Written by: Angela Warburton, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Preventing cognitive aging is essential for a long and vibrant life. Prioritizing a balanced diet, steering clear of toxins, managing stress, and ensuring quality sleep are all essential components for fostering vibrant and healthy cognitive aging. But there are actually some brain changes that naturally occur for women as they enter menopause, that at first glance, may not seem desirable, but in actuality, offer a unique gift.
The midlife brain
During midlife, women experience changes in brain function influenced by key hormonal shifts. When this first starts to happen it can feel like someone has replaced our brain overnight and we simply can’t function the way we’re used to.
So what exactly is happening, and why might it be good?
Decoding midlife brain changes
During midlife and menopause, the natural reduction in estrogen levels create notable shifts in brain function.
Elevated estrogen levels foster a more intertwined operation of the brain hemispheres, cultivating a diffuse focus. This means the right and left hemispheres constantly talk to one another and is the thing that allows women to see/hear/sense and feel everything all at the same time.
As estrogen levels decrease, the two hemispheres stop being so entwined, and a separation emerges between the brain hemispheres.
This shift actually mirrors the single-focused tendencies seen in the testosterone dominant younger male brain, where the hemispheres tend to act independently.
This separation of hemispheres allows for single focus, concentrating on one task at a time rather than the defuse focus estrogen rich female brains have (hence why women often see the rogue sock on the floor and men don’t, particularly if they are focused on another task)
Hormone levels play a crucial role in shaping how the brain functions.
The transforming midlife brain
As women’s estrogen levels start to decline though midlife and menopause, the brain embarks on a transformative journey. Shifting from this diffused focus that has both hemispheres communicating freely, to a more singular focus, akin to the testosterone dominant male brain.
This diffuse focus may have previously allowed for effortless multitasking— keeping an eye on your kids, chatting on the phone, or managing various household tasks simultaneously. It might have facilitated handling a workload that pulled you in myriad directions, handling all with ease, and never dropping the ball on things.
And then this starts to change. You may find yourself dropping balss, finding it hard or overwhelming to be pulled in so many directions or an inability to tolerate previous tasks or too many demands at once.
While the initial stages of this shift can be disconcerting and frightening, this movement towards a more singular focus aligns with the natural progression as women enter midlife and traverse through menopause.
This shift invites us to concentrate on one task at a time rather than attempting to process everything simultaneously.
And there’s a good reason for this
The benefits of midlife and menopause
Midlife and menopause invites you into a new stage of life. It is a call to action, urging you to elevate your life and authentically step into the woman you are called to be at your core.
This stage is actually referred to as the "Second Spring" in Eastern medicine and is akin to a rebirth. A fresh start.
It’s a time prompting you to step away from over stretching and dispersing your energy in multiple directions. It encourages a shift towards a more concentrated focus. It requires you to reflect on what you genuinely want to do, assess what no longer aligns with your aspirations, and what drains your energy.
If you neglect this call, your body may communicate with you (potentially even screaming at times). Essential urging you to shift at this stage of life, shedding the multitasking mania and an overstuffed schedule.
Once accomplished, you may discover that your brain exhibits a laser focus and a capacity for more powerful thinking when no longer stretched thin.
Resisting this shift can be painful, but once you can embrace the wisdom and the messages your body is sending out, it can be easier and downright relieving, to make the shift.
There are some key things you can do to support this transition and optimize your midlife brain. And it’s important to note that if you are feeling a drastic decline in your cognitive abilities, it’s important to get targeted holistic support from a health professional.
Top 3 tips to optimize your midlife brain
Clearing mental clutter: Focusing on what truly matters
As we transition into a more singular focus with age, it becomes crucial to direct your attention toward matters that genuinely matter to you.
If you find yourself scattered and pulled in a million directions, the experience can be draining and unsatisfying.
Work to create time and space where you can concentrate on one task at a time. Close multiple browsers, eliminate multitasking, and discern between activities that invigorate and those that evoke a sense of dread.
Your attention span may diminish during this shedding process, but you still possess the focus and energy to accomplish and create beyond previous capabilities. It's essential to eliminate unnecessary and depleting elements from your life.
Create time and space for being, without chronically doing: embrace stillness
Some may scoff at the idea of incorporating moments of nothingness into their hectic schedules, but even starting with just 15 minutes a day can yield significant benefits.
If possible, allocate more time—an hour daily, half a day weekly, or a weekend to yourself. This is essential for midlife women to harness the wisdom of this stage of life.
Allow yourself to simply be, free from agendas or to-do lists. Ideally surrounded by nature and elements of beauty, whether it be a good book, music, or pleasant smells—whatever beauty means to you—let yourself settle.
This practice is crucial to clear internal clutter and reconnect with your true self, enabling you to listen to what is being called forth within you.
Nourish your brain: A recipe for midlife well-being
Optimizing your midlife brain begins with proper nourishment.
Prioritize a diet rich in healthy fats, oils, and nutrient-dense foods, while reducing stimulants.
Ensure a diverse mix of foods, aiming for 20-40 different types of plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices) per week.
A diverse diet contributes to a varied gut flora, promoting overall mental health and well-being. Research indicates a correlation between dietary diversity and a decrease in anxiety, depression, and improved mental health. For more on the gut-brain connection view this article by
Embracing your midlife journey
As you navigate the shifting landscape of your midlife brain, try to view these shifts not as problems, but as opportunities for growth and self-discovery.
By acknowledging the influence of natural hormonal shifts, embracing the concentrated focus of the second spring, and taking intentional steps to optimize your mind, you can unlock the full potential of your midlife experience and live your most aligned and fulfilling life yet.
Embracing the journey, and stepping into the empowered woman you are destined to become—mind sharp, focus clear, and wisdom enriched through the portal of menopause.
Angela Warburton, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Angela, a seasoned holistic women's midlife expert, brings over 25 years of experience in Traditional Chinese Medicine. As a skilled speaker, writer, leader, and teacher, Angela is passionate about transforming women's experiences of midlife and menopause.
Her unique skill set, including Eastern Medicine, Transformational Coaching, Modern Health Sciences, Women's Leadership, Applied Mindfulness, and Sacred Womb Work, guides women to deepen their self-understanding during this transformative phase.
She seamlessly blends the science of modern health practices with the soulful touch of holistic approaches, creating an integration that is seamless and effective.
With a mission to simplify the process, Angela strives for ease and inclusivity, helping women achieve long-term transformational change while feeling healthy, seen, and nourished in the process. Holistic and customized care, infused with deep compassion, humour, and joy, Angela's work becomes a true pleasure for her clients.
Ready to redefine your menopause experience? Angela is your dedicated companion on the path to a vibrant and radiant life.