Menopause symptoms are a harsh reality of life. But “they should be seen not so much as the end of the reproductive years but as the beginning or rebirth of a whole new you.”
Many of us have negative thoughts and low self-esteem at the time of menopause. And that’s not surprising if we are suffering from a lack of sleep, hot flashes, night sweats, bulging waistlines, and low libido. Instead of enjoying the sense that others find us attractive, we may begin to feel invisible. The feeling of unattractiveness is not helped by the attitude of many men that we are now just “women of a certain age.”
What matters most is how you feel about yourself. If you feel well and take care of your health, your well-being will be reflected in your skin, hair, and nails. There will be a spring in your step and you will glow from the inside. If you have lost your sparkle, it’s possible to reframe your attitudes and habits and get back to being your old self or even better.
At the time of menopause we don’t have to contend with just our own negative views; we also often lack support from medical professionals. It’s not that they are negative people—far from it, they are members of the caring profession—but they often admit to being inadequately informed. We know from the 2019 Mayo Clinic survey of doctors and gynecologists that only 7 percent of them felt adequately educated to help women going through menopause. As a result, they can’t identify the tools you need to help you dig yourself out of the hole.
In addition, support, or lack of it, from healthcare providers makes a difference to our wellbeing. Numerous reputable studies have shown that the attitude of doctors and their teams is directly related to patients’ health outcomes. If you are told by your doctor that your symptoms are “all part of the aging process” or that “you’ll have to live with it,” you are much more likely to believe that you will remain unwell. On the other hand, if your healthcare team has a positive, optimistic approach, you are more likely to recover.
The same is true of our own outlook on things. Optimists have healthier hearts, for example, while pessimists are more likely to get sick and be depressed. Those with higher self-esteem not only have lower rates of heart disease but also have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Changing Attitudes About Menopause
Our attitudes are affected in a number of ways as we enter midlife. Those effects can be broken down into the messages that come from within us and those that come from the world around us.
Attitudes toward menopause can be both positive and negative. Some women are delighted that their periods are over and are happy to grow older gracefully, while others are horrified by the process, mourning the loss of their fertility and worrying that it will be all downhill from here. Many women are affected by the ubiquitous advertising and media coverage that sends the message that young and beautiful women are much more valued in our society than older, wiser women.
In our survey of women’s attitudes at the time of menopause, 80 percent of women surveyed were delighted their periods had stopped; but 40 percent were anxious and afraid of changes in their physical appearance, 37 percent felt that menopause signaled the start of old age, and 17 percent thought their partner would prefer a younger woman.
These results make depressing reading, yet most of them can be termed “crooked” thinking.
Once the physical symptoms of menopause have been overcome and fatigue is no longer an issue, the midlife years can be an enormously positive phase in your life. They should be seen not so much as the end of the reproductive years but as the beginning or rebirth of a whole new you. As my sister, Sue Fisher, once said, you need to spend less time hanging around the fountain of youth and more time bathing in the waters of wisdom.
The first step to changing the way you think is to learn to love yourself for who you are and to accept the stage of life you are in. The secret is to embrace midlife, not run away from it.
Quiz: How’s Your Self-Esteem?
• Do you feel unattractive?
• Do you think life as you once knew it is over?
• Do you see yourself as old?
• Do you see menopause as the beginning of the end?
• Do you think your partner (if you have one) no longer finds you attractive?
• Do you think your partner would prefer to be with a younger woman?
• If you don’t have a partner, do you think you are now too old to find one?
• Do you tend to concentrate on your bad points rather than your good points?
• Do you tend to dwell on your failures rather than your achievements?
• Are you unhappy with what you have achieved in life?
• Do you sometimes doubt your ability to succeed?
• Do you see life as all downhill from now on?
• Do you wish you were young again?
• Do you think you were more attractive when you were younger?
• Do you think you are too old for good sex?
• Do you dread menopause?
If you answered yes to more than three questions, read on to learn how you can change your attitudes and start feeling good about yourself again.
Create Some Me Time
The key to an emotionally healthy and rewarding midlife is to examine the attitudes that affect you. Spend some time working out what your priorities and values are at this time of life. They may be very different from what they were ten years ago. Find time to get to know yourself again, as well as time to laugh and share friendships and nurture your precious sense of humor.
It is also vital to achieve a relaxed “head space.” Both the physical and emotional symptoms of menopause are made significantly worse by stress, so relaxation and meditation techniques are a must. Try to find an hour each day to exercise, relax, or meditate
Pat Yourself on the Back
Get yourself a notebook and keep a note of your daily achievements and lifetime achievements, large or small. It is all too easy to move on to the next thing, or even the next day, without acknowledging what you have accomplished. Acknowledge your success in the workplace or at rearing amazing children into functioning adults. Again, we tend to fixate on our mistakes and things we regret. Making time to review your successes helps you build self-confidence. Read back over your notebook each week and congratulate yourself on how well you are doing.
Engage in Mutual Support
The rewards that come from helping make other people’s lives more pleasant are priceless.
Team up with a friend who is also going through menopause, and you can give each other help and encouragement. You’ll be surprised how much of a buzz it will give you. It can also help to know that you’re not alone and that other women are going through menopause too and feel just like you.
Be Future Positive
Being optimistic about the future is more likely to bring positive results than thinking about how good things used to be. There is lots of evidence to show that those who see life as a glass half full, rather than half-empty, stand a much better chance of feeling content and fulfilled as they go into midlife. So, if your thoughts are veering toward the negative, indulge in some positive thinking when you wake up and before you go to sleep at night.
Form a vivid picture of your happy, attractive self, going through the rest of life being incredibly positive, and start looking at things through these positive eyes. You’ll feel so much better about life!
Spend time imagining yourself in great physical and mental shape, looking and feeling great with good things happening to you. If you have children who have now left home, you might imagine re-creating the romance of those first heady days you spent with your partner, enjoying the company of new friends, or even starting a new relationship.
Perhaps your daydreams will center on success at work, going back to work, starting a new hobby, or fulfilling a lifetime ambition.
Whatever you focus on, make the images in your mind so realistic that you actually start to feel you are experiencing the situation. If you find this hard to do, try clipping pictures from magazines, or make a Pinterest board or a collage of some of your favorite photos. It may take some practice, but once you get the hang of it, it will become like watching a movie. Remember that if you feel positive about yourself, people are much more likely to react positively toward you.
Find more inspiration in “Discover the Seven Gifts of Menopause.”
Excerpted from the book Manage Your Menopause Naturally. Copyright © 2020 by Maryon Stewart. Printed with permission from New World Library—www.newworldlibrary.com.