Supporting a healthy transition through perimenopause
Menopause itself is simply the 24-hour period that occurs 12 months after a woman’s last menstrual cycle.
The time prior is referred to as “perimenopause” and any time after that 12 month mark the woman is considered “post-menopausal.” It’s during perimenopause when a woman’s hormones begin to fluctuate. This signals that the body is entering a new phase of life and ending its ability to reproduce.
Often (but not always), this shift in hormones accompanies symptoms such as:
- menstrual flow changes (how much and how often)
- shifts in moods
- hot flushes
- night sweats
- sleep issues
- decreased or increased sexual function
- vaginal dryness
- weight gain (particularly around the stomach)
- changes in cholesterol
- digestive changes
This transition can start years before menopause occurs. Perimenopause commonly begins in the forties, although it may start earlier or later.
While some women may experience very little (if any) effects, others may notice moderate to severe symptoms that disrupt daily life for several years.
Fortunately, there are a variety of natural options that can ease challenges and enhance wellbeing during this time.
For many women, life up until perimenopause has been busy. Raising children, working, taking care of elders, community involvement, and daily responsibilities all fill up women’s schedules, leaving them with little time for themselves.
However, as reproductive hormones begin declining, many women find themselves beginning to focus inward and assess their lives – how they are spending their time, what brings them joy and fulfilment, and sometimes it becomes clear that many of the previous busy activities no longer serve the woman in this new phase. What previously kept her busy may now feel inconvenient, monotonous, or no longer interesting. Even though this self-reflection may be unexpected, it offers a great opportunity for women to simply slow down and assess what provides fulfilment to them in life now. For many women, this is a time when implementing additional steps in self-care becomes extremely beneficial.
Although it will look different for each woman, self-care is also an important tool in managing stress, calming the mind and body, and easing challenging symptoms which may also be present during this transitional time of life.
Techniques for self-care include the following, among many others:
- slowing down/reducing non-essential obligations
- eating a healthy diet filled with supportive menopausal nutrients
- daily movement, particularly walking
- a calming sleep routine
- time in nature
- breath work
- warm Epsom salt baths
- a daily cup (or more) of tea
In addition, essential vitamins and minerals provide hormone and overall health support.
- vitamin E
- vitamin D
- B vitamins
It may seem frivolous, selfish even, but living a life infused with joy – especially during perimenopause – may help stave off everything from anxiety to insomnia.
This time in a woman’s life can be filled with self-rediscovery and in turn, result in a more joy-filled existence. And one woman’s joy may come from something completely different from another woman’s joy.
To explore your own personal happiness contributors, give one or more of the following a try:
- writing or keeping a diary
- trying new interests, hobbies, or sports
- learning an instrument, language, or cooking technique
- artistic expression like painting, dancing, or poetry
- growing a garden
- hiking in nature
- watching the sunrise or sunset
- connecting with your community
- spending time with family
And remember, while joy is different for everyone, so is the amount of time and energy a woman must put toward creating her own joy. If you have five minutes, fabulous! Soak up every second from those five minutes. If you have three hours to dedicate to your own joy, amazing! Enjoy all that you have to offer yourself and watch how your joy expands from you and contributes to the lives of those around you. Joy is contagious. Let it expand from you!
While perimenopause may be known for all the possible unwanted related symptoms, for some women it can be a time to take a moment (or three), turn inward, decide what she needs and then move forward from a place of self-care, nutritional/herbal support, and joy.