If you've stepped outside at all since mid-October, you're well aware that IT'S coming! The holiday season -- the tornado of wish lists, baking, family reunions, and house cleaning, with a 90% chance of stressor thunderstorms. You may find yourself building a mental bomb shelter to avoid the incoming ribbon, tempting carb-loaded cuisine, and the Groundhog Day replay after replay of vintage Bing Crosby hits. If you're experiencing menopause concurrently with the holidays, highs could be in the low 100s, and emotional lows could come with unusually high frequency.
Don't despair, you can now safely emerge from your bomb shelter by keeping these tips for survival close at hand. Above all, remember to BREATHE.
Be kind to yourself.
Chances are you are your own biggest critic. Your personal standard is higher than anyone else's standard for you, and you want everything this holiday season to be perfect. As a menopausal woman, you may be on an emotional roller coaster, experiencing what feels like insanity. Put down those psychiatric facility brochures. Listen to your body, track your symptoms, find a perimenopause and menopause (I call it PM&M) specialist and give yourself a break. What you are going through is normal.
Reaching out is IN.
Holidays bring families and friends together. Tensions rise with pressures to clean the house, make meals, and buy gifts. This year, don't be afraid to ask for help. Any little thing a family member can contribute helps, whether it's decorating cookies or curling ribbon. Furthermore, take this family reunion as an opportunity to talk with your mother or daughter about your experience with PM&M. Busting open the conversation about menopause is a way to learn from your mother and prepare your daughter. Use the holiday season as an opportunity to make a meaningful connection. Reaching out is IN. Suffering in silence is OUT.
November and December are prime pound-packing months. Turkey, ham, stuffing, creamed corn, gingerbread, mashed potatoes and cookies are just too delightful to pass up. You may be reluctant to indulge after putting on a few pounds as a result of menopause, but shrink the huge sumo wrestler inside your head that's reinforcing your negative thoughts and eating away at your self-esteem. Go on a brisk walk with a family member. Catch up on each other's lives -- how often do you get the chance to talk with your son or daughter and burn calories at the same time? Plus, in this chilly weather, your body has to work harder to keep it's temperature up, burning calories more quickly! Remember: Be kind to yourself and prepare for a sumo-free new year.
As you go through menopause, your hair is thinning and you're freaking out. You know you're going to be pulling your hair out anyway when your in-laws come to town, and you're an inch away from putting "wig" on your holiday wish list. What's worse is that those missing hairs are resurfacing on your chin! Breathe. Buy some tweezers and keep them with you so you're always prepared for surprises. As for the hairs you've lost, be sure to get both your hormone levels and thyroid levels checked. Once you balance those, you'll have plenty of hair designated for pulling.
Take notes with reminders to relax.
Mental to-do lists are difficult enough to keep track of during the holidays. Memory loss is one of the most common challenges perimenopausal and menopausal women face. Not only might you forget what your son wanted, you may forget your son's name! Buy yourself some post-it notes --t hey will become your best friends in PM&M and they will help you focus on one thing at a time. In addition to writing tasks, remind yourself to relax.
Help your heat.
Outside temperatures may be down, but your personal temperature is likely keeping you toasty. Even in the snow you're sure you'd be able to go outside in shorts and a tank top, and hot flashes can be extra frustrating over the holidays when everyone else wants the heat turned up. Eighty-five percent of women approaching menopause in the U.S. experience hot flashes of some kind, which can be caused by hormonal fluctuations. See your PM&M specialist about hormone replacement options. It's helpful to be aware of the typical hot flash instigators, some of which are alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods, stress, and smoking.
Everything will work out.
With all the holiday commotion, you may find it difficult to turn your brain off for a good night's sleep. Insomnia is also a natural symptom of PM&M. Lack of sleep can make you even more stressed, depressed, and grumpy than you already are. Find a PM&M specialist that can help you find a personalized path to hormone happiness. Keep in mind, this may not be the doctor that delivered your babies! In the meantime, as the Beatles said, "Everything is going to be alright." Holidays are not about stress -- they are about being thankful and happy. Remember to breathe and repeat your mantra, and you might just hypnotize yourself to sleep.
How will you remind yourself to BREATHE this holiday season?
"E" is the pen name of Ellen Sarver Dolgen, author of Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness - a cut-to-the-chase book on perimenopause and menopause, filled with crucial information and hilarious and heartfelt stories. It condenses a confusing, daunting medical topic into an easy-to-understand, purse-sized guide which can be used as a reference throughout your PM&M experience. Reading Shmirshky is like getting a big, comforting hug from a dear friend, who happens to know a lot about menopause!