coffee and pastry on the way to work. 


fruit sandwich on a blue ceramic plate

 

In 2020, since March, we have had more time to prepare and eat breakfast. Maybe we soaked porridge oats, or made a pancake mix, or we cooked bacon, eggs and beans. Either way, we are probably eating well. At lunch, we can sit down together for salad, soup, or leftovers. Or we may cook a steak on the barbeque. This is much better than snacking or buying fast food during a working day. 


Eating protein at breakfast, and/or lunch gives us much better, longer lasting and stable levels of energy during the day. Because this is when we are most active, daytime is when we need most energy. If we wait to eat protein in the evening, after work, our stomachs do not have the same ability to digest as they did in the morning. For example, if we eat a lot of protein at 8pm, it will take a further 6 hours to digest. This may well disturb our sleep, as supper at 7pm will only be digested by 1am. 


bowl of fried rice


Eating a light meal in the early evening will help us unwind, and won’t disturb our sleep. However, Chinese doctors do recommend that we meet up around the dinner table, in the evenings, to enjoy contact with family and/or friends (when not in lockdown). 


So do have supper, and catch up on everyone’s day, because it is nourishing for the heart to connect with those we love as the evening arrives. At the same time, although the heart needs warmth and contact late in the day, the stomach needs a rest, so have vegetables with rice, or baked potatoes with fillings, or samosas. 

Eat something light which digests quickly, so that you can wind down slowly and have a restorative night’s rest. 


These books may inspire you to try some new kinds of cooking: 


“Everyday & Sunday Recipes” by Guy Watson & Jane Baxter

Picture 1 of 2


“Abel & Cole Veg Box Companion” by Keith Abel


“Chinese Vegetarian Cookery” by Jack Santa Maria 

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