Diet & Lifestyle During the Menopause
We’re always hearing that regular exercise is an important part of keeping healthy and feeling well. But it’s also important that exercise doesn’t become a chore or another of those dreaded tasks we feel we have to do. Twenty minutes 3 times a week is all you need. And if you’re a woman going through the menopause, bone health and weight-bearing activity has to be a top priority. Here are a few tips to help you get your workout quota while having so much fun you’ll forget you’re even exercising:
Walking: At a brisk pace head off into the country, round local parkland or simply take to the streets for 20-30 minutes. Doing this on your lunch break at work is a great way to get fresh air and get outdoors!
Dance: There’s a great revival going on so grab some comfy shoes and sign up for ballroom dancing, line dancing or even belly dancing. Get off the bus 2 stops early or park your car a short distance from your destination – a great way to get to know the neighbourhood too.
Gardening: Weeding, pruning, mowing etc., all of this is good exercise. Just remember to take care of your back.
Yoga, Pilates, Thai Chi: A great way to find mindfulness while getting your body moving. Join a local class to make friends as well as getting your body moving.
Stress & Anxiety
Women have traditionally been the central axis of family life. The bearers of children, the wipers of noses, dispensers of band-aids – often while juggling careers as well. We travel through life and our roles evolve. As our children grow and perhaps become parents themselves, rather than needing us less, it seems that we are more in demand than ever. Now, in addition to being mothers we find ourselves as support people for our own aging parents, husbands going through mid-life crises and girlfriends facing similar issues. This can all contribute to heightening levels of stress and Anxiety.
Signs of stress & anxiety
- Finding it hard to cope – an ordinary problem can seem insurmountable, as we are easily daunted
- Suffering from fatigue, aches or pains
- Becoming angry very easily and/or fly off the handle
- Suffering from stomach problems such as indigestion, diarrhoea or constipation
- Sleeping badly
- Finding it hard to concentrate or focus
- Eating too much or too little
- Excessive worry and low self-esteem
- Sweats and palpitations
When we start to manage stress, it is important to recognise that it has something to do with our lifestyles or attitudes. It has nothing to do with our personal shortcomings. The best way to manage stress is through positive change, which usually involves making a choice – we can either remove the source of the stress, or (if this is not possible) re-balance things by adding something positive into our lives. We may also need to learn some new coping mechanisms.
The first step is to review our priorities: List all the things you think are causing you stress. Is the stress coming from any one thing or is it a combination of factors? Try and identify the major causes, then review how you respond to them. What could you do differently? If you cannot change the first one, move down the list until you find something you can change.
One way to do this is to remember a time you managed stress really well. What did you do that worked? This memory may hold a clue to a helpful coping mechanism. If you can’t remove something negative from your life, perhaps you could add something positive to give you extra support. This might not need to be a big thing. It could be as simple as taking time out to read, meditate or enjoy a moment to yourself. A simple cup of tea can do wonders!
The following sections will allow you to manage your stress and anxiety through a positive and holistic approach:
Positive reinforcementWhen we are stressed, our self-talk is often negative and can reinforce our bad feelings. If we think more positively, we can turn this around and reduce our stress. Think of a positive statement/affirmation that you can use when you are feeling stressed, such as: “I feel relaxed and calm”, or “I’m really good at _____ , I can deal with this.” Decide what you can control and work on that – let the rest go. Take a short break – walk away from the problem for a moment to regain perspective.
Aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of essential oils made from plants and flowers. The different chemical makeup of oils generates scents or aromas and is thought to induce a range of emotional and physiological reactions. Essential oils can be applied in different ways, including directly rubbed onto the skin, added to bath water or vaporised in an oil burner. Studies have shown that aromatherapy can play a role in addressing: Digestive problems, Headache, Insomnia, Stress.
Essential oils to try:
Headaches – Try chamomile and peppermint
Insomnia – Try chamomile and lavender
Stress – Try lavender and sandalwood
Get rid of daily irritants / tolerationsWe all put up with things that drain our energy unnecessarily. For example, if you have a messy car that irritates you every time you get into it, address the problem and take the time to get it cleaned. Write a list of the 10 things that you put up with that drain your energy. As you deal with the list and cross items off it, you’ll feel your energy and sense of well-being increase. If there are some things you cannot afford to change or need help with – get creative. It could be that someone else will help you out if you can do something equally supportive for them.
Breathing is an essential part of life, but can also help manage stress levels and keep heart rates down. For breathing, try the following techniques.
“When you are stressed or anxious your breathing becomes shallow and the chest becomes tight sending your body into a fight or flight state. Yoga breathing comes from the belly and encourages, deep relaxation with every move, allowing you to feel calm and at ease. Some of the best postures to encourage the deepest of breathing is where the head hangs low. At home, try inhaling into a forward fold, breathing slowly in and out the nose for 8 counts. Hold this for 4 long breaths and feel the difference in your calm mental state when you slowly roll back up”
– Josephine Paskins, Yoga Instructor.
Relaxation and time managementDo something you find relaxing – listen to music, do something creative such as an adult colouring book, garden, meditate or just go for a walk. Any form of exercise can help with stress. Relaxation techniques don’t necessarily take a lot of time. There’s deep breathing, stretching or visualising something that really makes you feel happy or relaxed. Most ‘to do’ lists tend to be prioritised by urgency rather than importance. This can mean that while you’re getting the urgent things done, the big things get left behind. Try prioritising by the impact the activity has on your goals instead. See if you can start with the thing that will move you forward the most. This is not always possible, but approaching your time management this way can reduce overall stress because of the sense of achievement that comes with it. There are a number of different ways to meditate. You can learn by going to a class or use tapes or books.
Other coping methods
- Make sure there are people around to support you. It’s great to be needed, but everyone needs to have someone to share concerns with… even you!
- Learn how to say ‘no’. It’s hard to do at first, but once they get over the shock, they’ll realise it’s not that you love them any less, just that you want to make sure that you’ll still have energy to love them tomorrow.
Laugh – it really is the best medicine!
Seek out funny books or movies and surround yourself with people that make you laugh.