By Jessica French, Learning and Development Manager at CABA
For half of the population, the menopause is inevitable. It’s a natural stage of life every woman will experience at some point. However, it still feels like a taboo subject, with women often feeling uncomfortable or embarrassed to talk about it and the symptoms that may occur during this time. Many don’t know what to expect from this hormonal switch and can be overwhelmed by the changes in their bodies and hormone levels, such as hot sweats, mood swings, depression, fatigue, forgetfulness and often, anxiety.
But the menopause doesn’t need to be viewed as a negative and scary process, and there should be a focus on the benefits and opportunities it can bring. For example, the menopause can offer you a fresh perspective; shake you out of complacency and give you a chance to make a bold, fresh start to a new stage of life. It can be a time to embrace the wisdom of your experience and maturity and use it to your advantage. Never disregard how much you’ve learnt and grown throughout your life.
Here are 8 suggestions for how you can make the most of this time and use it to springboard and begin this next phase in your life:
1 Bulletproof your stress handling skills
It’s easy to become stressed out as you experience the menopause, the hormone changes in your body can cause irritating symptoms such as hot flushes and disturbed sleep, which when combined, can easily create a stress vacuum. Classic stress-busting techniques such as exercise, healthy eating and avoiding caffeine and alcohol may help, but why not use this time to try something new? It’s a time to learn exactly what works to reduce stress for you – whether it’s mindfulness, rock climbing, singing, running marathons or painting.
2 Reinvent yourself
It’s not unheard of for women to feel as though they’ve lost their identity as they proceed through this life stage. Often, empty-nest syndrome and the challenges of middle age can stir up sad, and often depressing emotions. But, by viewing this as a time of growth and expansion rather than a loss of identity, you can re-evaluate your priorities and reinvent yourself. Try experimenting with new colours in your wardrobe or embrace a new hairstyle or colour. Women are more likely to take risks in these transitional years. More radically, you might feel inclined to turn a passion into a business. Over the last 10 years, there’s been a 65% increase in women over 55 opening business accounts.
3 Be aware of your changing body
Hormones begin to decline for as long as 10 years before your last period; a time called peri-menopause. Consider if health issues like depression, joint pain, anxiety or insomnia could be related to hormone changes. If you’ve noticed any of the symptoms occurring or accelerating, don’t be afraid to talk them over with your GP so together you can tackle the root cause, not just the symptoms.
4 Recalibrate your wellbeing habits
The menopause is an opportunity for you to re-evaluate your lifestyle, and the bad habits you may have accumulated over the years, as from now on, your body will struggle to tolerate the casual neglect you may have unwittingly subjected it to. The symptoms can often be a culmination of hormone imbalances, so developing better eating or exercise habits will improve how you feel now, and carry you into a healthier future.
5 Eat for balance
To keep your hormones working in harmony, and to quench hot flushes, work at stabilising your blood sugar, rather than riding a roller coaster of highs and crashes. Reduce your sugar and processed food intake. Opt for complex slow release carbs at dinner times and try packing meals with protein and good fats like coconut oil, olive oil and avocado.
6 Rest and repair
For many women, the menopause’s biggest impact is on their sleep. The right amount of quality sleep is as important to your health as diet and exercise and can contribute to a decrease in feelings of stress and anxiety. Our individual sleep needs will vary, but research tells us that the sweet spot is more than 5 hours every night, but less than 9.
7 Learn to say ‘no’
During the menopause, your levels of oestrogen will naturally begin to decline. As these are the hormones associated with bonding and nurturing, you might feel that you have more space to focus on your own priorities instead of feeling more focused on others. This could be a chance for you to prioritise ruthlessly both personally and professionally, as well as a chance to cherish the things that really matter.
8 Break the silence
This can be an opportunity to deepen your closest relationships and positively educate the next generation about this stage in every woman’s life. Don’t hold back in talking through your experience with your loved ones so they can understand and support you. If you feel the need, share your feelings with a professional counsellor and talk your symptoms over with your GP. Get together with others going through this life stage to build a community of mutual support.
By taking these simple pieces of advice, you can alter your outlook on a life-phase which is often viewed negatively. Making the most of these changes and being 1 step ahead of the symptoms will help combat the menopause and allow you to stay in control. Remember that you aren’t alone and push yourself to talk about it – as you aren’t the first, nor the last woman who will go through this, take advice from others and remember: it won’t last forever.