Feeling mad, sad, or worried and simultaneously suffering from sleeping problems, memory issues, and weight gain? Or maybe you notice the hair on your head thinning and seemingly regrowing on your face in the form of whiskers. How about hot flashes combined with, well, dry everything—skin, eyes, mouth, and (shriek) vagina?
If you’re a woman in her late 40s or early 50s and you’ve noticed any—or, distressingly, a lot—of those symptoms, chances are you’re going through perimenopause or menopause—when menstrual cycles decrease, then stop, and the reproductive years end.
But don’t start pulling out your hair (at least not the ones on top of your head), because this process is completely natural. Your body is going through a major shift, reducing the hormones it makes (estrogen and progesterone), and that’s probably the underlying cause of the changes you’re experiencing.
There’s good news, too. The bright spot is that a lot of menopausal symptoms can be managed, if not alleviated altogether. Some solutions involve medication, which will require consulting a doctor, and others are lifestyle changes, which you can do on your own. And all of the ideas below have helped plenty of women.
- Join a support group. Talking to other women who are going through the same thing is a great outlet for working through the emotions you’re experiencing.
- Get more exercise, including yoga, which will help relieve anxiety and improve your mood.
- Do crossword puzzles, read, or do math problems to combat forgetfulness and loss of concentration. And cut back on passive activities, including watching television.
- Limit the amount of caffeine you consume and cut back on spicy foods to make hot flashes less severe.
- Add plant estrogen into your diet by consuming fruits, vegetables, soybeans, chickpeas, lentils, flaxseed, grains, and beans.
- Improve your overall diet, adding more lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and cutting down on sugar.
- Quit smoking to relieve a number of symptoms, including hot flashes and prematurely decreasing estrogen levels.
- Keep your bedroom cool and well ventilated at night to avoid hot flashes and insomnia. Wearing loose clothing also helps.
- Use over-the-counter, water-soluble lubricants to combat vaginal dryness.
- Consider hormone therapy. Your doctor can prescribe estrogen alone or estrogen and progestin together to boost your hormone levels.
- Consider non-hormonal medication. Your doctor can prescribe non-hormonal medication to treat hot flashes.
No doubt, menopause and its predecessor, perimenopause, are life-changing. But they don’t have to take over your life and, if you’re not so sure about that, just remember that almost every woman makes the same transition so there’s a lot of personal experience proving the tips above can really help.