What’s Behind those Weird Dreams?

I want to preempt this blog post by disclosing that I am as ‘unspiritual’ as they get. When I’m stressed, it’s not because there’s a full moon, it’s because I’ve procrastinated and not left myself enough time to do something. When I get in an argument with my boyfriend, it’s not because he’s a Scorpio and I’m a Taurus, it’s because he’s clearly wrong about something!

Because of my unwavering cynicism, I have been reluctant to credit dreams with having any kind of symbolic meaning, but I have to admit that I might be wrong about this one. I was at a museum exhibition on the science behind the human mind a couple of years ago, and it had a whole section dedicated to the psychology behind dreams and sleep. I was surprised to find that I had had all but one of what they deemed the most common dreams. I had thought that my recurring dream (nightmare) about my teeth falling out was just residual paranoia from having braces as a teenager, but as it turns out, this is one of the most frequently reported dreams and has been linked to vanity, anxiety, and (according to Freud), a fear of castration.

You might be as surprised as I was to find that what you believed where your private and unique thoughts are actually shared with millions of other people. So what are these dreams, and what could they mean?

1.  Being Chased
In evolutionary terms, flee/flight is one of our most primal responses to threat. It makes sense then, that dreams about being chased have been tied to feeling threatened by someone or something in waking life. This dream has also been linked to avoiding some kind of confrontation or obligation in real life.

2.  Being Naked in Public
Dreams about being totally undressed, partially undressed, or dressed inappropriately for an occasion are all tied to feeling some kind of vulnerability. When you are without your clothes, you are without a symbolic barrier that you can hide behind. This can be attributed to feeling helpless or exposed in a real life situation that you don’t feel fully prepared for or qualified to deal with.

Obviously, these dreams are correlated with anxiety, but it is worth noting that a lot of the time, no one seems to notice your nudity. This is likely indicative of the fact that your anxieties are merely your own projections: no one else thinks you’re unprepared or unqualified!

3.  Falling/Sinking
Dreams of falling or sinking are often attributed to losing control, or lacking security, stability, or confidence. These dreams often occur when you’re feeling insecure or lacking support in your waking life.

4.  Flying
Most people who have flying dreams associate them with feelings of euphoria. If you’re flying with ease in your dream, it could mean you’re feeling on top of a situation.

If you’re flying closer to the ground or having to navigate around objects, chances are the flying dream is more similar to a falling dream and you feel like there are obstacles between yourself and your goal.

5.  Teeth Falling Out
Dreams about your teeth falling out are less easy to ‘diagnose’ and have been attributed to a number of different causes.

On a basic level, fears about losing teeth are related to a fear of being found unattractive. Interestingly, this dream is most commonly reported by women in menopause, and so it could be attributed to a fear of the change that comes with age.

On a deeper level, dreams about teeth have been tied to power and communication. Apparently, your teeth are symbolic of your words, and a dream about losing them can represent a loss of control over your words and communication in general.

6.  Car Trouble
Dreams about trouble with your car, or any vehicle can range from your brakes not working to crashing to forgetting how to drive altogether.

A recurring theme here is not being in control, or being unprepared in situations in your waking life. The fact that dreams about car trouble often occur even in people who haven’t yet learned to drive indicates that they really don’t have anything to do with your driving ability. Much like nudity dreams, they are more likely anxiety dreams related to how you prepared you feel for something in your life.

It seems that the most commonly reported dreams are related heavily to anxiety. Maybe we are more anxious than we are conscious of, or maybe the fact that they bring out our anxieties is why these dreams are the ones we remember. In any event, if you’ve had any of these dreams or any other recurring dreams (or nightmares!), let us know and we’ll try and find out what they mean!

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Why the Menopause Taboo?

For one reason or another, menopause is something that we just don’t talk about. It’s not like women go around waving tampons in the air when they have their periods, but it does seem that in general, we are more open to talking about the trials and tribulations of menstruation than the lack thereof.

The reasons we don’t talk about menopause could be attributed to a number of things. It could be that for years, menopause has been treated as a ‘disease,’ and has developed a kind of stigma that prevents us from seeing it as normal and natural. Most people aren’t too keen on publicly acknowledging the list of things that are wrong with
them. Or it could be that our culture is so obsessed with youth that women going through menopause feel a loss of self- worth. Or it could be as simple as the fact that menopause is accompanied by hot flashes, sleep disturbances, and mood swings, and we just don’t want to talk about it… because what’s worse than being in a bad mood and being prodded at and coerced into discussing it?

