The concept of “wellness” is complex. Our physiology is a complex system of interrelated processes of cellular communication that support mind, body, and spirit. It is this complexity – the diversity of resources the body draws upon – that keeps everything running smoothly and in a state of wellness. As people move from a state of health to a state of disease, these processes break down, becoming less complex and less able to deal with or adapt to changes in the environment, both internal and external. In fact, in the end-stage of a disease, just a few of the critical characteristics that support our physiology remain active. When we are unwell, things are simple – we have no internal resources to draw from, and all the available energy is focused on just maintaining life.
I think this is as true of our external environment as it is of our bodies. As women – as human beings, really – we rely on a complex web of interrelated systems in order to survive in the world: friends, family, colleagues, community, spiritual guides. When one or more of those support systems break down, our world becomes less complex, we have fewer resources to draw upon, and we move further away from an ideal state of wellness. We shut down. We withdraw. This happens to a lot of women during menopause. So much happens all at once during this transition – we face big changes physically, in our work environments, within our families and relationships – things break down and we don’t always know where to turn for help. So we don’t.
As midlife women, there is a tendency to think that we can “go it alone” during menopause – just look at all that we have accomplished so far! But ultimately that’s an illusion. We can survive for a time – maybe even a long time – on our own, but it isn’t truly healthy. “Simple” in this case is isolation, complexity is what keeps us connected and vital. And make no mistake, being connected to others is by definition complex – relationships can be messy. That’s probably what prevents most women from reaching out for help. But to really thrive – to be all that we can be in our next chapter – we need to tap in to this rich and complex web of interrelated systems. We need to be able to lean on and learn from other people in our orbit.
Your community (or tribe, or whatever you want to call it) is super important, because your social network is the single biggest influence on your wellbeing. Surrounding yourself with supportive, positive people that share your values and challenge you to be your best is key to overcoming the obstacles that invariably pop up during menopause and thriving through all of life’s twists and turns.
In Japan, there is a word for it: Moai. It describes a committed circle of friends that travel through life together, gathering constantly and consistently to help and support each other – collectively, they are all responsible for each other’s well-being.
If you don’t have a support system like that in place, if you don’t know people you can truly rely on, now is the time to seek them out. Especially now, with the world the way it is. There are women that need YOU and the wisdom you can offer as much as you need them.
It can be scary to reach out, believe me, I know – I’ve spent most of my life hanging around the periphery, holding up the wall at parties – but there is too much at stake NOT to take a chance. So pick up the phone, ask someone to coffee (virtually, while we’re still in lockdown), or if that’s too scary, join an existing online group – there are so many popping up right now.
Do it today. Find your moai and revel in the complex, beautiful mess of community and you will be that much closer to true wellness.