The menopause is an unpredictable beast at the best of times – leaving some of us exhausted, forgetful, emotional and changing temperature as often as a British summer day. The current pandemic and changes to our working and social lives have heaped even more change on The Change. But it’s possible to get through it while holding a few principles and techniques in mind.
Create a structure and control what you can
One of the most frustrating things about menopause is discovering that parts of our lives and bodies that we used to be able to keep pretty much under control have other ideas. It brings so much unpredictability – we have no idea whether we’ll sleep well or whether our body will decide to keep us awake all night sweating. We don’t know whether we’ll wake up feeling peaceful and centred or tearful and sensitive. This loss of control can make our difficult feelings even stronger, so finding control where we can becomes really important.
From an emotional point of view, we don’t have control over how we feel, but we can control how we express those feelings and respond. Feelings are heightened during this time – and it’s important to check in with ourselves regularly. Journaling or sharing feelings with a trusted friend or support group can let us experience it all in a safe space. Creating a regular time and technique for identifying and processing our feelings not only allows the strong ones to flow through us faster, but also gives us a sense of control over our experience. Commit to finding a place to feel and express everything where you won’t feel judged or wrong. Not only does this help us feel better, but we’re less likely to overreact and splurge our feelings on others inappropriately if we have a regular, safe outlet for them.
Enjoy the good bits about lockdown
There are many ways in which lockdown and remote working for the foreseeable future can benefit menopausal women. The opportunity to wear temperature-appropriate clothes and change them as required. To be able to open a window or turn up the central heating. To turn off the video bit of video conferencing if we’ve had a sleepless night or a good cry. To shift our working hours to something that works better for our natural rhythms. To take a break, exercise – a lot of our routines are more flexible thanks to working remotely and we can make this work in our favour.
The time not spent commuting also adds up to more hours in the day. Can we do things more slowly? Work from our kitchen table in the morning, the sofa or garden in the afternoon? The shift to digital combined with more time on our hands also means we have the opportunity to connect with other women in our situation. A lot of support groups that we may not have been able to attend because of time constraints or geographical reasons are now available to us via Zoom. Make the most of this time by finding out more about menopause and give yourself the opportunity to share your experience with others in the same boat. You can also put lots of post-it notes around the house to remind you of things when brain fog descends!
Deal with today
Today is all any of us have – yesterday is a memory and tomorrow is conceptual. But it’s easy to forget this with our very human tendency to plan and focus on the future. Given that what we and are families are “allowed” to do changes by the day, it’s as good an opportunity as we’ve ever had to practise being present. There are lots of different ways to do this, including:
- Listening out for the farthest sound you can hear. Start off with those in the room around you, then a bit further out, then beyond. This is a great way to force the brain into the present – it’s impossible to plan for the future or ruminate on the past while you’re focusing on what you can hear far away
- Scanning your body. Starting at the top of the head, mentally work your way down the body, noticing what sensations you discover and labelling them without judgement or trying to change anything. This gets you in touch with the body and also demonstrates how things change from moment to moment – the pain in your back will be subtly different from one moment to the next if you really pay attention.
- Doing strenuous exercise. It’s hard to concentrate on worries and fears for the future when your main concern is on the next breath or stride. Pushing your body (without injuring yourself, obviously) is a good way of getting out of your head and into the now
- Focusing on the breath for 10 minutes or so. Follow each in and outbreath to the end, and notice where you feel it (nostrils, throat, chest or belly) and whether it feels deep or shallow. Each breath is different – if you find your mind wandering, don’t worry, just bring your attention back to the breath. Doing this regularly will help you stay in the moment for longer