Are you worried about what is in store for you if you're approaching perimenopause or if you're in the middle of it. Today's guest, Clarissa Kristjanssen, is a menopause health coach, a neuroscientist and mindfulness practitioner who suffered with severe anxiety during her own perimenopause, and who found her way through it to become a leader of women who are going through the transition of midlife. If you would like to be supported through your menopause journey, pay attention to this episode!
Clarissa Kristjansson helps other women to live well through menopause by being more connected to their bodies, empowering them to self-regulate and advocate for their health and to cultivate a mindset that sees menopause as an opportunity into the next stage of life. She is the host of the Thriving Thru Menopause podcast and author of The Mindful Menopause
• [2:51] Clarissa talks about suffering from her own menopausal anxiety…
• [8:33] Clarissa shares with us her own vicious cycle of weight gain, fatigue and not sleeping…
• [10:20] “What worked for me, I think one was definitely exercise… exercise helps us to manage stress.”
• [18:38] Clarissa gives some great tips to build a strong base and the ability to be resilient through perimenopause…
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Christine Li 0:00
Welcome back to the Make Time for Success podcast. This is episode 62. Are you worried about what is in store for you if you're approaching perimenopause or if you're in the middle of it. Today's guest Clarissa Kristjanssen is a menopause health coach, a neuroscientist and mindfulness practitioner who suffered with severe anxiety during her own perimenopause, and who found her way through it to become a leader of women who are going through the transition of midlife. She helps women live well through menopause by guiding them to be more connected to their bodies, to advocate for their health and to see menopause as an opportunity in the next stage of life. Clarissa is the host of the Thriving Through Menopause podcast, and author of the book, The Mindful Menopause, she drops so many different pieces of sage wisdom in this episode, I can't wait for you to hear it. Let's go listen to it now.
Hi, I'm Dr. Christine Li, and I'm a psychologist and a procrastination coach. I've helped 1000s of people move past procrastination and overwhelm so they could begin working to their potential. In this podcast, you're going to learn a powerful strategies for getting your mind, body and energy to work together so that you can focus on what's really important and accomplish the goals you want to achieve. When you start living within your full power, you're going to see how being productive can be easy, and how you can create success on demand. Welcome to the make time for success podcast. Hello again, my dear listeners. It's Dr. Christine Li and today I am welcoming Clarissa Christiansen to the show. She and I met several months ago when I was on her lovely podcast. And I am so grateful that she's agreed to be on today to talk to us about everything related to menopause. So welcome to the show. Clarissa
Clarissa Kristjanssen 2:13
thank you so much, Christine, to invite me to this show to talk about my passion, which is menopause.
Christine Li 2:22
Yes, do me a favor and start us off with how you got to be the menopause expert and a little bit about your backstory.
Clarissa Kristjanssen 2:32
Wonderful. Thank you for that. I was a neuroscientist for 30 years. I worked in corporate life. And I went through perimenopause. And like I think a lot of women, the corporate life and perimenopause didn't hang together that well. And I suffered from a lot of menopausal anxiety, which is not unusual, to a point that it wasn't working for me and I was brain foggy and other elements of my health and well being weren't as good as they could be. And so I jumped off that corporate train. And first I trained actually to be a mindfulness practitioner. But I had women coming to me and midlife over and over again. And I kept thinking there is a link to what they're experiencing, and what I experienced. And the link was, of course, menopause. So I retrained to become also a holistic menopause health coach. And so I kind of combined that with my mindfulness. And that's what I do now, every day along with my podcast, helping other women be able to thrive through menopause.
Christine Li 3:43
That sounds like a wonderful train that you were able to stay on and make work for yourself. Can you please let us know what the name of your podcast is? At this point in the
Clarissa Kristjanssen 3:54
game? It is it's called thriving through menopause.
Christine Li 3:57
Okay, wonderful. All right. Now, may I ask you about that anxiety that you experience? What were the symptoms that you went through? What did you think was happening? And maybe on a scale of one to 10? How distressed were you about that?
