Why on earth would you allow yourself to be miserable and struggling when you can tackle your post menopause symptoms head on and greatly improve your quality of life? Why indeed?
Menopause is a transition time in every woman’s life, it can’t be avoided, and you will go through it whether you go through it kicking and screaming (as many do), or you find a way not only to deal with it, but to thrive in spite of the discomfort!
Trust me, I’m not being glib about this or trying to make you feel bad – I’m in the throes of dealing with the symptoms too!
Post Menopause Symptoms – What are they?
While the symptoms of menopause may differ widely amongst women (as do PMS symptoms), some of the more common culprits are:
- Hot flashes/flushes
- Night sweats
- Mood swings
- More frequent urination
- Vaginal dryness (and discomfort during sex)
- Thinning hair
- Increase in anxiety
- Sleep disturbances
Difference Between Peri-Menopause, Menopause and Post Menopause
What are the differences between peri-menopause, menopause and post menopause and how do you know which stage you’re in?
Peri-menopause usually starts in a woman’s 40’s but can even start in her 30’s. This is the period of time leading up to menopause and can last around 8 – 10 years. You may be fortunate and have barely noticed any syptoms as you will still be having monthly periods, however, behind the scenes, your ovaries will be producing less estrogen than before. Beware, you can still become pregnant at this time!
You may also start experiencing the above symptoms of menopause.
Menopause occurs when your body has stopped releasing eggs and estrogen levels are minimal. Your period has stopped, or it is intermittent and may remind you of when you first started having periods – irregular and spotting. When you have not had a period for 12 months, you are officially said to be in menopause.
Now is when your menopause symptoms will be in full swing! You may be prowling around the house at night, unable to sleep, with anxious thoughts and profuse sweating waking you up or keeping you awake. (It may seem like a good idea to lie naked on the floor to alleviate the discomfort!). You may be experiencing mood swings and depression to such an extent that your family becomes concerned. It may cause a change in your relationships because they may feel that you’ve become difficult to relate to, irritable and angry!
This is the period of time occuring after you have passed your one year mark without having a period. For some women, the hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety attacks and mood swings may lessen, but for others, they are still tormented by these symptoms. Due to the huge drop in estrogen, postmenopausal women are at increased risk for heart attacks and osteoporosis.
On average, this period of time lasts around 4 to 5 years, but it can be shorter or longer.
How to manage your post menopause symptoms to bring you some relief
The above descriptions sound far from appealing, don’t they? However, it is one of the transitions of life that we have to deal with, and we can either resist it and be miserable and angry all the time, or we can tackle it and not allow it to ruin the promise of the rest of our lives! The latter sounds more appealing to me, how about you?
Natural medication or HRT
For women who still experience frequent and ongoing nasty sypmptoms like hot flashes or night sweats, and it is making your life miserable, it may be wise to speak to your doctor or gynaecologist who can prescribe some natural, herbal treatment (light intervention), or heavier intervention such as HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy – replacing the female hormones that the body no longer makes).
The jury is out on HRT, with some people in support and others not as clinical trials have shown risks which may (or may not) outweigh the benefits of using it. It is wise referring to your doctor and doing your research before undertaking any such treatment. There are plenty of medical-type websites available to answer all your questions if you are considering HRT as an option.
Apart from medication, there are several lifestyle changes that will help you to control your post menopause symptoms, and which will in fact, improve your overall health which is a WIN:)
A lifestyle change is so often much easier to talk about than to do, isn’t it? It requires changing long-held beliefs and habits, and that is quite difficult for most people to do. A lack of motivation, support and resources means that your desired changes are often short-lived. Unfortunately.
If you sincerely and wholeheartedly want to make lasting changes in your life, here are some steps you can take to increase your chances of long-lasting change.
I’ll bet you’ve heard this many times before! Exercise is the curer of all ills (is that even a word?). We’ve all heard of the benefits of exercise, but what can it do for your post menopause symptoms?
