If you’re going through the peri-menopause, discover how some simple steps can help you feel more in control of this stage of life.
Back in the 1980s, I remember the women in my family talking in hushed whispers about women going through the ‘change of life’. It wasn’t something that was really spoken about openly, apart from occasional comments about hot flushes. To a young child, it sounded very scary and not very positive at all.
Fast forward to the present day and now that I’m in my mid-forties, I’m in the peri-menopause myself. I don’t think the word existed back in the 80s, but it’s basically the time leading up to the menopause. The menopause is said to have taken place when at least 12 months have passed since your last period.
It’s a time when your hormone levels are changing, and it can feel like they’re out of control at times. And when you’re used to being in control of most things in your life, this can come as a bit of shock.
But, in my opinion, the perimenopause can also herald the start of a new, exciting stage of your life. Many women are finding that they feel very positive about the changes in their life. They have more self-confidence, or feel inspired to retrain to do the job that they always wanted.
Some, like me, are watching their children go off to university or work. Now they find they have more time to devote to their own passions, whether that’s travelling, finally writing that novel, or taking up tap dancing.
And while perimenopause comes with a variety of symptoms, there are things that you can do ease them. You may not be able to control your menopause, but you can make it a more positive experience!
That doesn’t sound quite so scary, does it?
Embrace List-Making to help with Brain Fog
One of the symptoms of perimenopause that I find most frustrating is the brain fog. I would forget things regularly, and often found myself standing in a room wondering why I was in there.
And my concentration suffered as well. It became very difficult for me to focus on tasks, whereas I’d always had great focus previously.
If you’ve noticed that brain fog is clouding your days, then there are things you can do to help.
I became a keen list maker. I make shopping lists so that I don’t come home from the supermarket without the one thing I really need, to-do lists to make sure I don’t forget the vital tasks for the day, and packing lists so that I don’t find myself in a hotel without my toiletries bag.
Yes, that has happened to me more than once…
You may also find that using an online calendar like Google Calendar or a card system like Trello makes it easier to keep track of appointments. You can set reminders, and use different colours to show appointments for each member of your family.
Whether you prefer to use online tools or go old-school with notebooks and post-its, this is a simple way to clear a path through your brain fog.
Cool Hot Flushes with Natural Fibres
Hot flushes, hot flashes, night sweats… If you’re in the perimenopause or have been through menopause, you’ve probably come across these.
So far I haven’t had much problem with hot flushes during the day. But I’ve certainly had many nights disturbed by hot sweats, waking up drenched in sweat and chilled to the bone.
Wearing natural fabrics can help you to feel more comfortable during hot flushes or night sweats. Cotton or silk clothing will feel cooler than man-made fibres, and cotton bed linen can give you a more comfortable night’s sleep.
In winter, you might also want to swap your heavy king-size or double duvet for two singles. That way you can use a lighter tog duvet on your side of the bed if you need to.
If you haven’t tried bamboo clothing before, that can really help. It is very lightweight and feels silky-soft, but it also has fantastic wicking qualities. This means that it transports perspiration away from your skin, helping to make you feel cool and comfortable.
Bamboo clothing can be more expensive than cotton or synthetic fabrics. But it’s worth a try, especially if you regularly have hot flushes or night sweats.
A Good Time to Talk
They say that a trouble shared is a trouble halved, and while that may be a cliché, it’s for a good reason.
When you first notice the changes in your body at the start of peri-menopause, you might not initially realise what is happening. I know several women who were worried that their brain fog was an early sign of dementia.
Now, when you start seeing symptoms like brain fog or menstrual changes, you should definitely pop along and have a chat with your GP. They’ll be able to run some hormone tests and confirm if what you’re seeing is related to the menopause.
But talking to friends and relatives can also help. The more we tackle the taboo around menopause, the better prepared we are and the less frightening it will seem. You are not alone.
Can’t Sleep? Try these Tips
Insomnia can strike at any time of life, but many women find that it can be a problem during perimenopause.
A lot of the usual advice for getting a good night’s sleep applies here as well. Make sure that your room is a peaceful environment, not too warm or cold, and that you have a supportive mattress and pillows. Limiting caffeine in the evening can help and so can doing some exercise, although not too close to bedtime.
It’s also a good idea to limit screen-time in the evening, as the blue light they emit can disrupt sleep patterns. But you might find reading a book relaxing, or perhaps listening to an audiobook or podcast.
Establish a regular evening routine with some relaxation, yoga or meditation, a warm bath or shower and maybe using a relaxing lavender sleep spray. This should help you to drift off to sleep more easily.
If your sleep is being disrupted by night sweats, then you might find bamboo nightwear more comfortable to wear. And you might also want to make sure that you keep a change of nightwear handy.
And if you find that you’re waking up in the middle of the night, it’s sometimes better to get up for a while rather than tossing and turning in bed.
Don’t do anything too strenuous – maybe make a list of things that are on your mind to tackle in the morning, and have a cup of chamomile tea or a warm milky drink to help you drift back off to sleep again.
Food and Drink
You may find that making some changes to your diet can help with some of the symptoms of perimenopause.
For example, alcohol, caffeine and spicy foods can be common triggers for hot flushes and night sweats. So if that’s a symptom that is particularly bothering you, you might want to reduce your intake, especially in the evenings.
I’ve really found that alcohol triggers night sweats for me, so I drink less nowadays.
Boosting your intake of Omega oils can help if you’re starting to find that your skin is getting drier, as well as being good for heart health. They occur naturally in seeds, nuts and legumes as well as oily fish like mackerel and salmon. Alternatively you could take an Omega oils supplement.
And lower oestrogen levels mean that women are at great risk of osteoporosis after the menopause. You may want to consider increasing your intake of calcium, either through a supplement or through calcium-rich foods such as dairy produce or bony fish.
It’s a good idea to talk to your GP if this is something you think you may need.
Weight bearing exercise such as dancing, tennis or using resistance equipment in the gym can also help to strengthen bones.
These are all fairly straightforward ways that you can help yourself through this stage of life. They won’t make all of your symptoms disappear overnight, but they can help to ease them.