Clarissa Kristjanssen 4:15
Well, I think that the way it manifested was that things that I had been able to do really well, like, show up in meetings, be very confident speak in front of big audiences and VPs and my business just crumbled. And suddenly there I was talking over people very, you know, that very nervous chatter that had you know, like, I gotta put a hammer they're not going to hear me. I was also experiencing mild panic attacks and a well and I had a couple of more serious ones where I felt like I was out of body quite frankly, and have to this day had no idea what I've even said in those meetings. And you're nodding and smiling like it's quite common. But it was distressing, because suddenly the person that I had been this confident, punctual, organized woman just crumbled. And no one ever explained to me that this could be part of perimenopause. So I was searching for answers thinking somehow that it was running wrong with me, that people didn't like me or that I didn't fit in a corporate culture. And so I was left on sure of how to move forward. And it was actually very distressing because it plays then into your inability to sleep. And of course, that in itself creates a whole myriad of problems, too.
Christine Li 5:49
Thank you for explaining that. That sounds very distressing. When you left corporate was that feeling like you're leaving? Because you no longer fit in? Or did you leave because you felt like there are better beaches for me to be on now that I can explore different elements of my life.
Clarissa Kristjanssen 6:09
And you know, I think I was just done with it. And I think that was their reality. I mean, I had in honestly a bit of a get out because I was in a financial position, and my son had moved to Europe and I was just, I can't do this anymore. I'm putting one foot in front of the other and going 10, stuns steps back. That's how it felt. And I resigned. And then there was a moment when they were having a little bit of a go to me, and I'd never been other than this calm collected, and I slammed something on the table. If you know me, I'm not a person that loses their cool very often. And I banged these things on a table when I've had enough of this beat beat plays, I'm done. And I just and I think I had reached, you know, just a point where I knew that it wasn't good for me to be there anymore. And I didn't know what I was going to do. I just knew that I was going to do something different.
Christine Li 7:07
Okay, interesting. I may ask how old were you when all of this was happening?
Clarissa Kristjanssen 7:11
I was mid 50s. I was about 55. Yeah. Okay.
Christine Li 7:15
All right. Good to know. All right. Now, let's shift into what you feel was going on. From a physical biological standpoint that was contributing to your symptoms, then,
Clarissa Kristjanssen 7:33
I think they were probably the worst had been the sleep, because I just didn't sleep properly. And I had been a person that could have slept on a flat board, I could have laid down on the floor and autism, it all through my 20s my 30s I was the worst mother because I could never get up by myself. But I was a good sleeper. And suddenly all of that evaporated. And I was falling asleep really well. But waking up wide awake at one in the morning, and then struggling to get back to sleep falling to sleep at four and you know, then sleeping for two hours. And in that intervening period, I'd read every me email checked everything. Social media, maybe less of that it was work, work work. And that didn't help me with respect of our my anxiety and the flow on effects from not sleeping, you put on weight, you you feel just fatigued. And so that contributed, of course to more feelings of anxiety, it became a vicious circle.
Christine Li 8:44
I see that indeed. So can you explain what is the positive framing of all of that, that our bodies would change midlife in the mid 50s. And the sleep gets disrupted and the brain gets foggy or and perhaps there's more anxiety? What is the positive mindset more mindful way of seeing those changes?
Clarissa Kristjanssen 9:12
Well, indeed. And I think the more mindful way is to say that you're making a transition to the next stage of your life. And I think that's what we often forget, because it's very easy for us to be wired up in the negative. But if we actually see that this is a life transition, it doesn't last forever. It doesn't and we almost always emerge in our mid 50s. and beyond. As much more confidence stronger. Women who go off and go on to build amazing businesses, launch podcasts, write books, you know, all those things are there and we can do that even more because our children are growing up and we're suddenly in a completely new phase of life and I think if we can see manner pairing unopposed this transitional phase as that, even though it's messy in the middle, we are able to better navigate it.
