Here’s What Five Wonderful Ladies Had To Say….
Having gone out to lunch with five of my Fitness girlfriends (love these ladies), it was a lot of fun, and we had great conversations. I realized that we all had similar experiences to different degrees going through the menopausal transition (peri-menopause).
We were all at different stages, some just coming into it, some in the midst of it, and some having made it through (our survivors of the group).
It was a great conversation because we were able to help each other with what is working for us and what didn’t work.
I am sure the waitress was shaking her head. We were sitting in the outside covered area of the pub where they had a large ceiling heater, which we were continually having to ask her to turn it up or turn it down. I finally said to her “sorry about that, but you have six menopausal women sitting here,” she thankfully laughed and was able to accommodate us 🙂
I know there is a lot of information out there, but I wanted to just touch on three main things that came up quite a bit in our conversations:
- Hot flashes
- Insomnia – the big one
- Not so much mood swings but just how we felt in general
Another point discussed and was prevalent with all of us is that during this transition time in our lives, we were all dealing with other stress factors in our lives.
Caring for ageing parents (some of our parents have dementia and Alzheimer’s). Supporting while still guiding our children as they enter into adulthood and either taking on new responsibilities at work or starting a new venture/business. All of which can add to that overwhelming feeling we were all getting during this phase.
Many changes occur with our bodies as we age. The article: ‘How to reverse the hands of time. This is what happens as we Age’ explains all of this.
Keep in mind that menopause is a transition, not a life sentence. Many women find that their post-menopausal years are some of their happiest and most productive.
MENOPAUSE TRANSITION FACTS & SYMPTOMS:
- Change in your period. They may no longer be regular, either becoming shorter or lasting longer, bleeding more or less than usual.
- Be sure to check with your doctor to make sure it isn’t something other than peri-menopause.
- See your doctor if your periods come very close together. Or if you have heavy bleeding, spotting, they last more than a week or start up again after a year without any.
Note: after 14 months of not having a period, I had a hefty 10 day one. I went to see my doctor who sent me to a gynaecologist. She did testing and a biopsy… the end result… she said, “it is just your uterus trying one last time to get pregnant’ I just laughed! Then cringed at the thought.
- Menopause is a point in time 12 months after a woman’s last period. It is actually only one day! Before that, it is called peri-menopause (or menopause transition), and the day after that, it is called post-menopause.
- Post-menopausal women are more susceptible to osteoporosis and heart disease. Therefore a healthy diet with lots of calcium and exercise is essential at this stage of life.
- Menopause transition most often begins between the ages of 45 and 55
- On an average lasts seven years but can go as long as 14
- The estrogen and progesterone (two hormones made by the ovaries) greatly vary throughout this transition time.
- Some women have very few or any menopausal symptoms (wish that was me!)
- Transitions can bring hot flashes, insomnia, mood swings, irritability, painful sex, or depression.
- Bone density can decrease.
- Having a hysterectomy where your ovaries and/or uterus is removed will trigger menopause symptoms if you are not taking hormones.
- Weight gain.
- Your waist could get larger
- Can decrease muscle tissue and increase body fat
- Your skin can get thinner and have that crepe look to it. (Yup, that is me and something I still have to get my head wrapped around!)
- Memory problems (just ask my husband, he can confirm this one… now I am just trying to figure out what his excuse is..haha 😉
- Joints feel stiff and achy.
Oh yes, that feeling that starts from the belly and you can just feel the heat rising up to your face.
Suddenly you are sweating, and it is even dripping down your back and in some cases, off your nose! This will happen throughout the day and during the night (night sweats).
Laying in bed soaking wet and not wanting to get up because you are too tired, but then you get too cold so up you get, change and sometimes have to change the sheets or put another layer down. And of course, by this time, forget trying to fall back asleep.
For some women, hot flashes are not a problem or come few and far between. For others it is constant and daily, having to bring a bag of extra clothes with you when you go to work just in case you need to change. Personally, I am kind of in-between.
Not all women who go through menopause get hot flashes, and it is not clear why. Research has shown that smoking, obesity and ethnicity can play a factor in increasing the chance of having hot flashes.
- A sudden feeling of heat spreading through your upper body and into your face
- Your face and chest become flushed and can be blotchy and red
- Can happen at night (night sweats) and wake you up
- Excessive upper body perspiration
- Can last between 30 seconds and 10 minutes
- Can happen several times in an hour, a few times a day, or just once or twice a week
- Heart rate increase
- As the hot flash dissipates you become chilled
Symptoms can persist up to seven years, and for some more than 10 years
Each woman is different as to the frequency, and the intensity of hot flashes and how long each bout lasts will also vary.
- Avoid triggers such as caffeine, hot and spicy foods and alcohol
- Keep cool, carry a portable fan (you can get some cute small handheld fans).
- Don’t smoke
- Lose weight if needed
- Wear layers of clothing, this way you can add layers or take away based on how hot you are feeling
- Sipping ice water, or sucking on an ice chip at the start of a hot flash
- Wear cotton pyjama’s
- Using cotton bed linens
- keep a cold pack on your bedside table
This is a big one for most women. Everyone I talked to have dealt with this to some degree or another. Most of them, including myself, to a significant degree.
