Tips To Living A Happy & Healthy Life With Menopause
If you are in menopause or perimenopause, it can be easy to get down about the frustrating symptoms and changes of life you are facing. There are the hot flashes, night sweats, and headaches for starters. Then there are the turbulent mood swings.
Add to that the fact that you can no longer have children (or may be running out of time), and you may also be dealing with new health problems—and you might wonder if it is even possible for life to go on as it did before.
Actually, maybe the first key to a happy and healthy life during and after menopause is to accept that in some respects, life cannot go on as it did before. You are in a new phase of life, and it is time to embrace change and growth.
But some things remain the same. Before menopause, you needed to meet your basic pyramid of needs in order to be happy and healthy:
- Physical health
- Employment and shelter
- A sense of community
If you are not familiar with Maslow’s pyramid of needs, see this article.
If referencing Maslow’s pyramid seems a bit “basic,” maybe it is—but that is kind of my point. During and after menopause, you still have the same essential needs:
- Physical health
- Employment and shelter
- A sense of community
But the challenges you face in meeting them change, and your approach needs to adjust as well.
So let’s tackle each level of the pyramid one by one.
1. Physical Health
For many women, this will be the biggest challenge of confronting menopause. During this time, your body is winding down production of the hormones which have been involved with your menstrual cycles throughout your lifetime.
This can lead to numerous unpleasant symptoms, such as:
- Periods which are irregular
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Changes in mood
- Sleep disorders
- Metabolism slowing down
- Weight gain
- Dry skin
- Hair loss
The list above includes common symptoms and signs of menopause, but hardly covers the full span of possible symptoms.
On top of that, you also have new concerns about your long-term health. In some respects, it is a good thing that your body is no longer being subjected to all those rising and falling hormones each month. But in other respects, it does increase your risk for certain conditions.
Some health risks which may increase during menopause and afterwards include:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Urinary incontinence
- Sexual dysfunction
- Depression or anxiety
So if you want to stay happy and healthy during and after menopause, you need to take steps to treat the symptoms of menopause and protect yourself from the possible health risks which increase during this phase of your life.
Treating Menopause Symptoms
First, let’s talk about how you can treat the symptoms which are bothering you right now. There are many different approaches you can take. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is one possibility, but before you resort to it, there are many natural treatments and remedies you can try.
Here are a few ideas:
- Try taking herbs for menopause. There are a number of different herbs you can try, such as black cohosh, red clover, Vitex, Dong Quai, and wild yam. Read about these and more in this comprehensive article.
- Find ways to stay cool during hot flashes. You can open a window, take a shower, purchase products that can help you stay cool during the day and at night as you are sleeping, and so on. Read more here.
- Get a high-quality moisturizer. This will help you cope with dry skin. Remember to always apply it directly to damp skin after a shower, never to dry skin. You wanted to lock the moisture in, not out.
- Take extra care of your hair. You might want to try taking a multivitamin for hair growth so that you can maximize the length and volume of your hair.
- Get rid of your vices. The more you smoke, drink, or use illicit drugs, the more you will exacerbate the symptoms of menopause and endanger your long-term health. This is the perfect time in your life to give these habits up.
- Take a close look at your diet, and consider making some changes if you could be eating healthier. An excellent choice as a low-carb diet. This not only may help you feel better now, but can also reduce the markers for cardiovascular disease and help you lose weight.
- Find ways to de-stress. Stress can make all of your menopause symptoms worse. Do relaxing activities that you enjoy, and do not be afraid to cut back on some of your obligations so that you have a little more time to yourself.
Keep Reading: How to Beat 6 Major Menopause Symptoms with Your Diet
Preventing Long-Term Health Problems
Now let’s talk about what you can do to protect your long-term health. Some of these suggestions overlap with the ones above.
- As previously mentioned, revisit your diet if necessary. Reducing your carbohydrate intake can lead to improvements in your triglycerides, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose, and weight. It can be sustained as a long-term diet, making it a healthy choice for decades to come.
- Take a multivitamin if you’re not already doing so. Make sure that it includes calcium and vitamin D. These two nutrients are essential for bone health, and can help to prevent osteoporosis.
