It seems especially fitting, and perhaps a wee bit bittersweet, that April is Stress Awareness Month. Especially this April during COVID19, when we in the States are still under home quarantine. And extra attention and feels go to women in perimenopause and menopause.
Stress awareness this month seems both a given and an understatement. And now that it’s been a few weeks of living with and adapting to new precautions around handwashing, grocery shopping, staying at home, and digitally socializing, these changes may be causing feelings of worry, concern, anger, irritability, and exhaustion.
It’s a shared experience of tremendous stress that affects each of us in a unique way.
During both perimenopause and menopause, there are already plenty of changes that can cause or increase stress in a woman’s body, largely due to gradual decreases in estrogen. Ahhh, hormones, we had no idea just how powerful you were before perimenopause and menopause!
One study of 347 Northern Californian women between the ages of 40-50 noted, “More than half of women in this age group report physiological or psychological symptoms often attributed to menopause, with 30% who indicate that symptoms are bothersome.”
New is not easy. Many new changes at once can compound and incite overwhelming feelings, not to mention increase the intensity or frequency of symptoms. Especially hot flashes.
Stress, anxiety, and hot flashes have a tight relationship. In this study, women with the highest stress levels were 5x (FIVE times) more likely to report hot flashes than normally-stressed women. In these last weeks of Coronavirus and COVID19, increased stress may be amplified throughout the planet.
What helps here? Small, daily improvements. Namely around:
Attention to these daily components can ease hot flashes, and also promote better sleep. YES! Sign yourself up for better sleep! Stat!
It’s time for more support, not less. Learn more about Gennev’s Expanded Telehealth Clinic now.
Eventually, the reproductive system in every woman’s body will stop. This is the core of menopause and some women will grieve this loss as well. The possibility of genetic family-building ends.
Let’s remember that many are feeling losses keenly with the changes and precautions that have been introduced since the COVID19 outbreak. Normal, natural feelings of stress and grief for people who have died are happening now. People are writing and talking about their grief due to isolation and not being able to be with loved ones right now, healthy or not. Other forms of stress may come in the form of having a sense of loss around safety, environment, job loss, business loss.
Incredibly stressful. And understandable. And normal.
It’s also normal that our bodies would be affected, especially if we’re in perimenopause or menopause.
We’re going to touch on one more type of stressor before we talk about how awareness can help.
Though perimenopause shows up differently for each and every woman, medical experts agree that one of the main symptoms, and tip-offs that perimenopause is appearing, is irregular, heavy, or missed periods. This alone can feel stressful, as in, “my periods have never been this heavy before, what’s going on in my body?”... or, “I’ve always been really regular and have been able to time it almost to the hour when it’ll start, where is it? Could I be pregnant?”
This doesn’t mean that other symptoms won’t come up prior to menopause. Again, every woman’s experience is unique. Many women, for instance, figure that hot flashes will occur only in later years and during menopause. So, if hot flashes begin to show up, say, in their early 40’s, this is a completely new, unexpected, and potentially unsettling symptom. It can bring forth feelings of concern or worry, as in, “WHAT was that?”
The inside job: Knowing the nature of your cycle (and schedule), how stress shows up in your body, and even awareness of the main stressors is job 1. This is your personal experience and it’s an important element to know about your mind and body. Consider the questions: What feels familiar? Or, what is my personal “normal” around my periods? What sets my stress or anxiety (or anger, or carb cravings) off?
Education: Awareness of common symptoms and potential symptoms can help to stave off or blunt the edge of stress. Personal family history knowledge can also help, but talking with friends or trusted older women can help too. It’s true that each woman will experience this stage differently, but if you’re able to talk with trusted women who have been through menopause, it can really help normalize this transformation. One way to connect is through our Gennev Community Forums. Join us; the conversation has already started on this and other relevant topics.
Alignment and collaboration with your doctor: Communicating, as mentioned, definitely helps. And when you discuss what’s going on with your primary care doctor (or one of ours), options, choices, and actions can help to open up your world. Think about it, pairing and co-creating a path toward increased well being with your doctor’s awareness and your personal experience? This can be exciting, feel supportive and comforting, and really help to slash the worry and stress from your perimenopause and menopause experience.
Making an informed, supported plan of action is where changed behaviors, improved health, a stronger immune system, and feeling better can enter and stay as part of your journey. Yes, even through a pandemic.
Reach out, connect, talk, and help yourself by asking for support and help. Much is changing these days: bodies, minds, environments, and more. Staying healthy and practicing self-care includes staving off, processing, and adapting to stress and stressors as gently and as thoroughly as you can.
No need for perfection here… if you’re looking to achieve a stress-free life, it just doesn’t exist. Just a little awareness and improvement each day not only counts, but can also work.
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