re-building my self-esteem during menopause

Menopause changes you – well, for me it has. I remember my grandmother talking about ‘the change’ and it sounding like something I definitely did not want! Naively, I also thought that I was so ‘healthy’ that menopausal symptoms wouldn’t affect me and that the only ‘change’ I would experience was that I would no longer have a period.

Of course, reality hit with a hormonal bang and I experienced more menopausal symptoms that I even realised existed. Symptoms such as night sweats (more like night rivers), heavy bleeding, aching joints, weight gain, belly fat etc were obvious. Less tangible (though maybe more debilitating) were the physiological issues that often happen as our hormones fluctuate uncontrollably and then flatline forever.

For me, I also experienced unexpected feelings of loss as I realised that my child bearing days were over. It wasn’t that I wanted another child with 2 demanding teenagers at home but having this biological ability taken from me without my consent maybe highlighted that I was ageing, regardless of how well I took care of my health.

As my estrogen depleted, my skin changed – thinner, less elastic, more wrinkles, more sag. And, it wasn’t just on my face. My knees, my thighs, my previous quite ok bottom – everything lost its ‘pertness’ and dare I say ‘youthfulness’. No matter how many lotions, potions or scrubs I apply, the fact is that my skin just isn’t the same anymore.

Add sleep issues, pelvic floor problems (anyone else actually wet themselves in public?!), my osteoarthritic toe joint preventing me from wearing the high heels I used to love (comfort shoes only now) and my favourite clothes not fitting me the way they have for the last 20 years.

With all that joy (I’m being sarcastic!) came a severe knock to my self-esteem.

I am the first to acknowledge that in the scheme of things, I am very lucky. I have gained a little weight but managed to keep it relatively under control without doing anything extreme, I am very fit and healthy and I have dealt with most of my menopausal symptoms utilising diet and lifestyle modifications. So far I have not needed to take any hormonal treatment. Really, my self-esteem issues are minor. But they are also real. How your feel about yourself impacts your life in so many ways.

Self-esteem can be a big issue for menopausal women. I am a member of several menopause Facebook groups and I read daily posts about women struggling with how menopause has adversely affected their life and in particular, the way they feel about themselves – often that they feel like they are becoming invisible, getting ‘old’ and grieving their younger body and self. It can be really confronting and sad to see women who feel like their best life is over and they can’t do anything about it. Realistically, we could possibly have another 30-40, even 50 years to live.

For me, although I admit that I have had my moments over the last few years where I have grieved my younger self, I have also become much more accepting of the ageing process. My face and body have changed and will continue to change. I’m not always going to love the changes but I am learning to be the best version of me at the age I am right now. With the loss of fertility there are also many benefits – no more contraception, periods or hormonal fluctuations (once you hit post menopause). I have also learned to be much kinder to myself in general – something I think is imperative as we age. And, of course I always remind myself that ageing is a privilege that my own father, who died of a sudden heart attack at 47, did not get to experience.

At the same time however, I’m not giving up – on my appearance, my life aspirations or my sensuality. I will continue (as I have done for the last 30 years) to try to make movement and good nutrition a part of my everyday life. When I am fit and healthy, I feel so much better about myself and my body, regardless of my age, ability or even my weight. I believe that health is one of the keys to ageing optimally. Fashion will always be a passion of mine and although I may no longer wear ultra high heel stilettos, I have found quite a few nice ‘comfort shoe’ heels that are much more attractive than the comfort shoes that my grandmother wore at my age. I also feel that this time in history is one where women are rewriting what it means to be menopausal and ageing. We are showing the younger generation of women that life can actually get better with age.

Personally, menopause has been the catalyst for me making many positive changes to my life that have not only rebuilt my self-esteem but actually enhanced it. I now feel more freedom to express myself, more confident about my abilities and more at ease being my authentic self. Although menopause can be a really challenging time of life, it can also be a time of beautiful transformation.

Tania

How AND WHY i created a meditation habit

Although I’ve never been a very spiritual person myself, I have always liked the ‘idea’ of meditation, yoga etc. I am however, a very evidence based, research backed advocate when it comes to health and wellness. And the research now shows that meditation can definitely provide us with many health benefits.

These benefits include improved emotional health, stress reduction, reduced anxiety, enhanced self-awareness, increased attention span, reduced age related memory loss, improved sleep, pain management, decreased blood pressure – the list is endless.

At midlife, hormonal changes, life changes and general ‘am I getting old?’ changes create additional stress in our lives. For me, I recognised that my ability to manage stress was not so good. My dad died of a sudden heart attack at age 47 and I feel that his lack of knowledge about how to adequately deal with stress contributed significantly. I knew I had to create stress management habits and meditation has been part of that.