- Make sure that you’re getting at least a few hours of exercise every week. Even if all you do is walk around the block after dinner each day, that can make a significant difference in your long-term health. Along with a healthy diet, exercise is essential if you want to maintain a healthy weight and avoid metabolic syndrome or cardiovascular disease.
- Look for ways to take care of your mental health. I will get into this more in the upcoming sections. It is important to remember however that your mental health impacts your physical health and vice versa. If you want to take care of your body, you need to also take care of your mind.
It can be difficult to make extensive lifestyle changes all at once, so if you find that you are having a hard time, try to make just one change every couple of weeks and stick with it. The effort will pay off both in the short and long run.
You might think that the biggest challenges associated with this time of life are physical ones, but you can encounter difficulties which are just as vast when you are addressing other needs on the pyramid.
Moving up from basic physiological needs, to be healthy and happy we also need to feel safe and secure. That means having a place to call home, which in turn means having the financial means to support ourselves.
By the time you reach menopause, that may be difficult—in some cases, nigh possible. You probably are capable of performing great work, but it becomes increasingly difficult to get hired the older you get.
What can you do if you are unable to retire, but also cannot find work in your field? There are no simple answers. One idea is to look for work outside of your field in industries in your area which are more likely to hire people in their middle-age. Another idea is to look for work online, or start up your own business.
Keep in mind that even if you have enough income to support yourself, this still might be relevant if you derive some of your sense of self-esteem from being gainfully employed. Do not neglect this area of your life.
Once we feel safe and secure, one of our next priorities when it comes to finding happiness and fulfilment is usually to look for a sense of belonging. This can take many forms, but for most people it comes down to having family and friends who we feel are supportive.
If you have a family or friends, you might feel like this should not be an issue. But that does not mean that it isn’t one. People who seemed to understand you before menopause may not have any comprehension of the difficulties you are confronting in your life now. Not only can they not relate, but they may also attempt to trivialize your challenges.
If you are lucky, you may not have to deal with this problem. You may be surrounded by people who either do understand, or who at least have the presence of mind to admit when they do not.
But if this is not the case, trying to go through menopause in isolation can make things much more difficult. So at this point, you may need to do several different things:
- You may need to pursue some new relationships. This could be as simple as joining clubs in your area which cater to women in your age group, or getting online and joining some forums.
- If you are not getting the support you need from your existing relationships, you may need to re-evaluate some of them and work on others.
- In some cases, counseling may be helpful, especially if you are having difficulties with your spouse.
If social issues like these during menopause are ignored, they will not go away. They will only get worse, and trying to bury resentment at not being understood may only lead to depression and anxiety. This is an example of a way in which issues which may not seem directly related to your health can have an impact.
The next level in Maslow’s pyramid of needs is a esteem. This includes both self-esteem and the esteem that we derive from others. These two concepts are easy to mix up, because quite often, what we call self-esteem is actually esteem from others. Regardless, both are important to our health and happiness.
One could say that our self-esteem is a reflection of the positive perception we have of who we are as individuals. Esteem from others is a reflection of their positive perception of who we are.
Both the way we see ourselves and the way that others see us can transform dramatically during menopause.
Different cultures have different perceptions of menopause. In some societies, it is not seen as a negative, while in others it definitely has unpleasant connotations.
Interestingly enough, these differences in perception not only impact self-esteem, but can even influence the way that physical symptoms of menopause are experienced, as described in this article.
The author of the study described in the article is a professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive health at Yale Medical School named Dr. Mary Jane Minkin. She is quoted as saying, “In societies where age is more revered and the older woman is the wiser and better woman, menopausal symptoms are significantly less bothersome.”
If you’re fortunate enough to live in such a society, it is possible that the entire experience of menopause will be less stressful and burdensome all around.
But if you live in a society where aging is considered a “bad” thing, and people strive to be forever youthful, both the physical and psychological aspects of menopause can be much more detrimental.
People around you might react to you as if you are less capable than you were when you were younger, as if you are less attractive than you were before, and as if you are overly emotional and unpredictable.
You might even perceive yourself that way. This could be because that is the image that is being reflected to you through others’ eyes, or because you yourself have negative perceptions of age.
