As you approach menopause you may have a bit of an idea of what's ahead: the end of periods, maybe some hot flashes or other body changes. And you may have wondered: is there anything I can do to prepare for this change? While there are always changes we can make for greater health, here I list just four concerns specific to the menopause transition. Taking some time to consider them may make your own transition smoother.
1- Feel those Feelings
Emotionally, as we exit the reproductive era of our lives, we are forced to acknowledge our aging. We may not feel much older but our bodies are telling us clearly that we have aged and that can be a rattling realization. In a society that prizes women for their youth, beauty and fertility, the waning of youth can be a loss indeed. This is a time to explore what it means to you to be at this cusp, to think about the meaning that achieving middle age has for you. Are there things to grieve, such as the loss of fertility? And are there things to celebrate? How do you feel about older women? How do you feel about becoming older?
Your feelings about aging affect how you see yourself, and even the symptoms you might experience in menopause. You don't need to feel any particular way, or change your feelings, you need only to be aware of them. If difficult stuff is coming up for you around this time in your life, seeing a counselor could be a great way to process it all and understand yourself better.
2 - Ask for What You Need
Approaching menopause is a time to consider how you care for yourself. Do the needs of others often take precedence over yours? Does your work keep you from the rest and recovery you need? Are you getting the sleep, nutrition and exercise you want? Many of the common disruptions in menopause are improved with good sleep, exercise and nutrition, so this is a time to become familiar with making these a priority. I support you unapologetically acknowledging your needs and addressing them. Remember that you are present in your relationships with vitality as a better parent, and a better partner when you have what you need. Some women looking back on the menopause transition describe it as the time they truly learned to advocate for themselves.
3 - Stay Strong
Bone and muscle loss happens slowly in perimenopause and then more rapidly after menopause. It's time to get real about how we keep your bones and muscles as strong as we can. Are you taking a vitamin D supplement? If not, most experts recommend 2,000 IU daily. Do you get enough calcium in your diet? Check here. If you don't (and most of us don't!), it's supplement time. And most importantly, do you get the kinds of physical activity that keep muscle and bone mass? Whether it's fast walking, or something else, see how you can make this a part of your lifestyle now! Bonus: more muscle mass will mean less midlife weight gain!
4 - State of the Union
How are you feeling about your sex life? Do you feel like you can communicate with your partner(s) about what's not working for you, or what you enjoy and would like more of? Do you have any underlying tension, such as from mismatched sex drives or an erection problem that hasn't been addressed? While this stuff can be uncomfortable to bring up, heading into menopause with healthy communication around sex is pretty important. We know sexual problems increase in midlife, and if menopause brings decreased desire or sexual pain for you, you'll be ready to meet it head on as a team. If you're already dealing with a sexual problem, make an appointment to talk with your healthcare provider about it.
As you move through your own hormonal changes, remember that menopause is not an end to anything except the menstrual cycle. You've got decades of vitality and love ahead of you. Get help with things that are feeling hard, so you can move into this next era of your life with all the wisdom and confidence you've earned through your years of learning and growing.