They say there are two things you can be sure of in life – death and taxes. However as women, we get a bonus third thing we can be sure of – menopause. Yay! Lucky us! Menopause is defined as “occurring 12 months after your last menstrual period and marks the end of menstrual cycles.”
Such a simple definition obviously doesn’t capture the scope of this “change” women endure. Menopause can happen in your 40s or 50s and even into your 60s and beyond.
Some women are thrilled about the idea of no more monthly periods including cramping, headaches and inconvenience. They can also have copious amounts of sex without having to worry about pregnancy. It is a time where we have earned our womanly stripes and are more proud, confident and sure of ourselves than ever before. However some women are saddened by the idea of going through menopause because they feel like they may no longer be vital, fertile and sexual. I would argue this with the fact that Christie Brinkley is 61, Elle Macpherson is 51, Sofia Vergara is 44 and Jennifer Lopez is 48 this year! This is a sexy group of potentially menopausal women!
Besides having to come to grips with the idea of menopause, there is also the “in your face” physical symptoms that can sometimes be nearly unbearable. The physical symptoms include the infamous hot flashes, irregular periods, vaginal dryness, night sweats, difficulty sleeping, mood changes, weight gain and slowed metabolism, thinning hair, dry skin and loss of breast fullness. Sounds fun right?! OMG!
Here are some symptoms (listed below) that you may experience in the thick of menopause and some ideas for relief. The reliefs listed are ones outside of menopausal hormone therapy (MHT). MHT is an option that may alieve many symptoms of menopause. Be sure to discuss any of these options with your doctor prior to implementing them.
Hot flashes – Be cognizant of what trigger these – spicy food, alcohol, caffeine or stress – and avoid them if possible. Also do whatever else you would do in the middle of a heat wave of summer – fans, relaxing and “breathing”, dressing in layers etc… Consider taking black cohosh. It is said to be beneficial in easing feelings of depression as well as regulating body temperature.
Vaginal dryness – As mentioned above, just because you are menopausal, doesn’t mean you can’t or don’t want to get it on! So if you do experience dryness, there are lots of great lubes out there. I would suggest buying one at a sex toy store rather than the pharmacy – they have way more options there for you to use. Using a water based one is also where it’s at. If the over the counter variety don’t do the trick, talk to your doctor.
Problems sleeping – Everything’s better with a good night’s sleep. One of the best ways to get a good night’s sleep is to be physically active. But don’t do this close to bedtime as it might make you more awake. Also, avoid working or “screen time” right before bedtime, caffeine after noon, and avoid alcohol close to bedtime.
Mood swings – Great! So as if we weren’t hormonal enough before menopause!?! If you are experiencing mood swings, getting enough sleep, reducing your stress and staying physically active will help ease your stress. Depression is another common side effect of menopause. If this is a new condition for you or is exasperated by menopause, talk to your doctor.
Here are a few other ideas that could help…
Healthy lifestyle – Menopause is another instance when proper nutrition and exercise are paramount in achieving benefits to your body and relief of symptoms.
Support – Consider joining an “in person” or online support group for women who are going through the same things as you.
Yoga – Continual evidence supports the notion that yoga can help relieve irritability and depression brought on by menopause. Women report that yoga relaxation and stretching techniques help stabilize their moods while improving their overall well-being.
Mindful Breathing – Another great idea to incorporate into your life is meditation (menopausal or not!). Meditation and “mindful breathing” can help calm your mind and any anxiety you feel including during times of hot flashes. It will also allow you time to decompress, destress and relax.
Acupuncture – Some women swear by acupuncture as a great treatment and alternative to hormone therapy for menopausal depression and hot flashes.
Supplements and Herbs – In addition to Black Cohosh, you may want to incorporate St. John’s Wort and Ginseng into your regimen. St. John’s wort is said to be an effective treatment for menopausal mood swings, improved sleep, relaxation, and reducing mild depression and anxiety. Ask your doctor before you begin taking St. John’s wort, as it might interact with other medications. Ginseng may be used to treat menopausal symptoms of fatigue, anxiety, and stress.
Luckily we are in the best time in history to go through menopause. We know more about menopause now than ever – including best ways to relieve symptoms!
Everyone’s journey through the “change” (for the better) is different. For some, it’s hell and for others it’s a cake walk. Hopefully yours is the latter. If not, hopefully this blog will help you find some relief or at least have some solid options to consider and talk about – with your circle of “people” and with your doctor. I also hope you to consider the notion that menopause isn’t a curse, but rather it’s an end to cramps, bloating, tampons and headaches! That it is a path to freedom! Let’s all see this as a graduation – you made it through the trenches and now you can soar.