So, you're soon approaching the big M, or know someone who's dealing with it. Either way, hear us out.
But, before diving straight into the topic, why not pause to reflect on an excerpt from Mary Ruefle’s Pause, a sparkle of an essay, from 2015:
“I am here to tell you that one woman, a woman who is the most
undepressed, optimistic, upbeat person I know, awoke one morning and walked straight into her kitchen and grabbed a butcher’s knife (she is a world class cook) with the intent of driving it through her heart. That was menopause."
Boom. Welcome to reality.
It’s true that millennials and media have brought a welcomed openness to talk about the M word. But the truth is that, no matter how prepared a woman is for menopause, the struggle of navigating through its mental and physical challenges is very real. And real annoying at that. After all, this is the period where natural hormone levels go haywire, and super-fun symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, irregular cycles, mood swings, irritability, and tiredness are on a quest to throw the mind and body off kilter.
The good news? You’re not all alone. And just like there’s positive light at the end of the tunnel, this adolescent period of older age is not all doom and gloom transition either. With a proper understanding of how to tackle the effects of menopause on the body, it’s possible to alleviate them and come out the other side with a newfound perspective—more energy, confidence, and positivity to you, my strong lady.
Ahead, five menopause tips to make this happen and embrace your menopause experience big time.
1. Watch Your Thoughts
According to psychology, it’s not the presence of negative thoughts, but the absence of positive affirmations that takes a toll on one’s mental well-being. Read. That. Again.
When you hold negative beliefs about what happens during menopause, your mind tends to create a picture so dreadful that the symptoms you experience are no short of hellish—think serious depression, increased stress, and lowered self-esteem. So, the first thing to take note of is to train your mind to have a positive outlook on life, even in the face of difficult menopause symptoms. A great place to begin is by maintaining an appreciation journal. Just writing down things that make you feel happy will not only change the way you tackle the challenges, but also foster a renewed sense of optimism.
2. Prioritize YOU
Got the time to take care of the entire world—the FamJam, the job, the house—except yourself…sounds familiar?
During menopause, your body is changing. Since the condition results in the waning of oestrogen and progesterone levels, you are more likely to gain weight, lose energy, experience sleepless nights, muscle and joint pains, and may also be at a greater risk of getting diagnosed with cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and cholesterol. The key to stay safe and sane? Be conscious of looking after yourself.
Reflect on where you are going in life, or just enjoy the sunset…anything works. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight by exercising—it not only prevents fatigue, mood swings, and insomnia, but also improves metabolism and joint health. Get adequate sleep, try relaxation techniques like gentle Yoga and breathing exercises to settle hot flashes. If you feel overwhelmed, sad, or guilty for no particular reason (FYI: this is common during menopause), don’t be afraid to get some counselling. This phase of life is not something to feel scared of, so take it easy with the required self-care.
3. Rethink Your Diet
Hormonal changes during menopause can cause the bones to weaken. Also, because low oestrogen levels are directly related to hair thinning, hair loss, and a drop in collagen levels, it’s important to look into your menopause diet.
In order to balance the hormone flux, count on foods rich in phytoestrogens—these naturally occurring compounds not only mimic the effects of oestrogen in the body, but also help with hot flashes. Such foods include soybeans and soy products, tempeh, flaxseeds, fenugreek, etc. Fish, meat, beans, eggs are powerhouses of collagen, and ingredients like coconut oil, spinach, avocados, nuts, and seeds strengthen the tresses.
Avoid a high intake of processed foods and refined carbs to keep depression and bone health in check. Include calcium-rich foods like kale, sardines, dairy products, and tofu, and spend some time outdoors in the sun to get your dose of Vitamin D to prevent bone loss, a common side effect of menopause. Keep the consumption of “trigger foods” like caffeine, alcohol, and sugary and spicy foods to a minimum (they may trigger hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings). Last but not the least, consider adding menopause supplements recommended by your healthcare provider to your diet to relieve menopause symptoms.
4. Keep Your Relationship Healthy With Intimacy
Sexual intimacy with or without intercourse is extremely important for a healthy relationship. However, with the transition from perimenopause to menopause to post-menopause, vaginal tissues become thinner and more easily irritated, resulting in dryness down there and hence, painful sex.
Though this might sound scary, don’t freak out and discuss these changes with your partner and gynaecologist. Drink enough water to keep your system hydrated from the inside out. Try lubricants to obviate pain during intercourse. And if those are not enough, see an experienced gynaecologist who can help you with the right menopause treatment.
5. Stay Connected, Stay In The Moment
It’s true that menopause is synonymous with shedding your skin and making way for new layers to grow. And though some of the symptoms you are (or will be) facing sound awful, with the required lifestyle adjustments, YOU CAN sail through this phase. YES.
The first thing you need to do is to stop suffering in silence and cultivate new behaviours that will help you change your mood, before you feel at the mercy of the blues. Get the right social support—it’s key to embrace this milestone and even to help you live longer. Try the “walk and talk” therapy with friends—at this stage, you need other women with rich life experience and wisdom to share. Practice meditation or breathing techniques to be mindful of your surroundings; this will prevent you from worrying about the future (often fraught with anxiety) or dwelling on the past (often tinged with regret). Instead of focusing on the negatives, take this as an opportunity to recreate yourself.
Sure, the whole menopausal experience sounds inherently difficult, but at the end of the day, it’s your attitude that’ll decide whether the glass is half full or half empty.
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