Actually last night was one of those nights that I just could not sleep, I woke up at 3am and just couldn’t fall back asleep so here I am at 4am writing this blog post.
Lack of sleep, I feel, is one of the biggest problems with menopause (or any time of your life, female or male). And it can be extremely detrimental to our overall health and well-being.
There are so many negatives that come from lack of sleep. Here are a few and what you can do about them.
- Tends to happen around midlife
- For some, they can fall asleep easy enough but wake up throughout the night and have trouble falling back asleep or do not fall back asleep at all.
- For others, it is both falling asleep and staying asleep which is the problem
- Difficult to focus
- More prone to falls and accidents
Along with these tips, check out a previous blog post: ’17 Ways to Combat Waking up Exhausted’. And remember to always discuss with your doctor first before taking any medication even if it is over-the-counter or natural supplements.
- Some women will use over-the-counter sleep aids like melatonin.
- Some women will use prescription medicines. Which may help for a short time. Again see your doctor.
- Medicines are not a cure for insomnia, but instead, developing healthy habits during the day and before bedtime will help to have a good night’s sleep.
There has been research done on CBD oil, and it’s positive outcomes for sleep.
- CBD does not elicit a ‘high’ that you get with THC. “Evidence points toward a calming effect for CBD in the central nervous system,” according to a recent research article. **
- Take a nap when you feel the need. It is amazing what even 15 minutes will do. And even times when I lay down and don’t fall asleep that is ok too, I just know my body is resting, and that makes a big difference also.
- From our article ‘17 Ways to Combat Waking up Exhausted’ #10. Things to Avoid and Things to create:
- caffeine for the late afternoon onward
- alcohol in the evening
- Any screens (i.e. iPhone) in the last hour of your day
- Having your room too hot. Your brain needs to drop its temperature 2-3 degrees F to sleep
- A regular sleeping pattern. This is the most important. Go to bed, and wake up at the same time every day.
- A comfortable and restful place to sleep in.
- A ready to sleep mood. Turn off most lights in your house at night 2 – 3 hours before bed. Incandescent light bulbs have shown to suppress melatonin.
HOW WE FEEL IN GENERAL
Mood swings definitely came up in conversation, but what I heard and have felt myself through this process was more of ‘how we felt.’ The common thread that came up with women whom I had interviewed or posed a question on a Facebook group was that we did not ‘feel like ourselves.’
For many, it was a feeling of lack of confidence in themselves or a lack of self-worth. Just that feeling of being out of sorts.
For me, this was very difficult as I had always been (or at least I thought I was) a strong woman. Who found it easy to be in front of a large group of people and give a presentation or teach a fitness class. All of a sudden, there were doubts and feeling like ‘can I do this?’
For another friend, she mentioned just the lack of happiness, and not feeling excited about anything. And even planning trips which would typically be fun and exciting lost its lustre.
Scientists don’t know why this happens. It could be the fact that many of us are also dealing with ageing parents. Helping our kids grow into adulthood. Or some may have a history of depression, which rears its ugly head at this time.
There is also the factor of health problems, joint problems and our bodies not being as strong and resilient as they used to be, which can be very frustrating.
Note: As I am writing this blog post, I am two days away from having full hip replacement surgery on my left hip. Something I was born with (Dysplasia) and osteoarthritis. Pain can be debilitating physically, mentally and emotionally. So adding pain to the whole menopause transition just adds another layer to deal with.
- Mood changes
- Feeling more irritable
- Feeling constantly tired. Which could be due to insomnia.
- Lack of confidence in one’s self
- Just feeling ‘out of sorts’
We so often are the caregivers of others and forget about ourselves. This is a time in our lives where we have to be sure to put ourselves first and take the time for our emotional, physical and spiritual well-being. And let’s face it when we feel good about ourselves … everyone benefits
- I find just having an understanding of why I feel the way I do makes a big difference in handling those feelings and knowing that it is ok.
- Take time in the day for ‘me time.’ Whether that is meditating, having a hot bath, time to sit, relax and read a book, have lunch with a girlfriend, or whatever it is that makes you happy and relaxed.
- Feel confident in your ability to say no. If there are demands on your life and time that are creating undue stress, say no to those demands. Realize that you don’t have to show up to every request and be everything to everyone.
- Being physically active will go a long way to helping you feel better, both mentally and physically. Find something you enjoy doing, go for a walk, a hike, a fitness class where you are surrounded by other people. This will go a long way to not only feeling better but also sleeping better too.
- Be gentle with yourself and listen to what your changing body needs.
So no matter what stage you are at during this transition phase of our lives, it is crucial to be aware of our bodies and the changes that are occurring. To know that it is ok and normal to feel the way you are feeling and have a plan to help with the symptoms.
Self-care is critical. Take the time to care for yourself, to take the naps when you need them, to say no when there is undue stress in your life.
Remember, you are not alone. We women all go through this, and we will survive!
This is one reason I love connecting with friends; we have great laughs, catch up, and can talk about menopause and what works and doesn’t work for us.
I hope this article was helpful and that you may have got a new insight or something new to try.
- NCBI Government Menopause Article