Many middle-age women find they’re unprepared for the “test” that comes with menopause. Therefore, I think it’s as important for middle-age women to go back to school about the issues that they may face in going through menopause as it is for their children to study for their calculus tests or physics finals.
So here’s a quick lesson in menopausal/aging ABCs that I’ve learned that I hope will help you and other middle-age women navigate through this normal transition of life.
A is for “Alternative Approaches” – Strange as it may sound, using alternative approaches lowering stress levels can help you make it through menopause. Example I: a 2011 study out of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that classes that incorporated meditation techniques and stretching exercise reduced women’s stress and anxiety as they went through menopause as well as helped them sleep better. Example 2: Another study out of Norway found that postmenopausal women who had acupuncture experienced fewer severe hot flashes and were not as likely to have mood swings. I personally am trying to be better about meditating and also have regular massages that get rid of the stress.
B is for “Body” – I can already hear you say, “Duh!” But what I mean is that this is an important time to really start listening to your body as it speaks to you. I say this from experience since I didn’t really pay attention to what was happening. Instead, I was too focused on my job, school and caring for a mother who had Alzheimer’s disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. So my body began to start to give me signs that I needed to pay attention. Admittedly, some of these signs were related to menopause and some were just related to plain aging. Nevertheless, they slowly and surely got my attention. Example 1: I found that I was getting clumsy and that I would get bruises that didn’t go away as quickly as they had before. Example 2: I found I had really crazy mood swings that seemed to show up right before my period. Example 3: I found that my brain was foggy at times, causing me to have difficulty concentrating during times when I was counting on laser-like focus. Example 4: My muscles tended to be stiffer and I started having lower back pain that I never had had before. Example 5: Out of the blue, I got a heart arrhythmia. That last one sent me to the doctor and we agreed to let me try lifestyle changes before heading to a prescription. Sure enough, as soon as I started exercising, eating a healthy diet and limiting stress, it went away. And that got me thinking that by paying better attention to what my body was telling me, I could counteract some of these issues. So I started noticing that I only got hot flashes when I would drink a beer, but not wine. That caused a change in my behavior. I found that by increasing the amount of vegetables and decreasing the amount of processed foods and meat in my diet, my body stiffness went away. Again, I’m working on making these food choices more often. Because of these little but meaningful changes, I’ve decided that I have to approach this aging and menopausal transition as a science project. If I start having a symptom, I try to figure out whether I’ve done something to trigger it. I remove the trigger and see if the symptom goes away. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. But the whole process has helped me be more in tune with my body – and it can help you too.