Forget youth. I want to get old.
It's a gift that I added to my life's wish list at the age of 13, after my father had his first heart attack. He was in his mid-forties.
Watching my father's declining health -- interspersed with medication and surgeries -- caused me to be unusually concerned with illness and early death. My father passed away at the young age of 58 from heart disease.
But with the right perspective, I believe good can come from the hardships of life. For me, the good was learning to value the precious time I have here on Earth with the people I love -- and doing everything in my power to ensure myself as many days filled with fun, love, and laughter as possible. As Ralph Waldo Emerson believed, "The first wealth is health." And in striving for health, I have gained the wealth of vitality, happiness, and peace. To me, that is aging gracefully and wisely.
So when perimenopause came my way, I wasn't going to lament the aging process. However, if hot flashes were going to be part of the gift of aging, then I wanted to hit the return counter ASAP. I took a proactive approach. I consulted with specialists, I read all I could on the subject, and I began to learn about the more than 33 symptoms associated with menopause -- most of which I had never heard before. That was when the concept for my book-to-be, Shmirshky: The pursuit of hormone happiness, was born. Understanding my body -- and all of the incredible changes it goes through -- has allowed me to feel happier and healthier in my own skin.
During menopause, many women become self-critical, striving to look like the prepubescent teen models you see in glossy magazines. Instead, I focus my efforts on my health and wellbeing. And while I have long ago banned horizontal stripes from my closet, and on occasion have looked in shock at the morphing skin on my aging knees, I know that expecting myself to look like I did in my twenties would just be setting myself up for disappointment. It would cheat me out of the joy I deserve. Every day we are alive, we age. Age and time provide us with more opportunities, not less! As we age we have more of a chance to love and be loved. The longer we live, the greater the opportunity to expand our vision of the "possible" and reach out and grab it.
Ready to feel your best? Here are my top tips for aging gracefully during menopause:
1. Be an information sponge. Remember that "knowledge is power" mantra? It's cliché because it's true. The more you learn about menopause and your health, the more power you have to control the way you look and feel. Find a menopause specialist near you to help you manage your health and symptoms. You can also sign up for my Menopause Mondays newsletter and receive a free downloadable menopause symptoms chart. I don't care what you do; you won't be good unless you first feel good.
2. Love yourself. You are beautiful just the way you are. So start telling yourself that! As Vivian Diller, Ph.D., a ballerina and model turned psychotherapist and author of Face It, recently told me in an interview, "Women who maintain an internal dialogue with themselves and their mirrors that is kind and gentle can maintain high self-esteem at any age. They are less self-critical and more accepting of change." I suggest keeping a gratitude journal at your bedside. Each night before you go to sleep, write down what you experienced and achieved that day for which you are grateful. By focusing on the positives of the aging process, you can start loving your aging self more.
3. Shed your inhibitions. "Women always try to tame themselves as they get older, but the ones that look best are often a bit wilder. Thinking about age all the time is the biggest prison women can make for themselves," Miuccia Prada once said. And I don't think that could be any truer. At this point in our lives, we have earned the right to go wild. So let your hair down and stop worrying what is "age appropriate."
Reaching out is IN! Suffering in silence is OUT! Aging has become something of a four-letter word to women. Ask me what it stands for, though, and I'll tell you "G-I-F-T!" Aging with our friends and family is the greatest gift for which we can ever ask. But unlike jewelry and flowers -- a long life is a gift that only we can give ourselves! And now's the time to start shopping!
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Ellen Dolgen is an outspoken women's health and wellness advocate, menopause awareness expert, author, and speaker.
After struggling through the silence that surrounds menopause, Ellen resolved to help women reach out and end the confusion, embarrassment, and less-than-lovely symptoms that come with "the change." Her passion to be a "sister" to all women fueled Ellen's book, Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness. As a result of her women's wellness journey, and in response to the overwhelming thirst of her ever-expanding audience for empowering information, Ellen's weekly blog, Menopause MondaysTM was born.
Menopause Mondays™ allows Ellen an expansive platform from which she broadens her discussion of menopause, women's health, and life as a menopausal (and fabulous!) woman. Her weekly Menopause News Flash provides a one-stop shop for the latest menopause and women's health news and research, allowing women the access and know-how needed to take charge of their health and happiness. In addition to Ellen's ever-growing social media presence, EllenDolgen.com has fast become "the place" on the web for informative and entertaining women's menopause and wellness engagement. In 2012 EllenDolgen.com was named first on the list of the "Best Menopause Blogs" by Healthline. Ellen is also a regular contributor to over a dozen leading women's health blogs.
Her motto is: Reaching out is IN! Suffering in silence is OUT!