- Helps you lose that post menopause spare tire, the so-called “menopause belly”
- Improves your mood and emotions by releasing those “happy hormones” (endorphins)
- Weight-bearing exercise builds your bone density (slows down/prevents osteoporosis)
- Improves your mobility and flexibility
- Builds and maintains muscle mass lost during menopause
- Builds your strength and confidence
- Keeps you out of the nursing home (old-age care facility) permanently or for longer
- Staves off aging so that you can play with your grandchildren:)
- Lowers your risk of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and dementia
- Lowers your risks of blood clots, heart disease and stroke
- Helps you to feel more physically attractive
To experience significant benefits from exercise, you should concentrate on resistance (weight) training at least 3 times per week for a minimum of 30 minutes per session, and increase your weights or repetitions over time to ensure progression. Include some moderate cardio-vascular exercise (walking, treadmill, swimming, dancing, elliptical trainer) twice per week for around 30 minutes per session.
Clearly, there are huge benefits to be gained from physical activity, far beyond merely helping you cope with post menopause symptoms! What if you have not exercised in years and don’t know what to do? There are so many options you can choose from. You can go to the gym if that appeals to you and invest in a few sessions with a trainer.
If, like so many women, the gym does not appeal to you (too much equipment you don’t know how to use, too noisy, and too many svelte young people milling around), you can easily get a great workout at home with little equipment!
Also, if gym workouts do not appeal, look at other activities – take up a dance class, cycling or swimming if the climate allows, but remember that you should also do some resistence training for best results (building bone density and lean muscle mass). Find something you enjoy and do it on a regular basis – that is key!
Change in eating habits
Ouch, this is a tough one for many people! If you have eaten whatever you you’ve felt like over the years, no doubt that has contributed to your weigh gain (if you are carrying extra weight) even prior to the onset of menopause. Unhealthy food tastes so good, and it may be a challenge to change over to “clean” eating and fresh, healthy ingredients!
The word “diet” has such negative connotations of suffering and starvation, of eating tasteless, wilted spinach and piles of lettuce leaves! Aargh! Who wants to do that? And where do you even start? Forget a diet – you cannot “go on a diet” if you are looking to improve your health in the long term! This needs to be a LIFESTYLE CHANGE on an ongoing basis.
Some foods may aggravate your symptoms, like:
Processed foods – potato chips/crisps and cookies may be your go-to comfort snacks, but they will lead to bloating and water retention due to the high sodium and sugar content they contain. For a snack alternative to beat the bloat, rather go for baby carrots and hummus dip, or apple slices with peanut butter.
Caffeine – this one is a personal killer for me – I love coffee! Sadly however, coffee and caffeine-containing foodstuffs can worsen hot flashes, so if that is a major pain point to you, there is a decision to be made! Bah! TRy non-caffeine containing teas (herbal teas) and cut down on your coffee consumption. Tough one, I know!
Spicy foods – now you’re killing me! That is another of my favorite foods, but eating spicy foods may also trigger hot flashes! If you eat a lot of spicy food, restrict it to once or twice a week and give your taste buds a chance to taste other foods!
High fat meat products like bacon and lamb – these are said to lower your levels of serotonin (a feel-good hormone) and make you grumpy and irritable. To maintain your good humor, eat leaner cuts of meat such as fat-trimmed joints, chicken, turkey or lean minced meats.
Fast foods and take-outs – clearly these do not have a place in any healthy eating plan due to the inevitable weight gain, but for post menopausal women who are at a greater risk for heart disease, this category is best kept to a minimum! Too much salt, sugar and unhealthy fat and grease. I know, I know…you may not feel like cooking, you may be in a rush or simply just enjoy the tast, but restrict your current consumption by half and see the difference it makes!
Alcohol – this has a high sugar content and may also lead to hot flashes for some women. A daily drinking habit (2 – 5 drinks a day) increases your risks of breast cancer and heart disease significantly. The occasional drink or cocktail is okay.A light alternative is a White Wine Spritzer (white wine mixed with mineral or sparkling water) which is light in calories and refreshing!
The bottom line? Restrict the above categories and include more fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein like chicken and fish, limit you red meat consumption, and include the “good” fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, dark chocolate and whole eggs, to name a few. Some yummy stuff there!
Other changes that will benefit your post menopause symptoms
The main and obvious two lifestyle changes as above of physical exercise and eating habits are body-related and will help you look and feel physically better.
