Feeling Good on the Peri-Menopause Journey
A favorite blogger of mine wrote recently that she wants to get through peri-menopause still feeling sexy about herself. But she wasn’t exactly sure what that was going to look like, or how she was going to do it- what tools to use. But it made me start thinking- how can we get through peri-menopause feeling our best?
I write a lot about the hurdles of mid-life and peri-menopause (and the Sex Surge), but this is a question I haven’t really thought about. But it resonates for some, so I wanted to share about it here. While I believe we can only truly answer the ‘how will I get through this stage feeling my best’ question for ourselves, I’ve decided to write about it from what I know from myself and my clients. So, this is the first in a series of newsletters to help answer that question.
First, I think we need to know what we’re about to get into. If I was planning for a long trip through, say, Nepal, I would definitely be looking at some maps and guidebooks. The landscape of peri-menopause has some well known features worth reviewing.
I present: The Great, Long List of Peri-menopause Symptoms.
- Irregular periods (changes in length, heaviness of flow)
- Changes in PMS symptoms (or the development of them)
- Hot flashes
- Sleep issues (typically difficulty sleeping for more than 4-6 hours)
- Mood swings
- Increased anxiety or depression, or development of these symptoms
- Painful intercourse
- Vaginal infections
- Urinary tract infections
- Decreasing fertility (you can still get pregnant, so take appropriate precautions if you don’t want to become so!)
- Changes in sexual arousal and sexual desire (often lowers with peri-menopause, but not always)
- Loss of calcium in bones
- Increased risk of heart disease due to changing cholesterol levels (more ‘bad’ cholesterol, less ‘good cholesterol)
- Night sweats
- Short-term memory issues
- Difficulty focusing or learning new things
If we look at it from a purely physical perspective, it’s a slightly depressing list. Of course these are not all the things that can happen during peri-menopause, but they are the most frequently reported. But if we look at it from a more holistic perspective, the list becomes a set of possible dangers and frustrations we can prepare for, in the same way that we might plan to cross a scary bridge in the depths of Nepal.
So, what can you do?
You can know that these things might be ahead for you. You can think about how well you handle such physical inconveniences and difficulties now- and plan to make it easier for yourself. Are you good at asking for help or dealing with physical pain? Maybe you want to get better at those things, or set up support systems for dealing with them, in the next couple of years.
You can incorporate regular aerobic and strength-training exercise into your life. The research continues to show that aerobic exercise and strength-training take the edge off of peri-menopause symptoms. You may not be free of symptoms, but regular exercise will help take the edge off of their intensity and impact. (FYI- exercise doesn’t have anything to do with weight. So, weigh what you like, just get some aerobic exercise.)
Hydrate and rest. Make sure you’re getting enough water on a daily basis. An easy way to tell is this handy urine color chart. I would recommend you get as much sleep as you can, but sleep may be elusive during parts of peri-menopause, so rest as much as you can. It’s not being lazy- it’s giving yourself adequate rest so you can be more resilient/less scream-y.
If you feel like it, you can take the spiritual perspective with some of these symptoms and see if there is a deeper meaning you can work with. If you’re having hot flashes, is there something in your life, your mind, your soul that needs to be burnt away? If you can’t sleep, is your deeper self trying to tell you something you can only hear in the darkness? I can’t guarantee this perspective will help you physically, but it may help you in other ways.
Be kind with yourself. Some of these symptoms may show up slowly, some may show up by figuratively slamming you against a wall. Either way, try to be kind with yourself. You can’t help that you can’t remember things or are sleeping like shit, so be sure you’re not saying things like, “I’m dumb” or “What’s wrong with me?” or apologizing where you don’t need to. Peri-menopause is a very normal thing- we don’t yell at little girls for getting their period, we sholdn’t yell at ourselves for having our period fall apart.
I know that ‘feeling sexy’ isn’t necessarily high on everyone’s list for dealing with peri-menopause. For some of us, after the intensity of the Sex Surge, maybe having a rest from the high libido is a good thing. But I think we all want to feel as good as we can. Peri-menopause is a journey and we can take care of ourselves on that journey just like we would if we were going away somewhere- getting our basic needs met, taking our time with things, checking out the Google map of the local territory, and being flexible when needed.
Peri-menopause doesn’t have to be horrible. It can be a phase we learn from, just like any other phase of our life. And the more we do to care for ourselves through this journey, the easier it’s going to be.