A Menopause Survival Guide

by Brianna Flaherty | 01/28/19

In spite of a rough reputation, menopause is a natural part of life for everybody with a period. Some women have a tougher go of it than others (cue Kim Cattrall describing hot flashes as a “vat of boiling water”), but every menopausal woman has to navigate a culture that tells them to quietly fade into the sunset once symptoms kick in.

In reality, menopause (and all the changes leading up to it) is part of a major transitional time that can feel more than a little jarring. The more community and information you have, the more empowered you’ll feel while change is afoot. In that spirit, here are a few hands-on ways to get comfortable with your symptoms and get the most out of menopause.

Invest in your mental health

Menopause or not, every person should be prioritizing mental health this year. According to the APA, anxiety has increased in about 40% of Americans in the past year alone (with the largest spike in our most menopausal citizens: baby boomers.) Anxiety and depression are some of the least-talked-about but most common symptoms of menopause, and it’s so important to recognize when it’s time to reach out for some help. Investing in mental health looks different for different people: if therapy isn’t for you, trying out an exercise regimen to burn off extra energy, cutting back on caffeine, or even making a point of confiding more often in friends, are a few of many ways to start taking care of your mental health. The more resources you can equip yourself with, the better you’ll be able to roll with the changes that are inevitably coming your way.

Commit to a sleep and relaxation ritual

Learning to relax is a super important skill to master for those times when life gets a little too overwhelming (or overheated.) Essential oils, candles, and other olfactory tricks are proven to reduce stress and anxiety. Bonus: reduced stress and anxiety are directly tied to feeling more rested and sleeping better, which is good news for anybody with a thrown sleep schedule.

If you want to take your relaxation practice one step further, there are tons of mindfulness and meditation apps on the market now that help you learn to create calm, no matter what’s going on around you. When you’re considering your options, make sure your relaxation practice feels sustainable for you. It should be something you can easily incorporate into your daily and weekly routine, and the best practice is one you’ll actually look forward to everyday.

Create your own climate control

Hot flashes aren’t a given in perimenopause or menopause, but they’re a big reason why this time in a woman’s life gets such a bad rap. Up to 80% of women experience thermoregulation issues, and some of us will navigate hot flashes for the rest of our lives. That said, there are many ways to keep cool year round, and sometimes it just takes a little creativity. When I asked women what works for them, I heard everything from handheld fans to slipping a gel cooling mat marketed for dogs underneath your pillow at night. Whether it’s a cup of ice, a good old fashioned wet rag in the freezer, or a mat from the pet store, you just need to find the solution that’s best for your bod. If you start hitting dead ends, don’t be afraid to think outside the box!

Pay attention to your body

It’s hard to ignore your bod when it’s in alternating states of heatstroke and restlessness, but intense menopause symptoms can actually eclipse other messages your body is trying to communicate. Sometimes undetected conditions—like nutrient deficiencies or thyroid problems—can actually intensify your symptoms. Plus, during and after menopause a woman is at increased risk for conditions like osteoporosis, bladder leaks, and cardiovascular disease. It’s important to stay in tune with your body as a whole, and not just with the new changes and symptoms demanding your attention.

Allow yourself to keep growing

If our collective experiences in middle school were any indication, a second puberty is a huge opportunity for growth and change. In the words of Oprah, “So many women I've talked to see menopause as an ending. But I've discovered this is your moment to reinvent yourself after years of focusing on the needs of everyone else.” Because menopause is a timestamp in every woman’s life, it’s also an opportunity to reevaluate, recalibrate, and redirect anything in your life that doesn’t feel perfectly suited to you. Plus, it’s kind of hard not to engage in some introspection when you’re wide awake and drenched in sweat in the middle of the night, right?

What are your best hacks for menopause symptoms? Do you think perimenopause and menopause live up to the negative hype? Share your story in the comments!

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