Because menopause is a time in a woman’s life when she undergoes a number of physical, emotional, and lifestyle changes, she requires support, understanding, and sympathy from those around her. The problem with this is that if a woman doesn’t acknowledge or discuss these changes, how is she supposed to elicit these kinds of responses?

I was listening to a radio show this morning, and a woman wrote in anonymously with a question about menopause. She said, in short, that she was more comfortable emailing the radio team than discussing the issue with her friends. If you’re reading this and find her situation strange, you might be surprised to learn that (even in 2014) most women don’t talk about menopause. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when you think about it, because as women, the one thing that we inevitably have in common is the future, current, or past experience of menopause. As our life expectancy increases, so too does the amount of time we spend on the other side of menopause, and so it is not at all an indication that life is over, and for many women is actually quite the contrary!

I’ve been doing a fair amount of reading about menopause lately, and in doing so stumbled across a website by a woman named Ellen Dolgen, who is a ‘menopause guru’ of sorts. Ellen has coined the term ‘Menopause Mondays’ to describe support groups for women going through menopause. These groups provide an opportunity for women to discuss their symptoms and questions with other women going through similar experiences without judgment. Women can swap notes, stories, and remedies to help get those symptoms under control, and if not, at least laugh about them for an hour over a glass of wine!

We need a reminder in between the hot flashes and bad moods that it is menopause (not jeans) that is the great equalizer, and that starts with a conversation. If you have a funny menopause story to share (we call them menomoments), please post it in a comment here or on Facebook and help us open the dialogue!

 

 

 

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The Women of the Oscars

As is the case every year, last night’s Academy Awards celebrated the abundance of talent that we saw in film over the course of 2013. One of the most memorable moments was when best actress winner Cate Blanchett pointed out in her acceptance speech that her win should mean something to the people “in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the centre are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them, and in fact, they earn money.”

Judi Dench, Age 79 (eonline)

There’s a misconception somewhere in Hollywood, or with Boards of Directors, or in society at large, that audiences don’t want to see female-driven films. There’s a further and equally damaging misconception that there is no substantive room for women in Hollywood after they ‘expire’ after age 39. That four of the five best actress nominees last night were over the age of 40 demonstrates the depth of this falsity, especially in conjunction with the fact that Blanchett’s Blue Jasmine was entirely driven by its female lead.

Sandra Bullock, Age 49 (People.com)

As exciting as the Academy Awards are, what does any of this have to do with women’s health? A lot, actually. So much of what we perceive as normal is influenced by the media. As much as we want to believe the media doesn’t manage our expectations, there is always a certain extent to which it will. The problem here is that when 35 year old women are presented as old, how are we supposed to perceive the changes that come with age as normal? Hollywood’s typical ‘mother-of-the-bride’ is younger than you were when you took your kids to their first day of school, and this is inevitably going to make you question why you have a couple of wrinkles and your boobs don’t hit your chin.

Cate Blanchett, Age 44 (People.com)

What was so significant about this year’s Academy Awards were the number of women over 40 who were represented and celebrated for their meaningful work. These are beautiful, accomplished women whose success is representative of the importance of women in general, and of the fact that audiences don’t want to see women’s careers hit a ‘glass ceiling’ when they turn 40. We want to see women’s entire lives portrayed on screen, not just their reproductive years! That Hollywood is beginning to embrace roles for ‘older women’ (I am reluctant to describe a 44 year old woman as older without
quotation marks) is a step towards all women accepting the changes that come
with age.

Meryl Streep, Age 64(Huffington Post)

 

 

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Stress: It’s a Matter of the Heart

You might be surprised to learn that heart disease is the number one killer of women in North America. Part of this can probably be attributed to the fact that it’s hard to know when our hearts aren’t healthy because we cannot see them. When we’ve gained too much weight we see it in our thighs. We are reminded to check our breasts by the fact that we see them every day. But our hearts? Often we forget to take proper care of them because they’re out of sight and out of mind.

Given the dangers of heart disease, women have to get a handle on what can cause it, and how to help keep these causes at bay. Heart disease is caused by a number of factors, many of which we cannot control. One of these factors is the accumulation of stress that comes with everyday life. While we can’t necessarily control all the stressors in our lives (financial problems, horrible bosses, teenagers), we do have a certain amount of control over how we let them affect us and by extension, our heart health.  Learning to manage stress is key if you’re wondering how to prevent heart disease in women.