Either way, the effect on your self-esteem can be deleterious.
So what can you do about it?
- First of all, you should work on reframing your concepts of aging. You should become aware of cultural connotations and expectations associated with menopause, and question the assumptions that you are fed through popular culture and daily interactions. Do not blindly allow these perceptions to shape your own experiences.
- Actively search for the positives involved in getting older and going through a transition of life. Because you are older, you have greater life experience and are wiser as a result. You have more achievements to showcase than you did when you were younger. You also probably make more rational decisions now than you did then. These are all things to be proud of and happy about.
- Learn to look inward for your self-esteem. The esteem you get from others is important, but it can never replace the esteem that you get from yourself. Know that your own worth goes beyond other people’s perceptions, and they cannot take that away from you.
- Understand that many of the judgments that other people make on you have less to do with you than you might think. In many cases, they are statements on their own beliefs and cultural perceptions, both of which ultimately have nothing to do with you. While this can be frustrating, it at least means that you need not take to heart every criticism that is thrown your way, or every negative representation of menopause you see in the media.
For some women, the most difficult aspect of the experience of menopause is the loss of fertility. This can be wrapped up closely with perceptions of femininity and selfhood in some cases. If that is true for you, it is important to understand that there are still other ways that you can express your creative potential and bring life and beauty into the world. Explore these possibilities, and seek counseling if you need to.
During and after menopause, you will probably have to redefine your self image in some respects. But through doing so, you can identify the constants that do not change even as you move from one phase of existence to another. These constants are essential to your identity. Recognizing them helps you to understand yourself. If you link your self-esteem to these constants, nothing can take it away from you.
Finally, at the top of Maslow’s pyramid of needs is self-actualization. According to Maslow, individuals cannot really strive effectively for self-actualization until they meet the basic needs further down on the pyramid. So if you’re struggling with your health, security, belonging, and esteem, those deficiencies can make it difficult to find the motivation or the means to self-actualize.
The thing is, for a lot of people, that is a lifelong predicament. While you are going through menopause, there are significant new threats to your health, security, belonging and esteem. This can cause goals of self-actualization and meaning to fall by the wayside.
But when you think about it, that was probably true earlier in life too—just in a different way. When you were young, hopefully you had your health, but you probably were battling each day for financial security, and your place in the community was probably far from stable. You knew less about yourself back then, which meant that you likely relied on others more for your sense of esteem.
For this reason, it is common for people to reach middle age only to realize that they have not actually found the meaning that they were hoping for earlier in life. Self-actualization has actually been on the backburner the entire time.
In that sense, nothing has changed. But a renewed realization of this scarcity can summon fresh emotional pain.
So menopause is a great opportunity to rethink your priorities. It may seem like the most inconvenient time to pursue higher ideals like beauty, meaning and truth—but the reality is that it is always an inconvenient time. Nothing is going to change that now or in the future.
Even though deficiencies in our other needs make it hard to find the motivation to pursue self-actualization, it is included in the pyramid because it too is essential to our health and happiness.
So how can you tackle self-actualization during menopause? In this case, there are no broad recommendations which can be made because by definition, this is the most individualistic level of the pyramid.
One thing you can do is ask yourself what is important to you as an individual, and what differentiates you from those around you. Do you love painting? Fixing up old cars? Programming? What is it that you are passionate about? How do you bring beauty and meaning into the world? Are there any projects you wish you had taken on when you were younger, but never did?
Deciding to take on these projects now during menopause will not be easy—but it never was easy in the past and never will be in the future either.
So you may as well bite the bullet and put in the time and effort. Sometimes pursuing meaning and authenticity also means taking a few risks. But sometimes the reward is worth it.
Conclusion: For a Healthy, Happy Life During Menopause, You Must Take Care Of All Of Your Needs
Menopause is a time which will bring a lot of changes to your life, many of them hard. But you can choose to look at it as an opportunity. This is a chance for you to take a proactive role in managing the physical and psychological aspects of your health. Take care of your body, mind, and relationships while pursuing a life of meaning and purpose, and you will put yourself on a path for happiness and well-being.
Read Next: The Top 26 Natural Remedies for Hot Flashes