Christine Li 10:12
Okay, I like that a lot. What helped you to make that transition for yourself? What worked for you?
Clarissa Kristjanssen 10:20
What worked for me, I think one was definitely exercise. I say that because of course, exercise helps us to manage stress. Exercise makes us feel we get endorphins. I mean, there's a good boost of these positive hormones when we exercise. And suddenly there we are going, Wow, I feel quite good. I feel positive about myself, you feel good about a body that's changing, I mean, we never going to look like we are 20, we're never going to be the weight we were at 30. But exercising brings you into a more positive relationship with your body during a time of great change. So it was very important for me to exercise. And the other was to get space to manage my stress. So I'm credibly grateful that I was able to embed a mindfulness practice. And I joined a beautiful beach side meditation group. And I think those things, particularly the beach side, meditation really saved me during this time, that looking forward to that Saturday morning, when we I could sit for an hour by the beach with a group of like minded people and be quiet. No one was demanding anything of me was a fantastic experience.
Christine Li 11:40
Okay, lovely. Now, you also mentioned that there's this stabilizing after the disruption or the transition period. And I have worked with lots of people who feel stuck, or afraid of making the next move, making the next move to kind of opening up their vision of what they could do. What advice would you give our listeners, if they happen to be in that space where they know there's more left for them in midlife? But they've been worried they've been a little less than fully self confident?
Clarissa Kristjanssen 12:22
Good question, Christine. I think first, sometimes we need to slow down to give ourselves some reflective space. And that's one of our I think, our challenges in this time too, because we're so busy, we have so much going on. But if we can remove ourselves, and sit back and have a bit of a chance to think Well, who am I now what do I want from my life? What is it that brings me joy? What am I interested in? And a question I would ask my clients is, what did you put on the back burner? What were you passionate about when you were much younger, that, you know hasn't manifested but you might like to explore that or the essence of that, and see how you bring that forward until life. And I think also visualization is very powerful. Seeing ourselves how we like to be gives us a great opportunity to then put those building blocks in place. Having a plan, a plan for different aspects of our life is really important.
Christine Li 13:31
So it sounds like the list of suggestions, including exercise space for mindfulness, slowing down, reviewing what you're really wanting from your life, that those all can fit under the umbrella of prioritizing you in a very specific and focused way. What if we're still feeling afraid, kind of what are the supercharged kind of techniques that you might have? If you're feeling somebody is really sitting on their big vision and you want to give them a nudge forward? What are maybe the secret tips that you have to help women really say, you know, this is really your time, there's, there's no more time to waste.
Clarissa Kristjanssen 14:22
Yeah. And that's a little bit about unpicking why they're so stuck, for me is really, what is it that's holding you back? And is it just your own thoughts, and therefore, questioning whether those are even real? And there is that huge inner conversation that we have, I think particularly as women that we don't believe that we can so I think investigating whether it is driven by you, in which case I think there are so many good techniques to unpicking that in a criticism that You Christine, as a psychologist is so well aware of. But I also think we ask ourselves whether it's we were constrained by other people's expectations of us. And are they real? I mean, is that real? And if so how we can broach a conversation maybe with whoever we think it is that's holding us back, you probably find that sometimes that isn't actually the case. We think our husband wants us to be like that, or our children. And I think we have to go there, we have to be not afraid to have those conversations, and free ourselves up. So I think it's a very individual thing, because we need to know where it comes from in order to then address it.
Christine Li 15:43
These are beautiful suggestions. And I back everything that Clarissa is saying. It all sounds wonderfully saying and effective. Could you tell us some of your top takeaways from being a menopause expert, really being a voice in a field where people are oftentimes afraid, or reluctant to talk about things openly? What gifts has this expertise, giving you?
