Hypnotherapist and new writer Helen Breward is urging women to take a fresh approach to the change of life in her first book, My Menopause, My Way.

The menopause is still a subject surrounded by embarrassment and a sense of taboo, and even a cursory glimpse at the symptoms is likely to have any middle-aged woman feeling down-hearted – but Helen says women should push all that stuff aside.

“The menopause has become more and more talked about and more acceptable to talk about,” she says. “Attitudes are changing.”

Her book’s subtitle is “How to take control of menopause and live life your way” and it is full of ideas based on her knowledge and experience as a hypnotherapist.

“A lot of it comes down to your attitude,” she said. “By the time of the menopause, you have done your bit, and now it’s your time to flourish and do whatever you want to do.”

The menopause is a natural part of ageing, and usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, when a woman’s hormone levels change and her ovaries stop producing eggs. In the UK the average age for women to reach the menopause (when she has not had a period for a year) is 51. In the years leading up to the menopause, they may experience a variety of symptoms, such as weight gain, anxiety and, most commonly, hot flushes.

Helen, from Royal Wootton Bassett, had a hysterectomy in 2012, so went straight into menopause at 47 years of age. She recalled it was a difficult time:

“I had just lost my mum to cancer so the year before was very traumatic anyway. My daughter had just had her first baby, and there were renovations at home so there was a huge amount going on.

“The year before I had trained as a hypnotherapist, so I wasn’t thinking about myself very much.”

In her book, however, Helen encourages women to think about themselves and to take back control over the process and its symptoms. Each chapter starts off with a story or metaphor to do with an aspect of the menopause, followed by an activity and then key learning points. Chapters have titles such as When The Heat Rises, and Dealing with Stress, and the book concludes with information about further resources online.

“I started to write down some ideas at the end of 2014 – ideas that were floating around in my head,” Helen said.

This became her Menopause Relief Programme, and she gathered volunteers to test out her ideas on tackling hot flushes. Initial results were promising, she says, and having positive strategies gave women a greater sense of control over their situation. Since then Helen has published an article in a national magazine, created a training programme for other therapist, presented her work at a conference in Canada and trained therapists in eight different countries to use her work.

“A friend asked whether I had started writing a book,” she said. “I started writing everything down that I had learned, and different people told me different things. It’s a book that you can use to help yourself.”

Helen, now 53, was born in Kings Lynn and grew up in Stanford. She trained as a hairdresser and had her own mobile hair dressing business in the 1980s, before getting married. Her husband was in the armed forces so they lived in Germany for three years. Helen had two children and worked for a playgroup before going to university and training to be a primary school teacher.

“I just loved teaching and working with children,” she said. “We moved to Swindon in 2001 and I taught in several primary schools here.”

Although she loved the job, she said it brought stress into her life and tackling stress brought her into contact with hypnosis. She worked part time has a teacher and trained as a hypnotherapist, opting to pursue a career in hypnotherapy full time in 2015.

“It was a scary decision,” she said. “I loved the actual job of teaching, but not all the other stuff. I decided it was time somebody else took over, and that I could be more useful as a hypnotherapist.”

Helen explained the hypnotherapy was a little like a guided meditation, moving a client into a state of trance or focus, because when relaxed, they are more receptive to ways of changing negative thought to positive thought patterns. Regarding the use of hormone replacement therapy for the menopause, Helen said she took HRT for a short while after her hysterectomy but does not do so any longer.

“More and more ladies don't want to or can’t take it,” she said. “It is a very personal choice, whether to use it, but there are a lot of things you can do to help yourself.”

Helen self-published her book and is planning an audio version. It is available from Amazon for £12.97.