In our early 40's and 50's we are at our peak in terms of family life, decision making, confidence & self esteem. We have gone through the roller coaster of earlier years and its a time before the roller coaster of perimenopause symptoms kick in, that we should get our house in order so to speak...this is when the first signs of a less sharp brain or physical health issues appear but this is alsothe time to take action..as JFK stated below and the old adage 'make hay while the sun shines'.
If there was one message I would love women in the early 40's onwards to know and listen to is - This is the time ...this is the time to future proof your body, to prepare your brain and enhance it and the rest of your body for the years ahead. You need to stop, re-assess your life, physically, mentally, emotionally the whole gambit and take action where needed...don't wait for symptoms to happen, preparing ahead means many of the physical and emotional symptoms of perimenopause may never happen for you. I was very fortunate to have been friends with Aisling Grimley of My Second Spring for many years before I started perimenopause and knowing what was ahead and preparing myself has definitely made all the difference...it's this journey that made me set up Wellness Warrior :-)
I have often mentioned CBT before and I see so much positive results from women who practice this on a daily basis or when the need arises.
Looking at what triggers your anxiety will help you break it down into manageable elements. If you can isolate the thought, which led to the feeling and behavior that is the first crucial step in CBT. The anxiety will not seem so daunting when you begin to isolate those events or situations that cause you anxiety.
It’s also a good idea to look at where you are in your menstrual cycle, as many women can find that anxiety spikes alongside their premenstrual phase, a symptom of PMT. If you know your anxious symptoms are elevated around the time before your period, you can actually relax a little, knowing that it is a manifestation of your hormonal cycle and not any real world events you need to be worried about. It is also helpful realizing there is a time limit – and an end in sight to the heightened anxiety.
Try telling yourself: “this happens every month, and it will feel better in a week’s time. In the meantime, I am just going to mind myself and use my CBT techniques to get me through it.”
Self-talk is hugely influential in how we manage our daily activities and anxieties, for example:
‘I can’t cope’ replace it with:
‘Let’s see how well I can deal with this’
‘Everyone is looking at me’ replace with:
‘I will notice my reactions more than other people, they may not notice’
Be compassionate with yourself when your anxiety appears 💖
Phytoestrogens often get bad or mixed press messages and people often get confused as to whether they are good for you or can lead to other health risks.
I have talked about these before and just to recap they are plant-derived compounds found in several foods, the most common known being soy and these compounds are very good in menopause.It is soy that raises the confusion and questions, there isconfusion around soy and thyroid related problems - however if you have thyroid problems you can still take isoflavones and soy products, you may find over time that your thyroid levels change and so you may need to tweak your medication with you GP, generally in a downward direction. The key is to look at the right food source...it is fermented soy products that are the best, not the heavily processed soya milk and other soya products - these will not give the same benefits as fermented soy and these are what cause the confusion.
The North American Menopause Society also suggests that soy isoflavones can be used as a natural alternative to HRT where the menopausal symptoms are mild in nature and primarily addresses hot flushes and night sweats.
So how can they help in perimenopause ?
Isoflavones are a type of phytoestrogen (or plant hormone) which are similar to human oestrogen in chemical makeup but are weaker. The oestrogen keeps everything running smoothly (like the oil in your car) and keeps your hormones balanced. The phytoestrogens copy what oestrogen did before you hit perimenopause when you had oestrogen flowing through your body at the normal levels. In addition to supporting your hormones, the ability to mimic oestrogen also gives these plant derived chemicals significant health benefits with the ability to protect you from heart disease, bone loss, osteoporosis, dementia and diabetes.
For all these reasons it is really important to consume them throughout your day - by doing so you are in effect tricking your brain into thinking you still have the normal supply of oestrogen going through your body. When you look at your daily habits and diet make sure you include naturally occurring oestrogens to keep you symptom free during perimenopause.
The best sources to use on a daily basis are flaxseeds, chickpeas (eg hummus), tofu, edamame beans, alfalfa and peanuts. I have found great frozen edamame beans in Supervalu & Asian Supermarkets at very good prices and Tesco also do dried edamame snacks - I will post a photo of these later. I take flaxseeds every day with my breakfast and these are easy to buy and really easy to get into your daily nutrition.
