We are very fortunate to live in a time when menopausal age is considered midlife. We live longer. We live better. And while that is a tremendous blessing, it also comes with some challenges.
In midlife, we experience significant changes in most areas of life: physical, emotional and spiritual. Our families are growing up and moving to the next stage in their lives. Our interests, priorities and identities are in flux. And our bodies are changing in ways that may seem mysterious or disconcerting. We may even be living with regrets or ‘what ifs’ or wondering what’s next for us. That can leave us feeling disoriented, anxious or unsure.
At the same time, all this change presents a golden opportunity. We have the chance to recreate ourselves in small or significant increments. If we tune in to the messages our heart, body and soul are giving us, if we honor those messages, we can thrive in new, surprising, and delightful ways!
While there is so much to say about the emotional and spiritual aspects of midlife, the entry point of coaching for many of my clients seems to be the physical challenges of menopause. So while we will focus more on that today, all of our ‘systems’ are connected. That means caring for ourselves in one area will have crossover to all the others.
Destined to ride the roller coaster?
Doesn’t have to be!
Most of us are familiar with the classic signs of menopause such as night sweats, hot flashes and mood changes from the precipitous drop in estrogen and progesterone. Lower levels of these key hormones can also trigger constipation, brain fog, and difficulty sleeping.
At the same time, our bodies become increasingly sensitive to fluctuations in other hormones such as cortisol and insulin. Cortisol and insulin impact our weight, energy, stress response and inflammation levels. When cortisol is high and insulin is triggered excessively, we get energy swings, weight fluctuations (hello, belly!), and more aches and pains.
Put that all together and doesn’t menopause sound like a peach?
But all is not lost!
You have the ability to steady your hormone levels and feel great through menopause and beyond.
That may need to start with a mind-shift. If you thought healthy habits were a luxury until now – like a nutritious diet, exercise, quality sleep, regular meals, mindfulness – they are now a necessity to feel great in the coming decades.
So if you have put your self-care on the shelf or if self-care is new for you, now is the time to build better habits!
Check out the tips below to help get you started!
Other side of the rainbow
Steady blood sugar levels are key! Eat small, frequent, meals throughout the day with lean protein as the base. Include lots of fresh fruits and veggies to balance out the meal. These small, nutritious meals will ensure even blood sugar levels for balanced moods, optimal body composition and improved sleep quality.
Avoid starting your day with refined carbohydrates or just coffee as it spikes cortisol levels and triggers blood sugar swings.
Eat your last meal several hours before bedtime to avoid sleep disruption.
Quality sleep is critical for physical and mental health. Create a relaxing bedtime routine that you really look forward to. Activities can include journaling, stretching, sipping a cup of tea, putting on fave PJs, meditating, praying, reading (not from your phone!), listening to soothing music, etc. Do the same routine every night to train your brain and body to start winding down.
I love the Guided Meditations for Sleep and Music for Deep Sleep playlists on Spotify. Half the time I don’t get through the meditation before I’m sound asleep. Mission accomplished!
A dark cool room and no blue light before bed will also help you sleep well.
Moderate intensity exercise is perfect! Research shows that in middle age and beyond, intense prolonged exercise actually increases inflammation in the body while moderate exercise lowers inflammation. Shoot for a well-rounded fitness routine that includes strength, cardio and mobility work to maintain bone density, promote optimal body composition and support joint and soft tissue integrity. If your workouts are challenging but energizing, you know you are working in the right zone!
Mindfulness. Mindfulness. Mindfulness. Being aware of your thoughts and feelings is at least as important as what you eat and how you move. The starting point is recognizing that all feelings are real and valid. They are also temporary. Feelings are meant to be experienced, understood, processed and then released. What we tend to do instead is to notice we don’t feel good but then push those uncomfortable feelings down where they find a home in our bodies and don’t get released. That can cause further emotional distress and even physical disease.
The first step in mindfulness is connecting with the feeling. What is the emotion? Can you name it? Is there just one emotion or are there a few layers? Where do you feel it in your body? What does it feel like?
The second step is to get curious about what the feelings are trying to tell you. What is really bothering you? What is the message to you? How much of what is causing your feelings is fact? How much is interpretation?
The third step is to ask yourself what needs to be done so you can peacefully release those emotions. What is in your control in the situation? Do you need to have a conversation with someone? Do you need to go scream in the woods? Do you need to give the heavy burden back to God? Do you need to breathe and accept or lean into faith? Do you just need a good workout and a better nights’ sleep? Do you need some downtime? Do you need to ask for help?
Pick one area above that you are excited to try and create small but very concrete goals around it. Create a structure of accountability to help with consistency as well.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, please reach out!