We are all affected by stress in different ways, and we all cope differently with stress. What works for you might not work for your best friend; I think yoga is probably the most boring thing in the world, but many of my friends have had it change their lives. I put together a list of tips that have been known to help people manage their stress. Using some of these techniques can help you control how much you’re affected by the stress in your life and could help keep your heart healthy (and sanity in check)!

Don’t Overindulge in Food and Alcohol: Don’t deal with stress by turning to food and alcohol. Over eating, under eating, and excessive alcohol consumption only band-aid the bigger problem. Coping by using food and alcohol will only lead to additional issues on top of the primary stressor.

Say No: Many women take on more than they can handle. Even women who work the same hours as their husbands have been shown to contribute more than 70% to the household duties. Adding kids’ schedules into the mix, as well as the expectations of friends and extended family can lead anyone to a nervous breakdown. Go through your commitments to distinguish between the ‘shoulds’ and the ‘musts.’ Cut down what’s on your plate so you can deal with your obligations properly without going insane.

Stop Smoking: Beyond the obvious impacts lighting up has on your health, the nicotine in cigarettes works as a stimulant that directly induces symptoms of stress.

Exercise Regularly: Regular exercise has direct links to maintaining a healthy heart, but it is the endorphins it releases that combat stress. They make you feel better immediately, and help you maintain a positive attitude. If you hate the elliptical, look for other ways to get exercise. Join an amateur soccer or basketball league in your neighborhood (most places have one), or sign up for a dance class or running group.

Evaluate: Figure out what it is in your life that is causing you stress, and then accept those things that you cannot control. Distinguishing between problems that are in and out of your hands helps you determine what’s really worth worrying about. Be realistic and flexible about issues that are beyond your control, and have a plan for what to do if things don’t go your way. Most of the time, these things aren’t the end of the world.

Get Sufficient Sleep: Many people can’t sleep because they’re stressed, and many people are stressed because they can’t sleep. Make sure that you’re getting at least seven hours of sleep a night. Make sure your bedroom is dark and comfortable, and use your bed for nothing but sleep and sex. Get the TV out of the bedroom, and avoid screen-time an hour before bed. If you consistently have trouble sleeping, try femMED Sleep as a sleep-aid. However you make it happen, make sure you give your body enough time to recharge!

Make the Cut: Avoid people in your life who stress you out. Obviously your mother-in-law is here to stay, but the ‘frenemies’ who do more harm than good aren’t worth sacrificing your health for.

In the same line of thinking, avoid topics of conversation that cause you stress. If religion or politics get you riled up, avoid the topic, or at least put it aside until your head is in the right place.

Incorporate Music: Many people find listening to music a good way to relax and escape from the pressures of stress. Whether you listen to music directly made to combat stress, such as nature sounds, or Beyoncé is more your thing, take time to let it calm you down next time you’re stuck in traffic or getting ready for a meeting that you’re anxious about attending.

Yoga/Meditation: Yoga and meditation help people check out from the fast-pace of everyday life. Taking the time to relax and appreciate your body and mind can for some people alleviate stress entirely. Make sure you go to at least five classes before deciding whether or not this is for you, as it is a practice that takes a bit of getting used to.

Get a pet: People who own pets are consistently shown to exhibit fewer signs of stress, and fewer health problems in general. Pets serve as great companions, and can calm your nerves at the worst of times. If you don’t have the time or money for a dog or cat, visit a friend who has one for a quick fix of puppy love!

Do Volunteer Work: Evidence shows that people who help others are more adept at coping with stressors. Helping people who are worse off than yourself will help you put your problems into perspective, and will also leave you feeling good about yourself.

Take a Vitamin: Make sure that you’re getting enough nutrients, especially vitamin B. Vitamin B is the master of the nervous system, and taking a supplement can help calm your nerves.

Get Lucky: Sex has been proven to reduce stress and stress symptoms. On top of that, it can be great exercise and can help you sleep (thus covering two other things from this list)!

Make Work More Comfortable: If you spend a lot of time at the office and your job causes you stress, try and bring some comforts into your work environment. Bring a picture of your family and your favourite mug from home. Scents such as basil and chamomile are all soothing. Keep a jar of some of these oils in a drawer to breathe in if you’re feeling overwhelmed. These sound trivial, but it’s the little things that help!

