When I was a young girl and my mother would open the glass sliding door to our back deck and stick her head outside when it was minus twenty degrees, the rest of the family knew that mom was having a “heat spell”. She called menopause “the change of life”. What is Menopause anyway?
Well, the “change” is that a woman’s reproductive system comes off active duty; ovulation ends and hormone production plummets. Leading up to the end of this life-giving cycle, the female body goes through what is called a menopausal transition.
According to the National Institute on Aging, this transition most often begins between the ages of 45 and 55, typically lasting about 7 years, but can last as long as 14. This is perimenopause, meaning before menopause. Actual menopause does not happen until one year after the last and final menstrual cycle. These “changes” during perimenopause are symptoms of the change itself.
There are many variables, some of which include whether or not a woman has ever had a hysterectomy, has ever had children, alcohol consumption, smoker or non-smoker, exercise and diet habits and more. Menopause is very personal. Here are a few candidly honest examples from a few women experiencing their menopausal transition after being given a book recommendation on menopause.
“How about a miracle cure for the burning inferno I sleep in at night??”
“OMG – I NEED to read that book – I snacked ALL day yesterday. I was NOT hungry. Is that normal?
“Fatigue. I had an 8 hour sleep last night and I could nap!! And I can’t remember anything anymore! Is this another symptom? Will this book help me? Oh please tell me I am not alone!!!”
“I’d say I peed my pants because of the laughter, but I pee my pants if I move the wrong way these days anyway. Do they make pretty and sexy Depends?!”
Let me say a few things about these women. They are highly intelligent, loving, sensitive, and successful. They live very full and active lives, filled with a support system of family, friends and loving relationships. These are amazing hard-working women who not only bring home the bacon, but also take care of their homes and families, stay connected to their friends, and work on taking care of themselves.
We are living in a time when women are keeping so many balls in the air at once that she is not just the juggler, she is circus director too. Most women are simply doing their best through this crazy little thing called life. In response to “Please tell me I am not alone…” I can confidently say that you are not alone. We are all in this together.
How then, do we age gracefully through mood swings and hot flashes? There are an abundance of books written about menopause, testosterone and hormones. Like all other physiological “transformations” the body may go through, the healthier your lifestyle, the milder the symptoms.
It’s not surprising that healthy eating (and drinking), regular exercise, reducing and managing stress will unequivocally help in easing menopausal symptoms.
What you probably won’t find in medical journals about menopause is this little piece of advice; FALL IN LOVE. Sound corny? Inconceivable even?
After all, our bodies are dilapidating before our very eyes and I’m asking you to think about love. Let me remind you for a minute that if we are old enough to be reading up on the subject of menopause, that is a very clear indication that we are not at our first rodeo baby. Our boots have done some walkin’ and they’ve seen some miles. Don’t waste too much of your precious time complaining when life is so short and the choice to love is always there. Your life is now.
Fall in love with yourself first. Don’t neglect the things you love to do. You deserve it. And if one body part is showing its age, re-focus your attention to a part that is still looking damn fine, even if that is just your freshly pedicured toes! Can’t sleep? Get out of bed and write a card to someone you love. Fall in love, again and again, with the people in your life who matter to you. Look at a family member, your spouse, or even a friend who irritates you sometimes, and remind yourself why you love them. Do for them what you are wishing they would do for you. What you give you get back tenfold.
My husband left me a note on the kitchen counter the other day before he left for work that read, “Just a little reminder, you are the love of my life.”
That, ladies (and gentlemen), is aging gracefully.
Patricia Kelly is the author of The Freedom of Contentment: Letting Go of Unwanted Habits and Managing Everyday Worries. She is a Certified Hypnotherapist, Stress Management Consultant, and works as a Public Service Assistant in her town’s public library. She lives with her husband and son in Ferndale, Washington.