Clarissa Kristjanssen 16:15
I think my first expertise is that we have to have awareness of what menopause is all about. That if we have no understanding of what we can expect, then there is natural fear. And we're much more open to the gossip and the, you know, the sort of negativity that flows in every society. So building basic awareness, go to reputable websites, if you're in the US, you know, it's a quite staid website, but the North American menopause society has factual correct information. So the first thing that we need to do is know what to expect. Secondly, is get on to ask the right questions for your clinician. Because if we turn up at an appointment, say, Well, I don't think I feel very well. And I don't know, you'll get dismissed, because they're very busy, they've got 10 minutes, or whatever it is, they have to see you. And they may not give you the attention you need, but you need to come sort of armed and in the UK, they have the nice guidelines, there are similar ones like that you say, I'm experiencing x y Zed symptoms, I would like to have x y Zed do Am I a candidate for hormone therapy, or whatever, and have a really direct conversation with your clinician, most of the time, met by that you will find somebody, your maybe your clinician, if not James. But definitely you are empowered, you're not you're not then navigated by a system, or you're not a victim, you're asking questions. So I'm big on those things along with tracking what's happening to you, so you can have an informed conversation. My other tip would be is you have greater ability to self regulate, we have the ability to manage what we eat, how we move, and our ability to rest and sleep and take some action towards managing our stress. Those things are within our own control with or without some assistance, to get the right nutrition, etc into us. But those will give you a strong base will build you the ability to be resilient through perimenopause and you need strength on many levels to do this journey. But then you are also going to support any medication that your clinician may or may not give you because you've got a strong healthy base. And we need to remember that we're at more risk after menopause of potentially cardiovascular disease, dementia, osteoporosis, and so a strong healthy foundation is going to give you so much support for a long healthy happy life because that is possible for all of us are many of us going to live 3040 years after menopause is over. So we want to be putting ourselves in the best position.
Christine Li 19:24
This is all beautiful. This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, your knowledge and your compassion for I think all women who will need to go through this period be very fortunate to be able to go through this period to transition into what sounds like a more censored and empowered and fruitful period. It sounds much more like a positive experience when I listened to you Then, when I think about the traditional views of women in menopause, that there is stress and there is fatigue and there is this confusion. But there's so much more that we women are about and I love that you're able to put all of this power into some simple guiding principles for all women who are heading into midlife, perimenopause and beyond. Oh, thank you, Christine. It's not that scary. Yeah, thank you. Thank you for making it less. So. Could you tell us about the book that you've written? Because we haven't spoken about that yet?
Clarissa Kristjanssen 20:42
No. So I wrote a book actually three years ago now called the mindful menopause. And that's very much looking at how mindfulness can support women to go through this journey. In particular, I think it pays a lot of attention to our somatic experiences, the experiences that we have in our bodies, and how bringing, as I said, that awareness, we can actually feel it, embody it, work and listen to our own bodies. And I do a lot of work also, with our thoughts, you know, our thoughts, our only thoughts, they're not really even the ones that tell us that they are. And we have a lot of those in perimenopause, that race around. I mean, if your brain foggy, maybe you're worried that you have dementia, but that usually isn't true. So we have the power of our thoughts. And the book also has a lot on positivity and compassion, as I think that there is a huge need to be kind to ourselves, and to have a sense of equanimity of evenness and calmness and connectedness. At this time, when so much is changing, we can tap into that kind, Little Voice of calm that lives inside each of us, we have so much more ability to actually go through this time of life, even if it's hard, we can still do it quite well. And if it's not so hard, and it is for some women, it's kind of a little up and down, we can thrive.