Give Yourself a Break: Everyone has commitments that stop them from taking care of themselves. If you have a huge project at work and don’t have time to make it to the gym or cook a good meal once in a while, that’s ok. During this time, make sure you’re treating yourself properly. Get up every half an hour and take a five minute walk. If your husband is driving you insane, book a dinner with your girlfriends to unwind. When your kids are causing you headaches, ask someone to look after them for the weekend and try and spend the weekend away. You can’t take care of all these things in your life if you don’t take care of yourself.

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Let’s Talk About Sex (Drives)!

Remember being 17 and sharing everything with your girlfriends? First kisses, bad dates, fights with your boyfriend? Chances are, you talked about everything- even those
things that boyfriend wouldn’t be too pleased to hear you sharing. Then you finished
school, and you began dating people more seriously. For every guy you went out
with, there was a subsequent conversation with that same best friend, or maybe
a new one, about the date, his appearance and personality, what was wrong with
him, and how far this relationship was going to go. When you got married, she
helped you pick your dress, and probably your lingerie as well. And if you’re
like most women, that is when things started to change. Conversation about sex
and sexuality started to dwindle, and was replaced by the other things that
were prevalent in your life. You can attribute this change to a million
different things, from your focus on balancing your kids and career to the
increased conservatism that comes with age.

Obviously your responsibilities and interests change as you
go through life, and accordingly, so do the topics of conversation that
interest you. But removing sex from the medley of topics that you are
comfortable discussing can inadvertently lead to feelings of alienation if you
ever develop a problem in this facet of your life.

Recent medical studies indicate that up to 1/3 of young to
middle-aged women, and up to ½ of older women experience issues relating to
their libido. The numbers alone demonstrate how pervasive these issues are, but
still it’s something we rarely discuss. Most women don’t talk about low female libido
with their friends, and the few that do discuss it with their doctor only
breach the surface of the issue. That so many of us choose to deal with this alone
could be attributed to a socially-distorted sense of decency. We wouldn’t want
to make anyone uncomfortable by discussing something so personal and so ‘crass.’
But the fact that we don’t talk about it is perpetuating the feelings of worry,
guilt, shame, and isolation that a woman faces when she is dealing with a
low-libido. These feelings can be tied directly to her conception that there is
‘something wrong with her.’ Contrary to this belief, low-libido is a prevalent
issue for more than a significant number of women, and these negative feelings
are a product of the stigma that surrounds a woman’s ‘abnormal’ sex drive. Talking
about issues relating to our sex drives creates a network of support and is
instrumental in getting rid of this unhealthy and unfair repression.

Given the well-established link between sexual function and
overall health, it is important to address issues pertaining to low-libido. It
is difficult, though, to address an issue that is plagued by a social taboo.
The vicious cycle continues when we play by this taboo’s rules and never
address the issue at hand. At femMED, we strongly believe that a woman’s most
important asset is her health, and so it is something that she should nurture
as best she can. One of the first steps in taking care of issues related to
libido involves simply opening up about it. We want to open a dialogue about
libido, and stop the stigma that surrounds it in its tracks. That our libido
level fluctuates throughout our lives is a normal part of being a woman, and so
it is also something that we should be comfortable with. If you are
experiencing a change in your libido, talk about it. You might find the person
you’re opening up to is facing a similar issue. If they’re not, they will know
that there is someone there if and when it becomes a problem that they face.

One of the main benefits of discussing libido-related issues
with other women, other than emotional support, is that we can share our
strategies for dealing with it. Although there is no Viagra for women, there
are a number of things we can do to take our sex drives back into our own
hands. femMED Libido is one of our best selling products, and we have received
an enormous amount of positive feedback from happy women (and their husbands!)
who have used it to reclaim their sex drives. There are a number of other
home-remedies that Kelli Young discusses in this blog post. If you find
any of these suggestions helpful, or if you have one of your own to share with
us, please share it in the comments section- or send it in a private message
through Facebook or our website.

We all know that dealing with body issues we’ve never
experienced before is hard. What’s even harder is experiencing them alone, and
not knowing what to do. In the case of low-libido especially, ignoring and
burying this aspect of being a woman is not healthy. By talking about libido
and making it a viable topic of conversation with your friends or medical
professionals, you can play a part in beating the silence associated with a
very common, very normal problem.

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