Many women arrive at the midlife years and begin to worry about the way they look and the things they've accomplished in life. Sarah OLeary has made it her mission to share what she knows about women and change during the middle-aged years.
Sarah's blog empowers women to take control of their "midlife crises" and embrace the opportunity to follow their dreams and make changes if they are unhappy or confused. In addition, Sarah openly talks about how to handle the woes of menopause. She offers tips on how to naturally create balance in life.
Sarah offers radiance wellness coaching and holistic business consultation services as well as writing and editing support. Her creativity also shines through when she helps healers and artists start their own websites and blogs.
1. It seems that your mission in life is to help middle-aged women renew themselves and find life again by empowering them and helping them believe that they are not "too old" to go after their dreams. What inspired you to do this?
I've been on the path of empowering women for most of my adult life. When I was a young mother I opened up a brick & mortar herb shop, and my mission was to provide healing tools and resources Ð especially for other young moms. I sold herbs, so they could have natural remedies for themselves and their families, and books and other items for foster personal and spiritual growth.
Although my store was of course a center for people of any age and gender, there was an emphasis on natural products for pregnancy, breastfeeding, and raising conscious children.
Now that I've reached middle age, it's a natural progression in my life to want to inspire and empower other midlife women.
Since selling my shop when I was in my early 40s, I've gotten back in touch with some of my old dreams and new ones have blossomed inside me. I look around and see so many women my age who feel stuck and are not pursuing what they truly love and dream of. So this, in addition to cultivating radiant health and wellbeing, is part of my mission is working with midlife women.
2. What motivated you to focus on helping women and not both genders?
Honestly I enjoy helping people of either gender. But I as a female, I resonate most deeply with the issues that women face. I feel better equipped to be of service to other women.
3. You successfully maintain a very active blog. What inspires you to write about the topics you choose? How do you know what people are interested in reading?
I just have so many ideas of what to write about - based on my experiences past and present, and the knowledge I carry. I love to write, and my challenge is making the time to sit down and get all these thoughts and ideas on paper.
I'm still working on figuring out what people are interested in reading. Sometimes I just know from my conversations with others and the questions they ask me. Other times I'm guessing really. When I write a post that generates a lot of commenting and discussion, then I've hit on a subject that hits people where it counts. And so, right now I'm trying to keep track of that and remember to write more on these subjects.
I also learn from talking with friends and colleagues both on and offline. I get many ideas from my informal interactions with others. And finally, I just trust that if a topic resonates for me, there's bound to be some others who will find some value too.
4. You named your website "Holistic Hot Sauce". How did you come up with that name and what does it mean to you?
I racked my brains for quite a while to come up with a title for my new site. Previously I'd been blogging at Wellness The Natural Way and Grown Up Mom. I have so many interests and passions, and I like to write on more topics than natural wellness. I've recently found out that my multi-passionate personality has a name: Renaissance Soul. (Some people say Scanner or Multipotentialite.)
I wrote about personal growth, writing, travel and many of my other interests on Grown Up Mom, along with ruminations about my experiences of a newly empty nest. Then I realized, why not just put all of this together into one blog and site?
I knew I wanted to somehow include the idea of natural healing and holistic living, but the site is also about feeling radiant, vibrant and enthusiastic about life at any age. I brainstormed titles writing down all sorts of incarnations and the Muse struck with Holistic Hot Sauce. I knew right away I'd found my title. It fits because I'm just shaking up this bottle of sauce and sharing lots of hot and saucy knowledge
5. You claim that you are not the source of a "cure-all" magic pill that will slow the aging process down. Rather, you are a motivational / inspirational coach who guides people toward feeling good about how they look. What do you base your guidance on? Is there any one person or entity that you see as your mentor
Too many people are searching for such a magic pill in this Western society that reveres youth above all else. It's sad that we have not found the way to honor the aging process and the wisdom and experience it brings. My approach is multifaceted. While I encourage midlife women to embrace and own their own wisdom and power as they enter these wisdom years, I also offer tips and techniques for reclaiming the boundless energy of youth and feeling light and happy in your body.
The truth is, we don't have to look a certain way that is dictated by society as Ôattractive,' but we do want to feel good about ourselves when we look in the mirror. This is not an easy thing to do for most women! Midlife is interesting, because on the one hand it's harder to feel good about our looks because our bodies are naturally changing, but on the other we begin to lose our attachment to such things and to claim our own power. It becomes easier to recognize our inner beauty. I like to guide people to this recognition.
