Your primary emotion when you think of menopause may be fear, and for good reason. Generations of women have passed down horror stories of their experiences, or you may have seen the latter firsthand. Couple those tales with the over-the-top advertisements of women suffering through this hormonal shift, and menopause starts to feel non-survivable.
But this unavoidable rite of passage is coming, whether you’re prepared or not. Fortunately, there are things you can do to make your transition into menopause manageable. With a few changes in behavior and perspective, you may even come to welcome this new phase of life.
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1. Manage Perimenopause Symptoms
The first signs of menopause’s impending arrival appear through what’s known as perimenopause. But don’t let its cute name fool you — perimenopause symptoms often show up unannounced and with a vengeance. Irregular periods, vaginal dryness, and hot flashes can be worrisome and uncomfortable. Add on the surprise gift of discomfort during intercourse, and perimenopause can really start to shake things up.
Impacting women as early as their 30s, perimenopause is a weird time for your body. Because your ovaries are slowly shutting down, you’re still potentially fertile but not in an ideal condition to become pregnant. One way to manage hormonal shifts and symptoms is to begin taking birth control.
Even if you’ve taken care of pregnancy prevention through other means, hormonal birth control has benefits for the perimenopausal woman. You may start to experience inconsistent or missed periods, and using hormonal birth control can get you back on schedule. Get the hormonal support you need by checking out online birth control. Modern telehealth providers can review your prescription needs, work with or without insurance, and ship medication to you directly.
2. Fuel Your Body With Supportive Nutrition
Most ailments and conditions improve or become less uncomfortable when you eat a healthy, balanced diet. Your perimenopausal body is no different, and your willingness to adjust your nutrition can significantly improve your sense of well-being.
A well-balanced diet full of whole foods is easier for your body to digest. Choose iron-rich red meat to boost energy levels. Aim to fill your plate with a variety of protein, carbohydrates, and fats to satiate hunger and support your body. Leafy greens deliver potassium, fiber, and folate, which can help improve digestion, focus, and heart health. Add colorful salads or sauteed greens to meals, using seasonings and vinaigrettes to keep it interesting.
Just as you should add certain nutrients to your diet, you should also reduce foods that worsen menopause symptoms. Hot flashes — the symptom most commonly associated with menopause — can be made worse by caffeine. Blood vessels contract when caffeine enters the bloodstream, and your heart rate and blood flow increase, making hot flashes worse.
Aim to limit your caffeine intake to about 200 mg each day, which is the equivalent of two cups of coffee. If you’re an all-day coffee drinker, substitute decaf as you step down your caffeine consumption.
3. Integrate Purposeful Movement, Rest, and Recovery
The last thing you need right now is another thing to do, especially since your body isn’t being very cooperative. But investing time and what little energy you do have toward purposeful movement may do more good than you think.
Besides the well-known benefits of heart health and weight management, exercise can support your mental health needs during menopause. Your body is going through significant changes beyond your control, and maintaining energy and confidence can help you cope.
Instead of committing to an intense workout routine, focus on moving your body every day. Take a walk during a work break, go for a stroll after dinner, or cap off the day with a stretch session. Focus on incorporating movement through non-exercise activity all day long to boost energy output and your metabolic rate. Park far away, do chores and yard work, and opt for walking to a colleague’s desk to chat instead of emailing. Cumulative energy output can increase your resting metabolic burn rate, which can deter weight gain and improve your overall health.
Assess your current sleep habits, schedule needs, and energy levels to determine the ideal amount of sleep for you. While you may be able to subsist on subpar slumber, it doesn’t mean that your current schedule is healthy. Adults should sleep at least seven hours per night for optimal health, which allows for at least three sleep cycles. A full cycle allows hormones critical to your health and recovery to produce at optimal levels.
Rediscover Yourself in Menopause
The hormonal roller-coaster of menopause is enough to make you reconsider many of life’s decisions. Once you’re done shouting “Why don’t we have ceiling fans in every room?!” you can drill down to what matters. Major life changes often inspire introspection, and menopause is no exception.
When you’ve traded old habits for new ones to make your experience easier, chances are you’ve discovered something new. Dietary shifts may have forced you to cook more, inspiring a new culinary hobby. Prioritizing daily movement may have led you to join a walking group, resulting in a new batch of friends. Whatever your discovery, enjoy getting to know yourself today and be awed by all you’ve accomplished — even with the hot flashes.