The flurry of sales in most department stores has started, signaling the beginning of the holiday season. It will be non-stop partying, traveling, shopping, cooking, hosting, eating and frankly......stressing, as we face all the joys and responsibilities that holiday time brings. The pressure probably won't let up until after the first of the year.
What a time to be in full blown menopause!
You've heard the predictions. You're going to be emotionally unbalanced, having hot flashes, not sleeping, forgetting things and generally unhinged, right?? And that doesn't begin to include loss of libido, vaginal atrophy and depression!! On the contrary, menopause can provide a range of symptoms and situations, and the following information will bust some myths as well as provide some solid guidance to help you navigate the holidays and "the change."
If you are like most women, menopause has been preceded by several years, typically during your forties, of changes in your menses, maybe even some missed periods, as well as an occasional hot flash. Maybe you also had some changes in your libido, maybe your sleep patterns have changed, or maybe you notice that sex is a bit uncomfortable. For some of you these symptoms may not have occurred, while for others, you may experienced the symptoms more frequently o profoundly. The true onset of menopause occurs when your period stops completely for one full year.
Again, for some women you may have missed several periods only to menstruate for one month and then start counting again. Typically, your menopause will often mimic that of your mother's, so if she is around and willing to talk, ask her.
Typically when we discuss the "what to do" to make menopause less physically challenging, we cover HRT if hot flashes are significant and numerous and really affecting your quality of life. This is a discussion you have with your doctor so you can weigh the pros and cons of hormone therapy. If sleep is a problem, then you need to work on "sleep hygiene" which means everything from exercising earlier in the day to drinking less caffeinated drinks to creating a bedroom environment that encourages deep sleep.
Vaginal atrophy can make intercourse somewhat painful and using a vaginal preparation like Replens can provide a comfortable layer of moisture. In some cases, you may need a local hormone cream, and again your doctor can be very helpful in offering options and local treatments. Dealing with all of these physical issues and the possible mood swings, compromised memory can seem especially overwhelming during the holidays, though in reality, there is no perfect time for menopause IF you've decided that it's the single worst phase of your life.
So what can you do?
As challenging as it sounds you can make your needs a priority. That may mean delegating some cooking responsibilities if hot flashes and being in the kitchen pose a problem. That may mean delegating entertaining responsibilities so you have some time to relax. That may mean asking a family member to help with company - as a driver, shopper, host - so you can get in some exercise daily and prepare for sleep with adequate downtime. It may mean that you need to see your doctor to discuss what you may need at this time - a dietary adjustment, a sleep aid, HRT or other supportive solutions so you can truly embrace this time in your life and enjoy the holidays.
Remember - this is the beginning of a new phase in your life and you may find that there are some hidden rewards - no more birth control needed, for one - and though holiday time may pose some additional trials as you enter menopause, before you know it the new year will be here, your company will be gone and life, will indeed, move forward.