What is the Menopause?
The menopause is when a woman stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally. Periods often change over a few months or years before they stop altogether. Sometimes they can stop suddenly. The menopause is a natural part of ageing that usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, as a woman’s oestrogen levels decline. In the UK, the average age for a woman to reach the menopause is 51.
What is Perimenopause?
Physical changes begin years before the final menstrual period. This transition phase is called the perimenopause and may last for 4 to 8 years. A woman often notices changes in frequency of her periods and they can become lighter or heavier. It ends one or two years after the final menstrual period depending on the womans age.
The symptoms of the menopause affect everyone from yourself, your partner & children to work colleagues and the poor person at the reception desk you just shouted at for no reason!
So how can you help your partner, wife, sister, mum, or anyone else experiencing unpleasant symptoms of the menopause? It can be helpful to understand more about what is going on and how to support your partner, wife, mother etc.
Did You Know?
- Up to 50% of hot flushes can be managed by identifying and changing your triggers?
- Triggers include things we eat and drink such as alcohol, chocolate, caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee, cola & energy drinks
- But it’s not all bad news…you can choose to do something different that will make a real impact such as changing to decaffeinated drinks, switching to non-alcoholic drinks or choosing to drink alcohol knowing you may have more night sweats & hot flushes because the enjoyment of social drinking outweighs one poor night.
- Did you know it is fashionable to wear layers of clothing? Me either but it means I can easily adjust to my body by putting more on or taking more off!
Each woman’s experience of menopause is different. Many women report no physical changes during peri-menopause except irregular menstrual periods that stop when menopause is reached. Other women experience hot flushes, night sweats (heavy sweating from hot flushes at night, often disturbing sleep), and thinning and drying of vaginal tissue that can make sex painful. The severity of these body changes vary between women, but are perfectly natural and normal. Some other symptoms you might experience include:
Rage, anxiety, depression, agoraphobia, loss of concentration, poor memory, social anxiety, loss of confidence, anger, irritability, mood changes, trouble sleeping, and urinary incontinence.
It’s really no wonder that mental health problems and rates of suicide peak around the time of menopause. Some women find the hormone fluctuations create a feeling of being out of control. However, these distressing feelings can be helped by regular relaxation and stress-reduction techniques, including deep-breathing exercises and massage, following a healthy lifestyle – enjoying good nutrition and daily exercise and enjoyable, self-nurturing activities. If you do feel desperate or suicidal you can get immediate help by contacting the Samaritans by mobile on 116 123. Some other helpful contact numbers can be found at the bottom of this blog.
Spot and Change Upsetting Thoughts
When you are feeling low, it is likely that you will experience unhelpful thought patterns. These thought patterns can affect how you feel and what you do. They can spoil your life, they affect how you feel emotionally and physically and also what you do… they also seem to encourage more bad thoughts and before you know it you are stuck in a vicious cycle. Unhelpful thoughts can become bad habits which affect you all the time and impact your life.
But there is some good news…The Amazing Unhelpful Thought Busting Program from the ‘Why Does Everything Always Go Wrong’ module in LLTTF course aims to help you to tackle unhelpful thoughts which come into your head and get lodged there, sending you into a downwards spiral of unhelpful thinking.
Use our Bad Though Spotter worksheet will help you to work out if you are ‘mind reading’ – imagining what other people think about you if they notice you are having a hot flush, or perhaps you are your own worst critic, unhappy with your changed body shape for example.
Our Amazing Unhelpful Thought Busting Program (AUBTBP) has 5 steps:
Step1: Label It – when you spot an unhelpful thought, perhaps about getting older or feeling that your life is over. Label it as a ‘bad thought’, it isn’t real or the truth, it is just a thought. When you label it, the thought loses strength and power.
Step 2: Leave It- let it be, imagine it in a corner by itself. A bad thought is like a celebrity, it thrives on attention! Leaving a bad thought lets it shuffle away. But if the thought is still really loud and insistent, then you need to move on to the next step…
Step 3: Stand Up to It! Unhelpful Thoughts are like bullies! So, stand up to it, like you would to a bully. These bad thoughts sound strong but are weak underneath and remember that it is only a bad thought and not the truth.
Step 4: Be nice to yourself. If an unhelpful thought is telling you you’re useless or bound to fail, give yourself the same advice that a loved one would tell you. Think of someone you trust – what would they say?
Step 5: Look at things differently… Imagine if it was a friend experiencing the same feelings and not you having the unhelpful thought, what would you say to them? Put the thought or worry into a true perspective- will it matter in 6 months or two years? Think about how others would deal with the problem.
By using any or all of these techniques you will bust even the toughest of unhelpful thoughts.
