navigating through menopause

Navigating through Menopause

Since we were cited in “More” magazine as a resource for
women going through menopause, we received a wide variety
of questions. While some of the questions dealt specifically
with a woman’s individual situation, most addressed common
and universal issues.

We want to share with you some of the most pressing and frequently
mentioned concerns. We hope that some of suggestions we have given
in response to these questions may also be useful to you.

It is normal for women in this stage of life to have physical
and emotional changes that are troublesome. At the beginning of
this process, women often wonder:

* “Am I in menopause?”

* “How do other women deal with these changes?”

* “How do I find the help I need?”

* ” There are so many treatment options – how do I decide
what to do?”

Here are some of the specific symptoms that our readers have
been experiencing:

* Hot flashes and night sweats
* Sleep problems
* Weight gain, particularly around the middle
* Sagging skin and wrinkles
* Facial hair
* Vaginal dryness
* Loss of libido or changes in sex drive
* Lack of concentration
* Difficulty focusing
* Memory loss
* Depression
* Anxiety

No matter what your specific questions or symptoms are, we believe
that the following suggestions will help you manage this process
of life change:

*** Work in partnership with your doctor. Your physician is
your best resource for information about your individual
medical history and needs. Communicate your concerns
honestly to your M.D. Consider the possibility of getting
a second opinion and consulting with specialists.

*** Continue to gather information. There are websites,
such as ‘’, ‘’, ‘’,
that provide extensive explanations and material about
treatment options. There are other resources such as
books, journals, and lectures. It is important that
the information is valid, the source is reliable, and
that you do not become overwhelmed.

*** Look for support. Other women who are going through
this process can be a comfort as you share thoughts
and feelings. You’re not the only one experiencing this!
Women can guide you by providing resources that have
been helpful and techniques that have been effective.
Be aware, of course, that we are all different and what
has worked for others may not always be the best solution
for you.

*** This is a good time to explore changing your lifestyle
and patterns of self-care. Exercise becomes even more
important now. Even though it might be difficult to
find the time, the results will be worth the effort.
Good nutrition contributes to weight management, health
and quality of life. Relaxation techniques and deep
breathing can reduce stress. Enjoy what life has to
offer – take a walk, spend time with friends, explore
a new hobby, watch a movie, read a good book, laugh more.
Finding what works for you will help you maintain a
healthful lifestyle.

*** This is also a good time to look at attitude adjustment.
Try to maintain a positive attitude. If you look at a
situation from a different perspective, sometimes it
doesn’t seem so bad. To begin the process of acceptance,
recognize that these changes are part of the natural
course of life. Have patience. Answers may not be easy
to find and outcomes may not be perfect. Trust yourself
as you learn to live with the ambiguity of life.

We would also like to suggest some practical techniques to help
you deal with your specific symptoms.

For hot flashes and night sweats:

* dress in layers
* sleep in a cool room
* avoid alcohol, spicy & trigger foods

For sleep disturbances:

* try physical exercise earlier in the day
* create a bedtime routine
* save your bed for intimacy and sleep

For weight gain:

* avoid buying sweets
* fill up on water
* find healthful food substitutes
* start an eating program that you can maintain
* begin to keep a food diary, noting what, when and
where you eat and what you were thinking and feeling
at the time
* determine your negative triggers and try to avoid them

For inability to focus:

* simplify your environment
* make a list of things to do and prioritize them
* schedule extra time to go over new information
* concentrate on one thing at a time
* identify your stressors and work on techniques to
reduce them
* explore and learn new things
* play word games and do crossword puzzles to keep
your mind sharp

For decreased sexual desire:

* talk to your doctor about remedies for vaginal dryness
* look at other life situations which may be affecting
your sexuality
* examine your relationship with your significant other
* focus on creating other kinds of intimacy in your
* develop or rekindle affection, closeness and romance
* explore and enjoy your sensuality
* be patient and take small steps

For depression and anxiety:

* look for a support group in which to share your
thoughts and feelings
* keep a journal to express your feelings and gain
some insight
* utilize stress reduction techniques, such as deep
breathing, guided imagery, meditation
* make exercise a part of your daily routine
* focus on the positives in your life
* give of yourself – do something for someone else
* if your emotional symptoms don’t abate, consult a
mental health professional

Life is full of changes – menopause is just one of them.

Look at other changes in you life. Just as you have coped
before, you will be able to cope now. Recognize your
strengths and build on them. Focus on what has worked for
you in the past and trust that you will find options that
will help you now.

Be patient and recognize that working through menopause
is an ongoing process that takes time.

This is a new chapter in your life. You can write it the way
you want!

Our Invitation to You

Do you have your own transition story? We invite you to
share it with our readers for the benefit of women who
themselves may be dealing with similar changes. The skills you
used may be Stepping Stones for others. If you are interested,
please e-mail us.

(c) HerMentorCenter, 2003