The menopausal journey can be quite overwhelming for many women. Hormonal shifts bring about bothersome symptoms like hot flashes and disrupted sleep, which can definitely add to the stress. And if that's not enough, a mix of family and personal challenges – from teenage children's demands to empty nests, aging parents, changing midlife relationships, and career shifts – all tend to converge during this time.
Let's talk about the elephant in the room: stress and menopause.
It's not a friend to anyone's well-being. It has the power to elevate blood pressure, speed up heart rate, trigger headaches, and even lead to gastric reflux. On top of that, it can sneakily invite depression and anxiety, and over the long haul, raise the risk for heart disease. Believe it or not, chronic stress might also weaken our immune system, leaving us more susceptible to everything from infections to serious illnesses like cancer.
Stress, especially stress and menopause doesn't play favorites – it can trickle into every corner of our lives. Not only does it impact our health, but it also sneaks into our relationships, work performance, overall sense of well-being, and the quality of life we strive for. It's time to make self-care a priority and find ways to manage stress, for our own sake and those who care about us. 🌼💪
What can I do to reduce stress?
There are many tried-and-true ways to reduce stress and maintain calm:
Exercise. Walk with a friend, join a yoga class, bike, hike—whatever you enjoy, exercise is a great way to reduce stress and stay healthy.
Talk. Share your concerns with a family member, good friend, healthcare professional, or counselor.
Eat well. Although eating chocolate may soothe stress in the short run, overindulgence leads to its own set of problems! A healthier strategy is to eat three nutritious meals daily, with healthy snacks, including fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, and yogurt.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Herbal tea (iced, if hot flashes are bothersome) provides a soothing alternative to caffeinated drinks (caffeine elevates levels of cortisol, the “stress” hormone). Although alcohol may make you feel relaxed and drowsy, it has actually been shown to interfere with sleep quality. And, the potential for alcohol abuse and other health risks makes it a poor option for stress reduction.
Sleep. Adequate sleep is necessary for alert functioning during the waking hours. Most adults require between 6 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Try to determine your sleep needs and then get as much as you need.
Relax. Participate in a “mind-body” program (if available in your community), or practice deep breathing, positive thinking, hypnosis, and meditation through books and CDs.
Pamper. Treat yourself to a massage, manicure, or soothing bath. Enjoy a good book, music, or a favorite hobby. Find a creative outlet by enrolling in an art or music program.
Enjoy. And don't forget to laugh and smile at every opportunity!
Another effective method is to use deep breathing exercises to reduce stress. Try this simple exercise and practice often:
Sit in a straight-back chair with both feet on the floor.
Rest hands on the abdomen.
Slowly count to four while inhaling through the nose and feel the abdomen rise.
Hold that breath for a second.
Then, slowly count to four while exhaling through the mouth—let the abdomen slowly fall.
Repeat this exercise 5 to 10 times.
Guided imagery & meditation
Finally, we all know that vacations reduce stress, but what can you do if currently there’s no extra time or money? Try a brief mental vacation using “guided imagery” to achieve a state of deep relaxation. Close your eyes and visualize a scene from your memory that brings joy.
Try to get lost in that event or image for several minutes, allowing your mind to return to that pleasurable experience.
Stress and Menopause are real, stress is enhanced because our hormones are constantly shifting as well as the stress of life. Make sure you are keeping a check on your mental health including stress.