Christine Li 22:23
Yes. Clarissa sees me smiling in the video. Because I think life can feel really quite difficult. And I agree very much with Clarissa that there is always a space of calm inside of us, we need to nurture that protect that remind ourselves that we can bring ourselves back to the point with intention and with love for ourselves and with the knowledge that it's not really going to serve us to spin out of control on a frequent basis, but that it's worth our time and effort to kind of nurture that practice of, oh, this really is just a fleeting thought, this is a fleeting situation, this will pass and this moment will pass it to, could you share with us maybe a somatic technique or a quick something that our listeners can do? If they're feeling like their anxiety is shooting up all of a sudden? Or they're feeling confused? Do you have anything for us,
Clarissa Kristjanssen 23:26
I like stop sto P, you know, you can literally become still and take a breath. And then observe yourself, check yourself from your toes, you can start in your head or your toes. I don't mind either way. But just do a quick checking in three body just scan through your body. What does it feel like? Are there little points of tension, how they're parts of our body that actually feel nice and soft. And then take a pause and move through your day. And literally we can take a moment with a stop technique stopping checking in, taking a pause and a breath and moving in. It's not difficult. We don't need to do anything more than that in a minute or so on that on a regular basis through our day. Checking in is very good because we often find them or I'm a little tense here in my shoulder. Or maybe I'm holding some tension in maybe our hands. Mark just let that go for a moment. And just by drawing attention to a part of our body will almost automatically find that it softens if we give it a second or two.
Christine Li 24:40
I love it. You make me think about how toxic every day can feel. If you're feeling like you have to run through everything without stopping that there's no room or there's no excuse to stop and then we have to be productive all the time. I'm a big fan of productivity. Everybody knows that. But I'm also a big fan of staying Same. So let's remind ourselves of Chris's stop technique. If you're feeling pressured, if you're feeling like you're behind, know that you can stop at any moment and it's okay. You control the situation, you control how your body transitions through things. It's okay. It's gonna be okay.
Clarissa Kristjanssen 25:22
I used to say that to people who ran from meeting to meeting Kristin and they said, Remember, there's one meeting and another meeting, I said, But isn't there a moment where you walk from one meeting to the next? Or move room? Oh, yeah. Well, then you have one minute to stop and gather yourself and then you can go to your next meeting. It's the same in our households where we're busy. The minute we get in the door, and we do have those members wherever they are, through the day.
Christine Li 25:52
All right. I think that is a beautiful place to rest, and express our gratitude to Clarissa for being here today and sharing with us this mood, this entire mood about the latter half of a woman's life. Thank you so much for bringing your wisdom here today. Clarissa your lovely,
Clarissa Kristjanssen 26:14
oh, thank you, Christine, for having me.
Christine Li 26:18
All right, please leave us with how our listeners can stay in touch with you, and maybe sign up for your materials.
Clarissa Kristjanssen 26:26
Absolutely the best places to go to my website, which is my name, Clarissakristjanssen.com. And there you can see my programs, you get a link to my podcast, and my free resources.
Christine Li 26:40
That is lovely. I will make sure to link that up in the show notes for our lovely listeners. And I want to thank you again. Thanks for being here.
Clarissa Kristjanssen 26:48
Christine Li 26:50
All right, dear listeners. We're going to see you next week for another new episode. Please take a minute and subscribe to the show and send in a rating and a review for the show if you happen to like what you hear. Thanks so much. Take care. Thank you for listening to this episode of the Make Time for Success podcast. If you enjoyed what you heard, you can subscribe to make sure you get notified of upcoming episodes. You can also visit our website maketimeforsuccesspodcast.com for past episodes, show notes and all the resources we mentioned on the show. Feel free to connect with me over on Instagram too. You can find me there under the name procrastination coach. Send me a DM and let me know what your thoughts are about the episodes you've been listening to. And let me know any topics that you might like me to talk about on the show. I'd love to hear all about how you're making time for success. Talk to you soon.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Neuroscientists/Menopause Health Coach/Mindfulness Practitioner
Clarissa Kristjansson is a menopause health coach, a neuroscientist and mindfulness practitioner who suffered with anxiety during her own perimenopause. She helps other women to live well through menopause by being more connected to their bodies, empowering them to self-regulate and advocate for their health and to cultivate a mindset that sees menopause as an opportunity into the next stage of life. She is the host of the Thriving Thru Menopause podcast and author of The Mindful Menopause