Navigating through a long game like menopause can be tricky. This is a new skill to hone and practice, especially in our modern sprint-oriented, get-things-done-now world.

Exciting? Yes. Changes of all kinds can get the adrenaline going in a body.

Exasperating? Exhausting? 

Yes, at times.

And, for those of you who’ve felt like this month has been one long hot flash, you’re not alone. There are myriad changes happening in the perimenopausal, menopausal, and post-menopausal woman’s body and none of them have ever really been on a person’s Top 10 list of fun things. Still, there are ways to go through this, and every way starts with your choice. Your power. Your next step. And even your next thought.

Acceptance

Immensely helpful is the split second between awareness and acceptance of what’s going on in your body or your life. There’s a choice that lies in that split second: “Yes, I accept it,” or “No.” 

A “no” can translate to: I don’t want it, don’t believe it, can’t handle it, or am not going to deal with it. There’s nothing wrong with “no.” 

We may give ourselves some time to hang out in no-land. It’s perfectly fine to have a bit of a layover there, but adopting resistance and denial may be setting us up for more stress in the long run. It’s the resistance that yields more stress and takes more of our energy, and can actually throw our equilibrium systems out of whack.

Acceptance can reduce the chance that feelings will return again. Let’s take rage as an example. Let’s say you get cut off in traffic, and you’re already late for a spin class you really love. The person who cut you off also flips you off. And you see red. The words or thoughts might include,"Now I’m PO’d,” in addition to a few expletives. Saying it out loud, owning the feeling, gives you a measure of control over it. 

Now, if it happens again, you may find it easier to claim the feeling of rage and still drive safely, rather than have the experiences — and feelings — compound. 

And when we’re ready, even if we’re not thrilled, we can move to “Yes, I accept that I am in menopause,” or “Yes, I need more rest since I’m up at all hours with night sweats.”

Acceptance will move us to the next action, prompt the next question and choice. Not to mention, it will give us new info about ourselves, help forge healthier relationships, and allow us to retain more energy.

Perspective (or perhaps mindset) are critical players in sustaining your energy and sense of humor through the ongoing uncertainty of change that is happening right now in both your body and your life.

No one knows what’s coming next, but so much of it feels like it’s coming fast. How does a person cultivate and keep a positive perspective without getting overwhelmed? 

It’s not easy, but it is a simple practice. 

One of the very first things to do is to get into acceptance. Why? Getting to acceptance of a circumstance, situation, or feeling means you are moving toward a solution, choice, or next step. 

Words for the long game

Awareness usually isn’t the issue regarding menopausal symptoms. You’re likely super-aware of when you’re having a hot flash, feeling instant anger or rage that is out of the ordinary, and other common symptoms. 

Acceptance can be a more subtle state to enter into. How do you do it? One way is to say what’s happening out loud: “This is happening,” or, “I feel this.” Another option: “Looks like this just happened” (or is happening). 

Hearing it while saying it to yourself (even a whisper) makes whatever it is more real. In using these words, you are stating it positively, even if it’s not awesome. 

Writing it down can also make acceptance an immediate thing. If writing or journaling isn’t your thing, consider using a voice recording app on your phone to “get it out” in a private moment. Again, you may not like what’s happening or how you are feeling, but in order to get to solutions and actions, stating and accepting what is actually happening is important.

One thing that may help is adding context. A phrase that incorporates significant details might be, “I live in a world where my bladder seems to have her own clock, brain, and pee agenda… especially in the most important meeting of the week.”

Fun? No. 

Funny?… Well, it might be too soon for “funny” when you’re right in the middle of it. 

Real? You bet. 

Okay, so, it feels like crap, is there an upside or benefit to this acceptance thing

According to psychologist Marsha Linehan, creator of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, there are 4 responses we can have to any situation: we can 1. leave it, 2. change it, 3. accept it, or 4. stay miserable.

We can’t leave menopause or change the way our bodies are transforming, so we can accept what’s happening or stay miserable. Feel free to shout out some choice curse words for both 3 and 4.

What if acceptance could make it easier to get through a hot flash?

Have you tried it? All it takes is a, “Yep, that’s happening.” Some women share that acceptance makes it easier to get through a hot flash, and this may also reduce the chances of having another hot flash immediately after.

Does it feel better or easier for you, now that you’ve tried it? 

You don’t have to accept all of them, just the next one. Maybe?

Tough times

When situations arise that feel like too much for you to handle, accept, or even comprehend, there are a couple of things to keep in mind: 

  1. Support is available: Trusted friends and family, members of your care team like your doc (and ours) and any recommendations or referrals they might make. Other areas of support could look like meetups, events, support groups, perhaps even introductions from a trusted friend to someone they know who has experience in what you’re going through. Counseling, psychotherapy, coaching, or treatments in massage or acupuncture may be helpful as well. Asking yourself, “what do I need right now?” could deliver your best answer.

  2. Taking a break that nurtures you can be a good thing: Rest is a really important thing when you’re in perimenopause, or when you’ve received a worrisome diagnosis or painful news. Fatigue may set in due to chemical changes of perimenopause and/or an emotional response so your body may actually demand rest in order to process. You may also feel a compelling urge to veg out with a new Netflix binge, or have an extra glass of wine, or even shut down for awhile. And it’s understandable. Challenging news can spark emotions and even open the door to depression or anxiety, whether you’ve experienced them before or not. Gentle self-care and a little reach for support are nurturing lifelines.

Approach with curiosity and care

Your journey through menopause is a full-on adventure. There are moments of tension, and moments of relief. Kinda like a really good television series. The thing is, you are living this adventure, in real-time, daily. There are no built-in commercial breaks, so take the time you want and need to take good care of yourself

Your body is doing what bodies have been doing for thousands of years… it’s changing, transforming, and you are living this change. Just keep asking, “What is happening?” Your answer and whether or not you accept what is happening will take you directly to your next choice: “What am I going to do about it if anything?”

Keeping your sense of humor

  • Could it be that in the midst of your action-thriller life, you’re not getting enough fun into your routine? What are the things you enjoy that you may not be giving time or energy to? Get something on the books that is just for you. Heck, schedule a few ahead and don’t leave a lot of time between the fun stuff.

  • Any chance you could laugh about something else? Like, anything else? Laughter has a healing effect, no joke, and relieves stress and pressure. Long term, laughter, even a chuckle, can improve your mood, increase your personal satisfaction, and even bolster your immune system. So, even if it’s ridiculous, if it gets a laugh out of you, call it good and let it out.

  • Distractions for the relief win! Can you name all of your elementary school teachers from kindergarten on? How far did you get? What was fun about being 9? What’s the capital of South Dakota? Maybe you need a completely random departure from the current situation. Give your mind another “job” to work on for a few minutes.

  • Move it, move it. Get outside for a few minutes, walk around the block, take in the smallest happenings. A tree is changing colors, a kid is learning to ride a bike, there’s a new apple to try at the market. Get yourself moving and see what’s new to open up your mind to what else is going on around you. Take it to the advanced level and see if you can find something humorous while out on your walk.

We can do this. Our mothers, grandmothers, and ancestors played the long game of menopause their way. Time for us to do it our way.

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