The menopause is an important life change that every woman goes through. Usually, women start the menopause in their late 40s or early 50s, but these are just guidelines – you may begin your menopause much earlier or later than this.
The menopause has very real physical and mental impacts on women, and it’s helpful to be prepared by knowing what to expect. This way, you can take care of every aspect of your health and wellbeing throughout the menopause process.
Here, we explain what the menopause is when you can expect it, and share 6 tried-and-tested tips to look after your wellbeing during the change.
What Exactly is the Menopause?
The menopause is a natural process of change when you’ll stop getting your periods and you’ll no longer be able to get pregnant naturally. It’s officially defined by the absence of periods for more than a year.
Usually, symptoms such as irregular periods can begin a few years before the menopause change begins. This is called the perimenopause.
Then, once you haven’t had your period for 12 months, you’ve officially reached the menopause.
This is when you’ll undergo a variety of different signs that show you your body’s changing, and these symptoms can vary between women. Some women may experience mild symptoms, whereas others may have a more challenging experience.
Here are some of the most common symptoms to expect during the menopause:
- Hot flushes and night sweats
- Mood changes, including depression and anxiety
- Trouble sleeping
- Reduced sex drive
- Vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex
- Weight gain
- Reduced muscle mass
- Stiffness, aches and pains
When Can I Expect to Start the Menopause?
Typically, you’ll start the menopause around the age of 49 to 52. However, this is not set in stone, and it may occur much earlier or much later for some women.
Menopause Wellness Tips
Here are our 6 most important wellness tips for women going – or about to go – through the menopause.
1. Keep a menopause journal
Even if it’s just for a few minutes a day, writing is a surprisingly effective way to relieve stress and tension.
Keeping a menopause journal is an ideal tool for noting down your feelings, especially if you don’t feel comfortable discussing your emotions with those around you.
It’s also a really helpful way of tracking your symptoms, especially if you can manage to create a regular writing routine. This way, you can look back and track what changes have occurred in your body.
Here’s some writing prompts to choose from to get you started:
- Record the facts – what symptoms did you get today?
- What did you eat and did anything trigger a symptom or a hot flush?
- Keep a list of any medication you’re taking, or other techniques you’ve tried
- What have you been thinking about most recently?
- Identify a few things you’re grateful for
- Write a love letter to your body – fill it with kind words
- Note down a goal for the next month
- List and describe your emotions
- Write about what you love about yourself (maybe it’s your patient nature, or maybe you love how pretty your eyes are)
Journaling may seem like a big task to take on, but it’s manageable if you break it down into just a 5-minute ritual.
Build your journaling habit onto something else you always do – and make it part of that routine.
For example, set your alarm 5 minutes earlier and write in your menopause journal as soon as you wake up. Or try writing in it during your lunch break – it’ll make a change from working or scrolling through your phone!
2. Eat well
No surprises here, but eating good, nutritious food will help you stay happy and healthy while going through your menopause.
Diets are overwhelming, and it can often feel like you’re inundated with information and advice regarding the best foods to eat. In all honesty, the best way to make lasting change is to start slow and keep things simple.
Gradually make switches to healthier options and implement them into your regular diet. Try switching your cereal bar for a handful of nuts, or some carrot sticks and dip.
Cutting down on processed foods has been linked to a healthy heart. This is super important when it comes to regulating blood pressure, which can increase due to hormonal changes during your menopause.
Leafy greens, fruits, and almonds are good for mental health also. You may want to try incorporating these foods to help deal with any menopause-related stress or anxiety.
However, everyone has different dietary needs, so it’s best to find a qualified expert to talk you before making any big changes. Nutritionists can work with you to develop a personalised diet plan, or you can simply browse their websites for recipe ideas and food tips.
Here are some qualified menopause nutritionists:
- Julie Court – nutrition expert who specialises in whole foods, cuts through all the fad diet nonsense
- Sarah Schenker – registered dietician whose site features tons of great recipes
- Angela Loftus – offers free 15-minute calls to help you on your first steps to making healthy changes
3. Try gentle exercise
Whether you join a beginner’s Pilates class, or just try some menopause yoga at home, light exercise will help your mind and body feel better during the menopause.
Everyone knows that exercise is good for your health, but it’s especially useful for alleviating some of the most common menopause symptoms directly.
