Menopause has a bad reputation. Many women run screaming for the hills with just the thought of hot flashes, incontinence and mood swings. Our collective sense of dread and lack of knowledge about menopause has even been riffed on by the The Baroness Von Sketch Show in their "Peri-menopause" comedy sketch.
But, like many things, our perspective has a lot to do with our reactions to our situation. For example, how we look at our current state of social distancing can have a profound impact on our mood. We can think about it as “being stuck at home”; or “staying at home to protect ourselves and others around us”; or as “time to prepare for ourselves for the lives we want after quarantine”.
Each of these thoughts shape our mood, which can range from anger to contentment to anticipation for the future. They also influence our behaviour, which can vary from sitting lethargically on the sofa, engaging with others on social media, or taking time to learn more about our bodies and our needs so that we can optimize our lives.
Our thoughts determine our mood and, by extension our actions. For many women, aside from the changes happening with our bodies, perimenopause (the year(s) leading up to menopause) is accompanied by mixed feelings about other life and identity transitions. Change can be scary.
Anxiety is our body’s natural response to stress. It’s a feeling of fear or apprehension about what is going to happen. When there are so many myths floating around about menopause, it is no wonder that feelings of anxiety can become overwhelming. Not everything we associate with menopause is true, but messages from popular culture can subconsciously influence our thoughts, and by extension, our feelings and behaviour. Click here to read more about menopause myths.
Take a moment to consider your fears about menopause, about aging, about what you want for this phase of your life. Women are much more than reproduction. Being free of fertility does not mean that we lose our purpose. So, what if we flip the script on menopause? Instead of reacting with fear about the prospect of no longer being in our “reproductive prime”, what if we consider that we can find meaning, happiness and amazing quality of life in this later phase of life.
“Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation. It means understanding that something is what it is and there’s got to be a way through it”.
-Michael J. Fox
Remember that acceptance does not mean resignation.
Acceptance does NOT mean you give up on your goals or that you have to live with disruptive symptoms.
Acceptance does NOT mean you give up hope or disconnect from your body.
Acceptance means letting go of “what was”, fully experiencing “what is”, and preparing for all that “could be”.
It’s okay to feel conflicting emotions about your body and your life circumstances. Acknowledge your emotions; they are all important. But, consider how you are framing these thoughts in your mind because that will influence your entire experience of menopause. For example, maybe you feel happy that you are active, but frustrated that you are not able to walk as much as you would have liked. Focusing on your limitations may lead to self-criticism, anger and depression. In contrast, balanced thinking, such as, “I am active and walking as much as I can”, allows you to experience the satisfaction of being active without dismissing your frustration. Further, it opens the possibility of greater self-compassion, understanding, and greater possibility of self-improvement.
Write your next chapter
Take a moment to imagine what you want these years to look like and how you would describe your experience. Think about meaningful connections with others; activities that you want to engage in; even a healthy sex life. It might take some work, some planning, and some reflection, but it’s all possible.
It is easy to get stuck in the negative, and sometimes, false, information that is available. It often helps to have someone to talk to, be it a friend, a partner, or a therapist. Find someone to walk through this transition with you who understands your fears and supports your goals. You are the author of your story, so write this chapter the way you want it to go.