So, for the last few years I have played around with meditation. I’ve read books, tried a few different methods and joined online courses. I would meditate regularly for a few days, even a couple of weeks but then stop when my life got too busy and stressful (exactly when I should have been doing it!). In the past I would also say that I failed at meditation – I have a very busy mind and I’d often sit there thinking about all the things I needed to do and become even more stressed! However, over the last year, I’ve realised that you cannot actually ‘fail’ at meditation. Your mind will naturally wander. It’s part of the process. Learning to bring the attention back to the meditation is the key. For me, sometimes it doesn’t come back and I accept that and try again next time. Changing the way I view meditation has allowed me to embrace it – there is not right or wrong when it comes to meditation.

Micro habit creation has also become part of my health regime. If possible, when I want to add a new healthy habit into my life, I start small, very small and it must be super easy to incorporate into my day. Using this method has helped me create a meditation habit.

I am currently using the Insight Timer app and I mainly use the guided meditations, though there is also some great music/non-speaking options. I started with 1 minute meditations once a day. I then added a second 1 minute meditation each day (generally when I wake and and before I go to sleep). It is simple, easy and even after a minute, I feel calmer. Gradually, I have begun exploring longer meditations but if I have limited time then I return to my 1 minute meditation. In stressful situations, I now also often think about my favourite 1 minute meditation and try to slow my breath.

My app showed me that I achieved 90 consecutive meditation days recently (which I found truly amazing considering my past efforts) but missed a couple of days here and there over the festive season. This was a trigger for when I could possible stop again for an extended time. However, I actually found I craved my meditation sessions. For me, that shows that meditation has now become a habit. I need to meditate to feel ‘normal’ – like brushing my teeth, it is a part of my day and I feel like something is missing if I don’t do it.

Although I’m not sure whether I will ever be someone who will meditate for an hour each day, I am interested to see where my meditation journey takes me. It’s definitely something that I’m pleased I have successfully incorporated into my daily life and hopefully I’ll be meditating myself into a happier, calmer and healthier life.

Tania

2021 – my year of midlife transformation

At 52, I suppose I’ve been classified as a midlifer for quite some time. However, up until now, I feel like I’ve been more in a transition period – at times quite a messy one. There was a lot going on.

Although no-one really knows when it truly starts, I think my peri-menopause journey commenced at around 47. Of course, you don’t just wake up one day and excitedly do a test like you do when you are trying to fall pregnant (and who ever really thinks of joy when you mention the taboo word of ‘menopause’?). No, peri-menopause sneaks up on you. Before you know it, your hormones, body and mind are going crazy, you have no idea what has happened and you have changed – forever.

I’ve experienced many changes throughout this transition – and they often haven’t been positive ones. Ridiculously, I naively thought that my quite healthy lifestyle would protect me from most menopause symptoms. Nope – over the last 5 years, I experienced symptoms including (but not limited to) severe night sweats, continuous heavy bleeding, uncontrollable rages, excruciatingly sore joints, nightly sleep disturbances (insomnia, frequent waking, numerous toilet visits, tossing and turning, sore joints), vaginal dryness, creepy skin, weight gain, muscle loss etc etc. I’ve also experienced weird feelings of loss – of my child bearing abilities, my youth, my waistline and also my femininity to some extent (things I never thought would concern me).

All that sounds horrendous (and at times it was) but now at 18 months post menopause, things seem to be settling down and I’m feeling good – thank goodness!

Over the last 5 years, I’ve educated myself, read widely, researched, completed courses and experimented. As a result, I have made quite a few changes to my nutrition, exercise and lifestyle which has helped to manage the majority of my menopause symptoms. However, something which I think has made the biggest impact is that I’ve also taken much more responsibility for my own health and overall life. I now consider myself to be the expert of me (after all I’ve known myself for 52 years now). I seek guidance from professionals but if I don’t get the answers I’m looking for, then I now speak up, ask questions and often get a second opinion.

As difficult as it has been, the challenges I have experienced and dealt with have allowed me to come out the other side feeling more confident, happier and excited about this next phase of my life. I feel much more in control of my body and I’m actually healthier than ever before. Although I only needed to make small adjustments to some areas such as my exercise and nutrition habits, I did have to make some big changes to other areas, such as the way I managed stress and prioritised sleep.

Of course, I don’t have everything perfect and that’s no longer a goal of mine. I am a continuous work in progress, there are continuous bumps along the road and things will continue to change as I age. However, I’m now ready to bloom, to thrive and to unveil the woman I have evolved into through this menopause process and transition. I’m ready to transform into the most authentic and best version of me.

2021 is my year of midlife transformation.

Tania