The Menopause Monster Is Scary!
Today I sat at the doctors office waiting patiently to purchase my thyroid medication as the doctor chatted in the next room with a patient. While I waited I heard a few women chatting about hormones and menopause in the waiting room. As I listen to their conversation I was instantly struck by the numerous times I have heard this same conversation played out by the women around me. We are all struggling with hormones, hot flashes, slowed memory and lack of sleep. It feels unfair somehow. We have years of handling hormones, periods and decisions regarding pregnancy. You would hope that would buy us an easy go of it later in life right? Don’t we deserve to age and put all that behind us? Yes we do but unfortunately that is not how it goes and no one let me in on this secret!
I finished having periods at 47. I thought that meant I was done worrying about hormones but I was so wrong! What it actually meant was learning to navigate through all the literature and advice. Hormone creams, Chinese herbs, acupuncture, etc to get back sleep, memory and sanity became my life. Where was the freedom I had been promised? I felt trapped in a foreign body uncertain how to make it run efficiently. Worst of all there wasn’t a ton of reliable information about how to get through this new journey. My path seemed riddled with so many information potholes and I was starting to feel lost and overwhelmed.
And what about that abdominal pooch that pops out as if to welcome us to menopause. It’s not the gift I was hoping for and I wasn’t happy about it. I exercise, eat right and live a life without alcohol except for rare occasions and still it won’t leave my body. Is this another side effect of aging and changing? So many of us complain about this side effect so it sure seems like a common aspect of this time of life.
My search for answers and strategies became my focus. I could not accept this as my fate. There had to be a way to age, change and evolve gracefully and happily.
I have the beautiful job of working with women everyday. I own a fitness studio and it affords me the luxury of interacting and sharing with lots of women my age. We are all in the same boat and guess what? There is hope!
Food is medicine! Yes, I know this sounds obvious but so many people ignore the benefits of a good diet. How many of us accept that our bodies don’t feel their best and refuse to see the link to what we eat? Most people would laugh at the idea of a plant based, non alcoholic lifestyle. I very often get a response like, “I want to enjoy life! How can I enjoy it without the yummy foods and alcohol I love?” Needless to say I am not popular when I ask people to look at the connections between food/alcohol and their physical issues. We can’t ignore the truth. Clean food = happy body and mind. So why don’t we just commit to giving up meat based proteins and our daily glass of wine? Because change is hard. Feeling uncomfortable and out of our comfort zone is scary. The real truth is you have to look at the way you are fueling. Are you eating for feelings or health? Are you drinking for hydration or comfort. Get real with yourself here. Do you place emotional expectations on what you eat and drink? Time to look deep and face the issue. Menopause symptoms get more manageable with a good healthy diet and either no or very occasional alcohol. Sometimes we have to tackle some emotional stuff to get to a place where change is possible. Take the time and really reflect on the way you treat your body. Be kind to it and it will be kinder to you. During menopause this is a really big win!
You have to move. Your body was designed to move. If you deny it movement, it will rebel. Not a fun fact but a fact none the less. I’m not saying that exercise will cure all your symptoms. I am saying that it will help minimize them. Good blood flow throughout your body through exercise can help a multitude of problems. Your spirits will be lifted with a good punch of endorphins and you feel more successful overall after a workout. It helps brain function, regulates body functions, drains your lymphatic system and expends some energy to help regulate sleep patterns. It’s not a magic pill but it is some practical magic to add to your tool box of ways to navigate the physical aspects of menopause.
The final piece of the puzzle for me has been community. Surround yourself with women who are spirited and positive. Menopause mentors if you will. Talking about the monster makes it less scary somehow. You will gain knowledge and wisdom that only experience can provide. Share stories and know that you are not alone in this journey. You are a member of an expansive sisterhood and we are all in this together. There is hope together.
This next phase of our lives comes with so many challenges but if you set yourself up for success through community, support, a good diet and movement in your life, the experience doesn’t have to be a negative one. You are reaching a phase in your life where you can start to focus on you. Take that time because you are worth it!