“In the end, the real wisdom of menopause may be in questioning how fun or even sane this chore wheel called modern life actually is.”—Sandra Tsing Lo
The sun shone gently through the half-closed shutters.
Outside, a bird was singing cheerfully.
It was a beautiful morning indeed.
Yet somehow, this morning seemed different for the woman still lying in bed.
She lay staring up at the ceiling with a sad look.
For some unexplainable reason, she felt that she wanted to cry.
She heard her husband’s footsteps as he came whistling down the hall. But even that seems to grate on her nerves.
“Time to get up,” he called cheerfully.
When she failed to answer, he came to the bed and laughingly pulled the covers back.
“Come on, dear, time to get up.”
Suddenly, she sat in bed and angrily cried: “Leave me alone! Leave me alone!”
Before her startled husband knew what was happening, she fell back into the pillow and buried her face in it, sobbing as though her world had fallen apart.
This woman was having a bad day during her menopause.
Usually, things are not as drastic as this, but the entire family is affected when they are.
The husband does not know what to do; the children may be upset.
Yet the mother is the one having the bad experience.
An understanding of what is going on can help everyone concerned.
A lot of stories circulate about the menopause.
One woman who has just come through it remarked:
“Often you suffer more anxiety from what people say than from the menopause itself.”
What is menopause?
“Menopause is the time of life [usually between ages 45 and 50] when menstrual cycles cease, and is caused by reduced secretion of the ovarian hormone’s estrogen and progesterone. Individual experiences vary.”—PubMed
Menopause is often called the change of life, but some object to that term.
Because “change of life” suggests that at this time, life somehow completely changes.
A change need not be the case at all.
True, some women feel a sense of loss that they will not be able to have any more babies.
But in a woman’s career, marriage, recreation, and many other aspects of life, things can be nearly the same afterward or, in some ways, even better.
Some women look forward to menopause.
To those women, menopause means relief from continuous childbearing.
For some women, it brings them the freedom to pursue other interests in life.
How Does Menopause Affect Women
“The menopausal transition affects each woman uniquely and in various ways. The body begins to use energy differently, fat cells change, and women may gain weight more easily. You may experience changes in your bone or heart health, your body shape and composition, or your physical function.”
Source: National Institute of Health (.gov)
Common symptoms include:
- Hot flashes
- Sudden fatigue
- Heart palpitation
- Vaginal dryness and irritation
The good news: most women have only a few of these symptoms, if any.
And even if you experience severe problems, there are ways to get relief.
Strategies for Managing Menopause
Managing menopause involves addressing the physical and emotional changes that can occur during menopause.
Here are some strategies that can help menopause symptoms:
- Educate yourself: Learn about the various physical and emotional changes during menopause. Understanding what is happening to your body can help you better manage symptoms.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle: The need for nutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals) does not decrease as a woman ages, but her hunger for calories decreases. She is eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep to help alleviate symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, and weight gain.
- Discuss hormone replacement therapy (HRT) options with your healthcare provider. HRT is a type of medication used to treat menopause symptoms brought on by changes in hormone levels.
However, HRTs are not entirely replacing the hormones in your body but may help with hot flashes, night sweats, and other symptoms. It is essential to weigh HRTs’ potential benefits and risks and make an informed decision.
- Manage hot flashes. Dress in layers so they can easily be removed or added. Cotton and linen allow perspiration to evaporate better than synthetic fabrics. Keep your environment cool, and avoid triggers such as spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol, which can worsen hot flashes. Deep breathing exercises and relaxation techniques may also help manage hot flashes.
- Maintain vaginal health. Use water-based lubricants or moisturizers to combat vaginal dryness, such as vegetable or fruit oils, vitamin E-oil, and lubricant gels. Regular sexual activity or the use of estrogen creams can also help maintain vaginal health.
- Manage sleep disturbances. Improve the quality of your sleep. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine, create a comfortable sleep environment, and avoid stimulants such as caffeine before bedtime. If sleep disturbances persist, consult your healthcare provider for further guidance.
- Manage mood swings. While a woman must deal with the hormonal and physical changes that come with menopause, she often must face other stressful events. To handle stress better, identify the sources of stress and then try taking a break from time to time. Pace yourself. Try to avoid overscheduling. Listen to your body. Engage in stress-reducing activities such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises. Get support from friends and family. Seek professional help if the stress in your life gets out of control.
- Exercise regularly. Regular physical activity can help manage menopause symptoms, including mood swings, weight gain, and bone density loss. Aim for a combination of aerobic exercise, strength training, and flexibility exercises.
- Maintain bone health. Consume a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, and consider discussing the need for calcium and vitamin D supplements with your healthcare provider. Regular weight-bearing exercises, like walking or weightlifting, can also help maintain bone density.
Family Members Can Help
A woman experiencing menopause needs emotional understanding and practical support.
One wife described what she would do when stressed out, “I talk matters over with my husband, and after his sympathetic understanding, I would see that the problems weren’t as big as my anxious state of mind made them.”
Tips for the spouse:
- Be patient.
- Become a team.
- Appreciate her confusion.
- Reassure her that she’s still attractive.
- Ask her what she needs/communicates.
(Source: Psychology Today)
Also, children should genuinely try to understand the reason for their mother’s emotional swings.
Young ones need to recognize the mother’s need for private time.
Ask appropriate questions to understand better what is happening, and help with household duties without being asked.
The above are just a couple of ways to support mothers during this stage in their life.
Remember, every woman’s experience of menopause is unique.
It is essential to consult with your healthcare provider to discuss your specific symptoms and develop a personalized management plan.
- Menopause is the period in a woman’s life (usually between 45 and 50) when menstruation gradually stops.
- Strategies that can help menopause symptoms include:
- Educating yourself.
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
- Discussing hormone replacement therapy with your healthcare provider.
- Managing hot flashes.
- Maintaining vaginal health.
- Managing sleep disturbances.
- Managing mood swings.
- Exercising regularly.
- Maintaining bone health.
- How family members can help.
- Every woman’s experience of menopause is unique.
- Consult your healthcare provider to create a personalized plan.
Everyone’s menopause is different.
Don’t assume you know what a woman is experiencing.
If you are a woman, do not dread menopause.
Take a positive view of the menopausal stage in your life.
Be kind to yourself.
And find those who will support you during the “changing years” of your life.
Following the suggestions in this article, you can manage symptoms and promote your well-being during menopause.
“The changes, the highs and lows, and the hormonal shifts, there is power in that.”—Michelle Obama