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Coping with Menopausal Symptoms

Hints About What Might Help

By

Updated December 13, 2007

When you enter your menopausal years, you may not realize at first what is happening to you. You wonder if the room is getting warm. You wonder why you are so short with your kids or your spouse. You wake in the night, and can’t get back to sleep. It can be a little unnerving at times, but, just as in adolescence, you will survive this right of passage and live to tell the tale.

There are women who have very few symptoms or problems as they pass through menopause. But most have at least some temporary symptoms, and some struggle with problems that really disrupt their lives.

Wherever you are on the symptom continuum, here are some hints for dealing with the most common complaints of menopause.

Stress

Stress is a fact of life whether you are having menopause symptoms or not. Learning to deal with it constructively can make your life more satisfying whatever your age or situation. Here are some suggestions for helping you cope:

  • Meditation for 15 minutes a day can dramatically improve your stress level and ability to cope.

  • Exercise of any sort can reduce your stress. The important thing is to do it regularly – at least 3 times a week to see results. More often is better yet.

  • Do a life inventory. List the things that matter most to you, and think about whether your life supports you in doing these things. Make a plan to begin pursuing at least one goal that you have not been able to accomplish. (Or drop something that is damaging your spirit!)

  • Reach Out.When it comes to stress, women don’t seem to have the same “Fight or Flight” response that men do. Women are inclined to “Tend and Befriend.” This is a healthy response to stress because it helps establish a social support network. When you notice that you are stressed, get help. Call a friend or see a counselor – it will help you feel more sane.

  • Medication may be helpful if you are chronically stressed out. Talk to your medical provider if you think medication could help you with stress or anxiety.

Hot Flashes

Your thermostat may be very touchy around menopause. Many women find that they have a very narrow range of comfort, and it doesn’t take much to set off the alarm that tells your body to “Cool Off Now!!” Try some of these ways to deal with flashes:

  • Dress in layers and be prepared to “take it off” if you feel yourself flushing.

  • Breathing techniques where you breathe slowly and deeply. This sort of controlled breathing just as you start a hot flash can shorten and lessen it.

  • Water, water, water. If you are flashing you are sweating and water helps replenish your stores and it also seems to help regulate your internal temperature. Try to get 48 ounces in a day.

  • Turn down that thermostat. Whenever possible, keep your environment under 70 degrees in the daytime, and under 65 degrees at night.

  • Avoid hot places whenever possible. Don’t sunbathe or sit in a sauna if you are prone to flash.

  • Hot and spicy foods, even if you have always been able to eat them, may trigger you to flash. Stay away from the spices if you find they trip your thermostat. You will be able to eat them again someday.

  • Estrogen is still the most effective treatment for hot flashes. It does carry some risks, so talk it over with your medical provider. Sometimes a short course of a very low dose is enough to get you over the hot flash bump, and then you can phase it out.

  • Other medications can also be helpful. Some blood pressure medications, anti-seizure medications, and antidepressants have all been shown to improve hot flashes in menopausal women. Check with your medical provider if you think medication is something you’d like to try.
  • Flaxseed and flaxseed oil may decrease hot flashes and have the added benefit of reducing joint and muscle pain for some women.

  • Vitamin E, yam phytoestrogens and black cohosh have all been used for many years to combat hot flashes. Studies on these alternative remedies usually show them to be only as effective as placebo. There are plenty of women who swear by them, but so far no hard research bears it out.

      Insomnia

      Insomnia is very common just before and after menopause. Sometimes it is due to night sweats, which are hot flashes. But sometimes women seem to have a hormone shift that makes them wakeful at the same time each night. It can be hard to turn your brain off, and then you will go into your day sleep deprived. This can be frustrating and exhausting. Here are some things to try:

      • Cool your bedroom. Try to keep your nighttime bedroom temperature below 65 degrees.

      • Estrogen. A short course of estrogen – less than a year—can sometimes help you re-establish your sleeping pattern. Check with your medical provider about your risks.

      • Meditation just before bed can put you in a calm state of mind and help you fall asleep, and stay asleep.

      • Take a bath before bed. This can regulate your temperature, and send you off to dreamland comfortable and relaxed.

      • Sedatives for a short period of time can sometimes help you regulate your sleep cycle. It’s not a long term solution, so talk it over with your medical provider.

      • Antidepressants can sometimes help with sleep. If you are on an antidepressant that makes you wakeful, talk to your provider about changing to one that has a more sedative effect, and take it at bedtime.

      • CPAP. If you snore, or if you are having periods of not breathing in your sleep (sleep apnea) you may need a sleep study to determine whether you would benefit from a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. Sleep apnea can cause damage to your heart, so if your partner tells you that you are snoring, or if you suspect sleep apnea, get a referral for a sleep study.

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