If You’re Feeling Bad
Don’t suffer in silence – you may have noticed you are having more unhelpful thoughts since you have been bothered by menopausal symptoms, especially on those nights when you can’t sleep. Instead of thinking about your worries write them down, try our worry strips and then plan a time to deal with these thoughts. Now put some of your favourite music on, better still play it though your earphones while you go for a brisk walk. Don’t play sad stuff, or songs that remind you of unhappy times – keep it upbeat and you’re sure to get an instant lift. Or if you are in bed listen to an audiobook, mindfulness practice or some relaxing music.
It can be really helpful to speak to someone, your GP or gynaecologist or a friend of colleague who understands how the menopause can make you feel.
Have you noticed any changes in how you feel physically?
One of the most common symptoms complained about are hot flushes. About half of hot flushes can be improved by noticing and making changes to triggers. It can be helpful to record what you are doing when you have a flush to identify your triggers such as coffee, alcohol or feeling stressed. Then make a plan to avoid or reduce the amount of coffee you drink or have a go at Tension Control Training (TCT)
What you do can change how you feel
Getting into a routine which includes regularly doing something pleasurable, either alone or with others can really help. When you reach middle age, many adults struggle to get out of bed drop kids to school, tackle work and housework among many other responsibilities. So, make a plan of things you need to do like paying the bills etc…pleasurable activities and the routine things you need to do over the next week and follow your plan…make sure you don’t include too many things that may feel overwhelming though! Download our Planner Sheet here.
123 breathe…for stress, frustration and anger
Everyone gets irritable from time to time. But you can learn to manage how you feel. Once you understanding what pushes your buttons, so you can change how you react by using the 1,2,3 Breathe method.
- Know Your Buttons
- Know your early warning systems
- Know your escape hatches
- Now Breathe!
Remember it’s all about small changes and manageable steps at a time. There’s lots of evidence that tells us just how much how we feel can be affected by what we eat and drink and that there are things we can eat that make you feel happier straight away. Try our ‘10 things you can do to feel happier straight away‘ book here.
Write a Happy List
Sometimes simply reminding ourselves of the things that makes us happy helps. Think about the things you have enjoyed over the last while, or felt was a job well done, or times you enjoyed being with others. It is good to remind ourselves of what we can be thankful for.
Stay Connected to People
The best remedy when you are feeling unhappy and stressed is simply being connected to other people. Having a cup of tea with a friend or relative and talking over some of your worries can make your worries suddenly seem not quite so daunting, and other people often provide a perspective on life that we might not be applying to our own. Being with people also entertains us, quite often laughter is all we need, and spending time with people who we care about can be just the tonic.
Improving your Sleep During Menopause
Sleeping well affects your mental and physical health. One common problem women experiencing the menopause talk about is having poor sleep. This may be because they are worrying more and are unable to switch off, being woken up frequently by night sweats or feeling stressed.
Fall short and over time poor sleep can take a serious toll on your daytime energy, productivity, emotional balance, and even your weight. Getting a good night’s sleep may seem like an impossible goal when you’re wide awake in the middle of the night. But you have much more control over the quality of your sleep than you probably realise.
- Bed is for sleep and sex only. Try to avoid doing other things like watching TV.
- If you can’t sleep, get up and do something until you are tired.
- If you’re lying awake worrying, go downstairs and write your worries down to deal with at a later time.
- Adopt a regular bedtime and getting up time.
- Address physical and practical issues e.g. light / noise / temperature.
- Reduce general life pressures.
- Set aside a wind-down time each evening.
- DON’T drink and smoke ‘to calm your nerves’ before bed.
- DON’T do physical or mental exercise before bed.
- DON’T read or watch TV in bed.
- DON’T sleep in or nap during the day.
- DON’T drink too much tea / coffee / cola drinks – they just wake you up.
- Leave your phone switched off or even better downstairs.
- If you have to have your phone by your bed, go into airplane mode, or mute it so you don’t wake up with each notification.
Give Yourself a Break
Remember if you are feeling really stressed out, something small can make a big difference, for example treat yourself to a hot bath with essential oils or take a break- relax, read a book, watch a movie or go for a walk. Enjoy some quality time away from everyday life to do something that is good for you. Keep on top with a regular sleep pattern, have a set time for bed and time to get up. Be good to your body- eat healthily and try and create food from fresh ingredients. Above all be kind to yourself…it’s so easy to get caught up in helping others and putting yourself last.
For more advice on Living Life to the Full in Your Menopause you can buy the book in our shop here.
Some helpful contact details:
Samaritans – for everyone
Call 116 123
Information: Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM)
Call 0800 58 58 58 – 5pm to midnight every day
Visit the webchat page
SOS Silence of Suicide – for everyone
Call 0300 1020 505 – 4pm to midnight every day
The LLTTF Team.