I've had many mentors on this journey, and I cannot name just one. It is a torch of women's wisdom really that has been passed down through generations. My guidance is grounded in this ancient wisdom, and I've also been fortunate to study with many inspiring herbalists, mentors and spiritual teachers.
6. How do you define inner wellness?
I think it's different for everyone. But I guess I would say it's being comfortable in your own skin. When we can learn to be at home with ourselves, to truly love and appreciate who we are, foibles and all, then we have a foundation of inner wellness. And that's where the radiance emanates. From that foundation, it is much easier to take action toward feeling well on the outside too.
7. What advice do you have for people who know they are not happy but don't even know where to begin to find out what constitutes their dreams?
Take at least 5 or 10 minutes and go to a quiet comfortable place. Take a few deep breaths and allow your mind to wander back in time to when you were younger, when you were a child. What did you imagine? What did you long for? What did you dream of? Right there is a basis for some of your dreams.
Now some of these dreams might have lost their punch, they no longer grab you. Those you can set aside. But some still give you that little tingle, that sense of longing, and maybe - if they've been set aside for a long while a feeling of regret. Let the regret go, release it into a little balloon that can gently float away. And just allow yourself to daydream for a couple of minutes. Remember daydreaming? That's one pathway to finding what constitutes your dreams.
8. Once people have identified their dreams, how do you go about helping them find their way? Do you have a step-by-step guide or does it differ according to the person?
It definitely varies according to the person, their situation in life, and the dreams themselves. But the first and most important step never changes: make a commitment to take action. That action can simply be spending five minutes per day (if that's all you have) working on this dream or its manifestation. For example, if your dream is to write a book, allot a little time each day to write. At first it might just be some freewriting, sorting out what you even want to write a book about. But that is a step in the right direction.
Other action steps can be enrolling in an art class, starting a travel savings account, or even starting a blog. Dreams are as many and varied as snowflakes and as the humans who dream them. The point is to take a step toward that desire. Own your power, forget about regrets and "it's too late" thinking and as Thoreau says in one of my favorite quotes: ÒStep quickly in the direction of your dreams.
But again, not everyone can make this quick. Slow or quick, there is movement. Doing nothing results in just that: nothing.
Another important step in dream manifestation is facing down and allying with your fears. This is a big (and lifelong) process, and often some of this work has to come first -before that first baby step can happen. Again, there are so many different pathways to working with the universal human condition of fear, and awareness of its existence is the beginning.
9. On your website, you link the itch to do something different with your life with perimenopausal symptoms or menopause itself. What is the connection between that and feeling good about yourself?
Huge shifts begin to occur inside a woman when perimenopause begins. This hormonal transition can last for ten years and presents an amazing opportunity for transformation. Many women spend their 20s and 30s in service to others, and/or building a career. When the inner tides within begin to change, catalyzed by hormones, it becomes easier (sometimes imperative!) to own our own feelings, our own innate knowledge and wisdom. Suddenly we're less tolerant of that which we know to be inauthentic or wrong.
This can create a lot of turmoil (especially because some of us may be experiencing physical discomfort during this time), but it also offers an incredible gift. Often some flailing around in those turbulent waters has to happen before we can pop up on the other side Ð renewed and revitalized and with a fresh perspective on ourselves and the world.
It's a natural period of introspection, and what emerges is often a reconnection with long-held (or new) dreams, and a burning to desire to get on with it and make the most of this life we've been blessed with.
The transition of perimenopause demands self-examination, and often women find themselves embracing new practices and ideas that they hadn't considered before. It becomes more important than ever to feel aligned with spirit in whatever way that manifests for the individual woman.
10. What are some signs women can look for to determine whether or not they have reached the menopausal phase of life?
As I mentioned, this transition can take up to 10 years (even longer for some women), so it is not marked simply by when a women stops menstruating. Many years before that event many women experience some of the stirrings and urgings I've been talking about.
Some women sail through the menopausal years without any physical symptoms at all, while others battle debilitating periods, hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and mood swings - symptoms that can get miserable enough to drive them to seek hormone replacement therapy. Although this might be appropriate in some cases, often if we approach this time with awareness, it's possible to use natural therapies such as dietary adjustments, herbs, natural hormone creams and lifestyle adjustments to relieve the worst of these physical effects
The onset of perimemopuase usually occurs in the early 40s Ð but some women begin experiencing symptoms as early as age 35, while others don't notice a thing until they're well into their 50s. Of course surgery such as a hysterectomy will cause the body to go through menopause immediately and quite quickly - which can be extremely challenging.