I am often asked for top tips in perimenopause and eating phytoestrogens is always on my Top 5.
Takes only minutes out of your day, either last thing at night or during the day...it's definitely my favourite habit even on days when the good things don't seem so obvious there is always something to be grateful for.
Today for me it has to be the glorious sunshine we have been getting in Ireland and the feeling of warmth in the air. I am thankful for the super book I am reading at the moment and for the hour when the kids were quiet and I got to read my book :-) The irony being its all about the French Revolution, today is Bastille Day and our wedding anniversary..13 years and counting on this epic journey of life, love, friendship & parenthood ...For that I am truly thankful. Just need a fairy babysitter now and the day is all sorted !!!
Life these days has a crazy busyness to it and we really have to make a conscious effort to stop and take that breather...so for this Bank Holiday weekend (In Ireland :-) ) think of the below
5 Daily Habits to Slow Life Down:
Mindful eating – prepare food with care, and take time to sit down and enjoy it
Unplug from technology – and all that fear of missing out (FOMO)
Be outdoors, stand outside for 5 minutes regardless of the weather – just breathe it all in
Doodle with a pencil in a notebook, or colour in a picture
Do the 5 senses exercise
Anxiety can spiral out of control in perimenopause, menopause-onset anxiety is very common and can be one of the most difficult symptoms for us to cope with during this time of transition. Just knowing that it is common and that you are not alone can be immensely comforting, and being able to talk openly about your anxiety can be very therapeutic. Anxiety is like a build-up of pressure in our minds. It is stating the obvious, but to alleviate this pressure we need to vent the anxiety and prevent it spiraling out of control.
How it feels...many of us suddenly feel unable to cope with situations that were never a problem before. We feel overwhelmed by simple aspects of day-to-day living. This can be frightening and undermine our confidence and we may even assume that we are slowly going mad.
How it starts: Some psychological symptoms may be related to physical changes brought on by the rebalancing of our hormones. Falling oestrogen levels can make you feel emotional, dehydration caused by sweats and hot flushes can cause panicky feelings and the very common memory lapses can make you feel anxious that you are ‘losing it’, losing your memory and losing control.
So for many women experiencing anxiety in these years, tackling physical symptoms can be the first course of action towards alleviating some psychological symptoms.Start looking at your symptoms one by one and how you can address them...for example a common one is night sweats which leads to a bad nights sleep which heightens anxiety. If you start to work on the night sweats it will have a downward effect on the anxiety...increase phytoestrogens in your diet, reduce caffeine, drink more water, keep your bedroom window open and a shower last thing at night are all helpful for night sweats.
Fractual patterns...did you know that the infinite patterns of nature like in a tree, plant, branch, leaf have been proven to relax us. A US study performed in Oregon found that we are 'hard wired' to respond to the fractuals found in nature and that they can reduce stress by 60%. This is all linked to evolution and as we have evolved from nature, the natural world is one our brains and bodies can process easily and quickly...we are automatically trained over centuries to be good at reading these patterns and our brains enjoy it. When you sit and really concentrate on some part of nature like a leaf you will be awestruck by how perfect the patterns are..I certainly am when i do this and it leaves you with an amazing sense of something bigger and it does slow you down, it can stop your brain for going into overdrive and ruminating on worries. When we experience a sense of awe in nature that is when we begin to think about things outside ourselves...it gives us pause and a chance to stop and enjoy something bigger than ourselves.
Just look closely at the picture below how utterly amazing are those patterns :-)
'In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.' Aristotle
I am regularly asked how women can confirm whether they are in perimenopause or not.....unfortunately there is no one blood test that will confirm this and personally I believe it's your cycles and your symptoms that will tell you what is happening. However, FSH levels can give an indication of what is going on but please remember these vary depending on where you are at in your cycle and your cycle length - the below shows the levels for each of the 3 stages. So if you are due to have blood tests down and have symptoms it is worth asking your GP to test FSH levels. My FSH level is firmly in the Perimenopause zone 🤣
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