Today is world menopause day, something that is THANKFULLY getting more attention.
Unless you have been through the build up to menopause and menopause itself, you potentially would know very little about it. In my experience women are exceptionally good at hiding it and men aren't even aware they may have one, though attitudes are now changing.
Menopause and peri-menopause is a natural process that affects each person differently. Some will have almost no symptoms at all, whilst others will have many symptoms that affect their ability to function from day to day.
From a physical perspective, it's important to become good at the basics of self-care.
1) Healthy diet. This will be different for everyone, but basically you need protein with every meal, plenty of fibre, omega oils, a range of vegetables, herbs and spices, avoid excessive alcohol and go easy on sugar or processed foods. Your food is your fuel and what your body is made from, give it the best quality raw materials you can so it can do a good job.
2) Sufficient good quality sleep. This is a MUST. Sleep deficiency affects our ability to process the day before and repair our bodies. Menopausal women are often affected by sleep issues, so it's worth getting some advice and support to address the specific type of sleep issues you are facing. This might be diet related, improving your sleep hygiene or learning how to switch off your mind at the end of the day.
3) Exercise. Exercise is mood boosting and aids with sleep. Anything that gets the blood pumping around your body increases wellbeing through improving the detoxification process. Pick from exercise in nature (e.g. walking or open water swimming) or join a gym or exercise class. If you have a busy life, exercise needs to be restorative more than it's stress inducing. If training for a marathon is too much on top of other life commitments then you need to reconsider what gets priority and act accordingly.
For good mental health you need to consider:
1) Realistic mental expectations. Hormone changes affect mental function. Brain fog, memory loss, anxiety and depression are common. Reducing your mental load means you accept you are dealing with diminished mental resources and accommodate yourself accordingly. It's better to expect less from yourself than constantly deal with a chronic lack of resources (which just depletes confidence). Look at ways of delegating either to others or to technology. For example, putting reminders in your diary rather than expecting yourself to remember everything or creating a system or routine for general chores. Peri-menopause can last as long as 12-15 years, so any time spent doing creating effective strategies is a worthy investment!
2) Learn how to switch off. Mental rest is critical to holistic health. Find tools and techniques that work for you. For some this is time in nature listening to the rustle of trees, sound of lapping waves or birdsong. For others it might involve activities such as knitting, woodworking or sport, so long as it is done for relaxation. Anything that gets your full attention for a sustained period of time reduces exposure to the biochemistry associated with anxiety or depression.
3) Talk about your experiences. Keeping your issues to yourself is a recipe for disaster. As human beings we need to connect and share, and sharing our authentic self is part of that experience. For some counselling, therapy or coaching is useful for exploring feelings and life experiences so we move through our life stages consciously. For others they may prefer art, music or gardening as a way of expressing themselves.
4) Join a supportive community. When you are the only one in your household going through the menopause, you can end up feeling like your going mad or that you're just making it up. Sharing with others that understand validates your experience and contextualises it in a bigger picture. Sometimes we need others to see our struggles and support us in ways only those that have gone through it or are going through it can. Groups don't have to be menopause specific, it might be that you find your tribe in a church restoration group, choir or at a golf club with people of the same age.
For your soul health think about:
1) Re-connecting to your essence. Alongside hormone induced depression and anxiety, menopause can bring up huge feelings of grief in women and a mid-life crisis in men. Finding ways to honour our soul's desires through alternative forms of creativity or nurture speaks to our creative tendencies. This also helps us address our change in identity. A strong connection to our purpose in life provides us with an anchor to get through the more difficult aspects of life and can provides us with fuel to create our future.
2) Let go of anything that doesn't bring you joy. With a big life change like menopause it's understandable that we may need to make changes in how we live. Now's the time to stop making assumptions and start being upfront and honest with what makes you happy and what doesn't. Even the most challenging of experiences like dealing with elderly parents/family/work stress/relationship issues on top of the challenges of menopause can be made more manageable if you have a heart connection to what you do. Yes, work stress is hard to deal with, but if it takes you closer to your goal of a better future for all - you'll find the strength to endure it. If however you find that your job no longer makes you happy on the inside, you're compromised and exposing yourself to yet more issues in the long-run. So listen up and be brave enough to let old stuff go so new opportunities can come in.
For community health:
1) Champion normal. Instead of burying the effects of menopause, make it common knowledge. Education goes a long way to breaking down stigmas and barriers and increases connection, compassion and understanding. Reducing expectations on those going through menopause gives them the time and space to transition into a new phase of their life. Be honest about your menopause experiences and treat yourself non-judgementally - role modelling how you would like to be treated by others.
2) Openness. Be open to the idea that menopause exists for men too and they're probably even less likely to talk about it than women.
3) Kindness is key. Be sure to treat people as you would like to be treated. A little acknowledgement goes a long way.
Whilst not an exhaustive list, I hope this gives people some ideas on how they can better support themselves and others so we can all transition through our life phases feeling recognised, supported and heard.