It's a deeply personal journey for each woman, and the more in touch she is with her own innate body wisdom, the more aware she will be when she is reaching this phase of her life.
11. One of the many hats you wear is that of an herbalist. What initially got you into natural healing?
I grew interested in natural healing when my first daughter was a baby and I was a young mother. I became frustrated with conventional medicines and doctors, especially when she contracted a nasty case of impetigo an infectious skin condition related to staph. She had nasty scabs on her face, and since she was only one year old she was constantly drooling and touching them, causing it all to get worse. I was at my wit's end!
The antibiotics and medicines prescribed at the clinic weren't helping at all, and it wasn't until I began applying an herbal paste that the illness resolved itself. She was healed! And I was a convert to the herbal cause. That experience inspired me to open up my herb shop, Moonrise Herbs when I was just 24 years old. It became a hub in my community
12. What are the top three suggestions you have for women who are trying to deal with perimenopausal symptoms or menopause?
1) Herbs and food choices can go a long way in relieving the symptoms. Vitex, maca and black cohosh are three that many people find good results with. But every woman is different, it's often helpful to consult with a qualified herbalist, naturapath or other natural health practitioner for guidance.
A qualified practitioner can also guide you in your food choices, but a rule of thumb is to eliminate processed foods, and to emphasize vegetables, fruit and wholesome foods. Soy has been shown to reduce some menopausal symptoms, so including soy foods such as tofu or tempeh in your diet is helpful. However, since everyone's body is different there is not just one tried and true food plan that would work for all (peri)menopausal women.
2) Support & Education. Back in the old days women were secretive and embarrassed to speak about menopause. But the whole process is so much easier when we can support each other. That's one of the intentions of my site Ð it's a space where women can learn and share. We all can help each other.
And in the offline world, most of us feel more open about sharing our experience of the ÒChange.Ó Don't hesitate to talk to your girlfriends, and find solidarity in a shared experience.
There are several excellent books on natural remedies for the menopausal years, as well as books that explore the spiritual transformation. Educating yourself goes a long way to feeling better about the profound shift you are experiencing.
3) Spiritual or Mindfulness practice. This gets a little woo woo here Ð but it doesn't have to be something out there in crystal-land (unless you want it to be.) It might be a prayer, meditation, ritual, yoga, chanting, dance or writing in a journal. At no other time of life is it more important to tune into your own body wisdom, and to connect with the divine or the great mystery.
Many women feel drawn to deepen or learn a formal practice as the menopausal transition heats up. It can take many different forms, not just those listed above Ð and it can be solitary or in a group setting. Your own heart can guide you to which practice(s) will deepen your relationship with spirit and your awareness of the interconnectedness of all beings.
This sense of connection, this ability to listen to inner whispering of your own spirit, can go a long way to easing the sometimes tumultuous experience of the menopausal passage.
13. While renewing yourself and living the process you share with other now, what was the hardest lesson for you to learn about yourself?
That my lizard brain has taken a dominant role in too many of my choices thus far. It's been a big challenge (and one I'm constantly working with) to learn to recognize and interact with this fear-based part of myself and reassure her that I am still safe even when I try new things.
I tend to get in my own way far too often. It's one thing to possess the knowledge and quite another to allow myself to live it. Ego and lizard brain constantly have excuses for why I shouldn't change
14. What is the biggest change you've found or felt since making the decision to follow your own dreams?
It's like a new lease on life. People tell me I just don't age and I used to wonder what I was doing right (besides all that healthy eating, exercise and herbs.) Now I realize a lot of it is about is owning who I really am and being true to my deepest longings, or at least acknowledging them and taking steps to bring them to fruition.
I feel better now at 50 than I did at 35. I have more energy, feel happier when I look in the mirror and feel more empowered to share what I know to be true with others.
15. What is next for you as you venture into the future with your blog and business?
The immediate future involves growing a circle of power surging women and providing a safe and nurturing space where we can all support and encourage each other during the menopausal transition and beyond.
I plan to expand my coaching practice and offer some courses so I can help the maximum number of women with my knowledge and wisdom. And, of course, through it all I am moving toward my own dreams of more world travel and writing a book.
These are just a couple of my many ideas, and I envision putting all these pieces together before too long in a situation where I will use my gifts to empower women and girls, here and abroad, who have not had the advantages I have enjoyed in life.
Sarah OLeary is a journalist, herbalist, consultant, and blogger at www.holistichotsauce.com. She empowers women to take control of their "midlife crises" and embrace the opportunity to follow their dreams. Follow her on twitter at @hsaraholeary