In this article, Dr Deirdre Forde, founder of Céile Medical, the first dedicated menopause clinic in the midlands, explains how menopause does cause emotions to see-saw, thus throwing up all sorts of possibilities for trouble and strife around Christmas.
Christmas exaggerates everything for good or for bad.
I think a lot of people still see it through the prism of the big screen, and expectations unrealistic expectations are unattainably high.
It can be an enormously difficult time and causes huge stress and emotional trauma.
Human beings are hard-wired to react to stress; it is the fight or flight.
It is primal and dates back to times when people had to hunt for survival, and there were threats everywhere.
We have moved on from being hunter-gatherers, but the basic hypothalamus, which is like an internal alarm in your brain, naturally remains.
Stress exacerbates menopause symptoms like anxiety and can cause your body to go haywire. It is not pleasant, but it is manageable.
The good thing is once a perceived threat disappears, the hormone levels return to their normal rate.
Like so much else in one’s body and psychological make-up, genetics can play a part, and one can have a slight predisposition to reacting to stress.
Also, past life events can walk alongside us like a shadow and can evoke huge reactions to stressful events.
People react differently to stress, and so it follows that for some women, Christmas is a cauldron of stressors.
Christmas is not about spending hours on motorways trying to get to the best shops for the best presents.
It is not about wilting in overheated department stores, spending a fortune on things you probably cannot afford for people who probably do not want them anyway.
Forget trying to please everybody; if you have graciously extended an invitation for people to come and enjoy dinner at your home, do not stay in the kitchen preparing food.
Get out and mingle with them; it is your company they want, after all.
There is nothing wrong with pre-prepared vegetables, and readymade desserts …it is ok to eat soup if that can make life easier!
Remember, “Perfection is the enemy of the good”. Ditch the idea of a ‘perfect’ Christmas as it simply does not exist, except on the film screens, of course!
Accept your guest’s help. Pressure is self-defeating and does not make for a convivial atmosphere.
I will bet that your friends and family members would prefer you to be happy and relaxed rather than stressed to the hilt trying to organise everything.
Exercise and happy hormones
Sleep and exercise are our ‘friends’, but menopause is the great sleep stealer.
I am very much a fan of exercise; it relates to serotonin, our happy hormone. It is great for our minds, and our bones and nature does soothe. Also, it can aid sleep.
However, if you are not able to sleep, practise some mindfulness, get up, read a book, catch up on some tasks like ironing, or perhaps – do what you like and have to do to help you.
Omega 3 and Magnesium are vital supplements; water is powerful as 90% of our bodies are made up of water, so it helps skin and hair and gives energy. Talk to other women and realise you will get through this and bloom.
Exercise, especially weight-bearing exercises, will help strengthen bones and protect against osteoporosis.
Getting out in the fresh air will help build ‘happy hormones’ like serotonin, dopamine, endorphins and oxytocin.
Even short bursts of exercise, for example, a thirty-minute walk, can make a huge difference to mood.
Remember, it is your thoughts that affect your moods, not the other way around so if a thought is not serving you, ditch it.
After all, negative thoughts are a bit like a bad movie playing on a loop.
Skipping meals is not good for your body. Food is a balm for the nervous system, and none more so than during menopause.
Food is literally fuel for your body and helps burn fat and calories.
If you do skip meals, your body stores the fat, and we all know just how difficult it is to shift at menopause. You need to eat to maintain a healthy weight.
We are what we eat is a definite truism. Over-metabolism slows down considerably in our 40s, and this is further affected by menopause.
Avoid over-processed, sugary and highly salted foods. They are not good at the best of times but are really bad at menopause.
Go easy on the Christmas goodies, as all those puddings, mince pies, and Christmas cake can be loaded with sugar.
Again, water helps with bloating and fatigue and freshens breath. Look out for hidden sugars; they are everywhere, from dressings, sauces, and cereals, try and eat foods as close to their natural form as possible.
A healthy balanced diet will help to counterweight gain. Reduce sugars and carbohydrates, which will ultimately end up around your tummy as you become more insulin-resistant.
Vitamin D, K and calcium for bone health. We get calcium from kale and spinach; very nutrient-dense and brilliant in soups, stir-fries and juices.
Your own tomato soups and sauces are incredibly easy to make and are free from added sugars. Throw in some lentils, and as well as the released during cooking tomatoes, you also get protein.
Keep a close eye on spicy foods…not your friend going through menopause.
Cut down on alcohol. Berries are super; rich in Vitamin C, so load up on blueberries, raspberries and blackberries.
Some vitamins and natural remedies and foods that help include
- Magnesium aids a peaceful night’s sleep. Can also help restless legs
- Vitamin B Complex for a healthy immune system
- Omega 3 – Supplements or oily fish, salmon, mackerel and sardines
- Dairy for Calcium
- Protein for body mass…fish, eggs
- Foods high in phytoestrogens – soybeans and soy products are excellent sources, as are flaxseed and linseed
- Cool cotton sheets make sleeping more comfortable, and if you can, do try and invest in some silk pillowcases. They are very gentle on hair and skin and help to counteract the drying effects that menopause has.
- Almond oil is a brilliant all-rounder; it is a great carrier oil mixed with lavender, geranium and rose. These natural oils are rich and soothing and may help to aid sleep. A blend of these with almond oil is excellent for softening skin naturally and massage into body and face. They smell delicious too!
- Tepid baths and showers.
- Silk, cotton and linen clothes; dress in layers. Forget clothes that are tight or restrictive in any way, just not worth it and actually serve to exacerbate stress symptoms as they are not comfortable.