Who knows that the mind-body connection is so important to our mental health and overall quality of life, throughout life? Especially around menopause and afterwards as we are more prone to depression at that time?
Anything that has to do with your mind, will or emotions is benefitting your soul. That unique, one-of-a-kind, valuable human being that you are! Here are some things you can do in this area of your life to control and conquer your post menopause symptoms and live a happier life:)
Grow your brain – lifelong learning is a necessary part of human growth and development which stops us from slumping over and becoming depressed and stagnant. We’re not talking here of “heavy” academic learning like taking a college degree (although that is certainly a great goal done by many post menopausal women who go back to college!). You can learn anything new that takes your fancy that you’ve never had a chance to do:) It can be flower-arranging, learning to play the piano, learning a new language,learning a computer language, or even simple computer literacy – whatever floats your boat!
You will get a great sense of satisfaction from acquiring a new skill which may motivate you to do more!
Take up a challenge – this will give you an amazing sense of purpose and satisfaction as you work towards your particular challenge! It can be anything you REALLY want to do, like a weight loss challenge to lose 40 pounds, or a goal to run 3 miles if you’ve never been a runner before. It can be to complete a public speaking course (a huge challenge for an introvert) and address the women’s group at church, or to go on a horseback safari when you’re wary of horses.
Literally anything is fair game, as long as it is challenging to you! It should not be instantly or easily achievable so that you need to put in effort and work and will then gain great satisfaction from achieving it. It could be a bucket list item involving challenge (I’d love to climb Mount Kilimanjaro!), but it must challenge you and give you some (serious) work to achieve it! What would YOU really love to do? What have you dreamed of achieving?
Go for counseling – this is a must if you feel stuck or depressed about life. There is no sense in dragging yourself around in misery when you still have so much to contribute to the world!
Connect with friends – women have a great need of supportive friendships throughout life. Especially now, in this time of transition, you need to get with those people who understand where you’re coming from and are rowing the same boat (menopause, post menopause) as you. Even if your husband/partner is your best friend, there is no way he can truly understand what you’re going through!
Helping others – this is great soul food, when you can give of yourself to others in need, and there are so many people in need in this world. Use your skills, talents and resources to make life better for the vulnerable. Doing so will not only help them, but will give you immense satisfaction as well. As human beings, we are relational beings and helping others is great soul food!
An often neglected part of us as human beings is the spiritual aspect. We are three-dimensional beings, consisting of body, soul and spirit. Your spirit is who you are at your very core, the part of you that connects with the Almighty.
I once read something that resonated with me: “every (wo)man has a God-shaped vacuum inside of them that will never be filled without connecting to the Almighty”. I’ve seen so many people who seem to have it all – money, wealth, power, good looks and great success, yet they are desperately empty human beings, always searching, wanting more and never being satisfied!
I find that sad. It’s a strong case for looking into yourself and checking out your spiritual connection. Perhaps the lack of a connection is the problem?
If you have a relationship with God, remember that He cares for every part of your life, including your struggles with menopause or post menopause symptoms! Unbelievable as that may seem! He knows every hair on our head (Luke 12:7), isn’t that amazing?
In short, speak to God about your discomfort in this phase of your life. Ask Him to help you and show you how to conquer the issues you are experiencing! Then do that!
If you have never pursued this part of your life, this may well be the missing link! You may be wondering about the purpose of life, or what your purpose in life is, especially in this stage of your life. Those are questions we all ask, and have to answer for ourselves.
You may feel that you are not a spiritual person. You may believe that you’re not a religious person (or have been put off religion for any number of reasons!). This is not about religion. It is about you connecting with the Creator of the Universe personally! It is the ONLY way for you to find your true inner peace, and your purpose. If you’ve done everything else in your power to do and you still feel empty, this is why.
The Bottom line…
As a woman, when you get to a certain age, you will go through menopause and then come out on the other side. You can either kick and scream and fight it every step of the way (which serves no purpose as you will go through it anyway), or you can put a plan in action and tackle each aspect to ensure that you thrive during this phase of your life! You may be finding it the toughest stage of your life, but you can make it your best stage!
How about you? Have you found menopause and post menopause tough? What has worked for you?