Peri-menopause, menopause and post menopause are definitely having a moment.
This is fabulous because finally, women are retreating from life wondering what on earth is happening to their bodies, minds and selves. Finally, we are being made aware of the many aspects of this major hormonal shift that once no-one ever talked about. After all, every woman who is lucky to live long enough, will transition into post menopause. It’s high time we started changing the narrative – actually it’s high time we actually started the narrative!
However, with all this wonderful talk about menopause, I feel like things are getting complicated.
There is an ever increasing abundance of information, programs, loads of supplements, treatments and products all designed to miraculously solve all our menopause problems. Of course, some of the these will definitely help women who are struggling and who want to optimise their future health. But, there is also a whole lot of ‘stuff’ providing false promises and over-complicating what can often be dealt with in a more simple manner.
Personally, during the most difficult parts of my menopause transition, I found myself looking for answers – basically everywhere! I wanted to know exactly what was happening to me and how to ‘fix’ it – immediately. After all, I definitely did not have time to ‘wait around’ for my body to adjust to this major hormonal shift – I was much too busy! During this process, I tried a lot of things – a lot!
What I discovered? That nothing much worked until I stopped, slowed down and had a really good look at myself. At my overall lifestyle. Yes, I exercised and ate quite well but I also got up at the crack of dawn and thrashed myself all day, every day, with all the ‘things’ I had to do. I was stressed and I had absolutely no idea what self care was. I was just too busy!
However, something had to change. I simply was not surviving. I felt and looked terrible. My menopause symptoms were increasing. I finally acknowledged that I needed a different approach.
So, I started to get back to basics.
I began to pair things back – a lot! And, amazingly, quite quickly, most of my worst menopause issues began to improve. I cleared out the loads of pills and potions I had been hoping would miraculously replace everything I had ‘lost’, I slowed down a little (still a big work in progress), took more time for self-care (also a work in progress), I slept more, I stopped ‘punishing’ my body for ‘changing’ and I started to be kinder to myself. I took more walks and stopped occasionally to literally ‘smell the roses’.
I changed my work schedule.
The early morning fitness sessions I had run for 10 years were no longer working for me. If I had a bad night’s sleep (which happened a lot during the most severe part of my transition), I literally had to force myself out of bed. That just snowballed the rest of my day into not good choices and not feeling good about myself. Removing the 5am wake ups and allowing myself to sleep in until 7am, made a huge difference – 2 hours in fact – which is an extra 14 hours a week – ie significant. I realise that not everyone is able to change their schedule like I could and I know I am lucky in that respect but this change significantly impacted my life in so many ways.
Looking back now, even before my menopause transition, the early mornings didn’t really serve me. Now that my body seems to have adjusted to the change in hormones and my sleep has improved, I’m not going back to early morning starts. I actually feel better now with the extra sleep than I ever have. Menopause seemed to highlight this aspect of my life that I had never prioritised before and had never really been optimal for me.
Often, when our bodies start changing at menopause (as they naturally will), the automatic response is to exercise more and eat less and ‘punish’ our bodies.
We somehow expect we will stay the same as pre-menopause – of course, some women do but generally most women’s bodies do undertake some changes. Unfortunately, punishing exercise regimes and dieting don’t do us any favours and may in fact make things worse by adding more stress to our already stressed body that is trying to progress through a major hormonal shift.
Training for an ironman at the time of my own transition was not ideal. As I increased my training, I began to gain weight – needless to say this was distressing. The lean mean triathlon machine I imagined myself becoming was definitely not coming to the party. I really had to dig deep. I knew I had to adequately fuel my body and, in the end, I decided I wanted to complete an ironman more than worry about a not so lean body.
So, I simplified things again. I concentrated on prioritising the most important training session, eating quite healthy, fuelling and simplifying my attitude towards my body. Yes, it was different but gosh this 50+ body can do amazing things!
I don’t think I’ve ‘given up’ on my body or myself.
Though, perhaps outwardly it may look a little that way. I have gained a little weight and my stomach is rounder – something I’m still coming to terms with if I’m totally honest. But, I’ve also recognised that I don’t won’t to spend this next part of my life restricting myself severely to achieve an aesthetic that I can’t maintain without a hell of a lot of effort. Rather, I feel like I’m finally learning to love my body. I’m nourishing it, caring for it and moving it with love. When I look at my health and my body this way it really is quite simple.
I’m not only working on simplifying my health regime but also my life regime.
I’m decluttering my wardrobe (you may have noticed I’m back to basic black), my home, my inbox, my study schedule (this is a hard one because I’ve definitely signed up for much too much continuing education!). However, I know that when I can get all the life stuff simplified, then all the other areas of my life also tend to operate so much better and more simply as well.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the fast pace of society and innovations and information. And, there are so many products available now that promise to make our post menopause life better. I get it, we all just want to feel and look our best and we want something to make a difference.
However, I’ve realised that sometimes, instead of looking for something externally to help improve our post menopause experience and our life, we may just simply need to look a little more internally.
For me, in simplifying both my actions and my attitude, I feel happier and healthier than ever before as a 54 year old post menopausal woman. And, that’s what I want for every woman I meet and work with.
Yes, there will be challenges but by slowing down, pairing back and truly caring for ourselves, perhaps we will provide our bodies and mind with a chance to find our way to a beautiful new way of life.
When we strip away all the expectations, the clutter and the mess, it’s such a more simple and enjoyable way to live.
[Please note that I have not mentioned menopause hormone treatment here. If your symptoms are affecting the quality of your life and implementing simple lifestyle measures do not help, then please speak with your doctor and explore what options are available. You do not need to suffer – this is your time to thrive.]