Menopause is the untold story--but it doesn’t need to be.
“Some women have a difficult time during menopause in part because it’s not discussed,” explains Victoria Wilkins, PhD, assistant professor of psychology in clinical psychiatry.
Menopause may be clinically defined as the end of a woman’s menstrual cycle, Dr. Wilkins adds, but in reality, “It’s a transitional process that can take many years, so we need to be talking about this earlier and heading into it with more awareness.”
Here are four ways women can care for themselves throughout menopause.
Although some women are asymptomatic as they experience menopause, many women can undergo a wide range of physical menopausal symptoms—from hot flashes and night sweats to mood changes to low libido.
These physical experiences can be severe, and both women and their physicians should take them seriously and understand the emotional impact they can have.
“There is support around this,” Dr. Wilkins says, including the reproductive psychiatrists who offer services to Weill Cornell patients. “Women don’t have to suffer without information and intervention, or feel as if they’re dealing with a collection of whimsical or frivolous complaints.”
The stage of life during which menopause typically occurs can be demanding.
“Many women are in the caregiver role where they’re caring upwards and downwards generationally—the sandwich generation of being responsible for both children and parents,” Dr. Wilkins observes.
Those responsibilities, coupled with work demands and physical changes, can be overwhelming. Women should understand their unique role and the emotional strains it can create with some compassion--for themselves.
When women are so focused on others, and responsibilities outside of themselves, women sometimes forget the most fundamental things we need to do to take care of ourselves: sleep, eat, and exercise.
“This can seem simple but be hard to change,” Dr. Wilkins says. “But we need to look at these factors and maybe not tackle them all at once, but maybe make one small change at a time.”
For example, perhaps simple time management can make these basics possible again—setting reminders and taking breaks when needed.
Because “the basics” aren’t always sufficient.
Sometimes women need to take time off: an hour, a day, a change of scenery--even a power nap. Do it.
And remember that self-care can mean not doing everything alone. Asking for help, whether from family, friends, or co-workers, can go a long way to lifting stress. Therapists can help with cognitive reframing techniques, which can allow someone to change a stressor into a learning experience, for example. It’s a way of changing the way people view something (in this case, perhaps menopausal symptoms) to change their experience to it.
Sometimes the concept of caring for oneself can mean being protective and realistic, Wilkins says. Women can set limits and reevaluate what needs to be accomplished (and perhaps when).
“It’s okay to chip away at something,” Dr. Wilkins adds. “This idea that everything has to be done at once and perfectly is totally unrealistic.”
October is World Menopause Month and we here at Weill Cornell Medicine deliver the highest level of care at every stage of life, from adolescence to childbearing, to menopause and the post-menopausal years. Our team of North American Menopause Society Certified Menopause Practitioners focus on preventative care and patient education, empowering you to achieve your optimum level of health. Schedule your appointment today.