Exercise helps you:
- Manage weight gain
- Strengthen your muscles and bones
- Boost your mood
Weight gain, weakened muscles and bone mass, and a low mood are all side effects of the menopause. Luckily, exercise helps combat these symptoms directly – so it’s certainly worth a try.
There’s plenty of wellness activities and exercises adapted for women going through the menopause, so try researching classes near you and see what you can find online.
We’re all different, so experiment and see what works for you.
To read our article about menopause yoga, please click here.
4. Listen to podcasts
We all love a good podcast, especially ones that give the menopause the air time it deserves. More than ever before, podcast platforms are releasing shows focused on women’s health.
Check out some of our favourites listed below:
- Women’s Health by Dr Heather Hirsch – a podcast dedicated to uncovering and answering many of the myths and misconceptions surround women’s health. Recent episodes include ‘Non-hormonal medications to help with menopausal symptoms’ and ‘Why can’t I sleep? Tips and tricks for better sleep in midlife’
- The Liz Earle Wellbeing Show – not only menopause-focused, but Liz Earle’s podcasts also explore all aspects of women’s wellness from fitness to gut health and mood to menopause
- The Happy Menopause – Registered Nutritional Therapist Jacki Lynch hosts this gem of a show. She explores how diet and lifestyle in midlife can help you manage your menopause symptoms, and delves into a new topic each week
What’s great about these shows is that they chat with a real range of experts, so you can be sure that any advice comes from a place of knowledge.
Also, you’ll pick up plenty of tips from women like you, going through exactly the same experiences that you are. It’s comforting to know you’re not alone.
Next time you’re out walking the dog or driving to the shops, plug in a podcast – you’ll pick up some great menopause wellness tips and learn more about your own body.
5. Read, read, read!
If you’re more of a reader than a listener, then you’re in luck. When it comes to the menopause, you’ve got a wealth of information at your fingertips.
Reading up on the menopause will help you understand the change you’re going through, and in turn, will make managing your symptoms far easier.
Alongside gaining knowledge, reading is an incredible tool to help lower your stress levels. Curling up with a book and a cup of tea is a surefire way to feel relaxed, so by reading about your menopause, you can take comfort in the fact you’re looking after the multiple aspects of your health.
Browse online book stores and search your local library for menopause books, or ask friends for recommendations.
Here are some of our favourites below:
- The Wisdom of Menopause by Dr Christiane Northrup
- Health Menopause by Liz Earle
- The Natural Menopause Plan by Maryon Stewart
- The Magic of Menopause: A Holistic Guide to Get Your Happy Back by Lorrain Miano
- What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause by John R. Lee
- Hot Flushes, Cold Science: A History of the Modern Menopause by Louise Foxcroft
- Menopause Unzipped: How to Emerge as a Goddess by Freddy Carrick
6. Find a support group
It’s helpful to research advice by yourself, but nothing beats the kindness and support of others. When it comes to your menopause, connecting with a like-minded network of women can be incredibly helpful.
There’s a wide selection of both online and in-person support groups created specifically to help women navigating the menopause. The women you meet through these networks will be going through exactly the same life change as you, and they’ll be able to reassure any concerns you may have.
They can also offer tips and advice on what worked for them – things your doctor wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell you.
We’ve listed a few places you can find support groups below:
Menopause Support – a not for profit organisation which has lots of free resources available, including PDF downloads like a menopause symptom checker and a fact sheet for partners on understanding the menopause.
The Latte Lounge – a virtual coffee shop for all women over 40. With over 20,000 members from 65 countries, the Late Lounge is a relaxed online environment to find support and a sense of community.
Menopause Matters – a comprehensive website with a forum full of menopause discussions, news, alternative therapies and even menopause humour.
The Menopause Café – This is a worldwide organisation that works to bring women together to eat cake, drink tea and discuss the menopause in a safe space. Upcoming events include cafés in Denmark, England, Wales, and the USA. You can even get in touch and hold a café yourself!
- Facebook Groups
The Menopause Support Network – a private group run by professional nurse, menopause counsellor and wellbeing consultant Diane Danzebrink. Here, you can discuss all thing menopause in a kind and supportive environment with other menopausal women.
Menopause Cafe – the online version of the Menopause Café we mentioned above. It’s a closed Facebook Group where you can chat with other women about all things menopausal, as well as find out upcoming dates for offline meet-ups.
- Instagram Accounts
The Menopause Specialist – Functional Medicine Practitioner, Charlotte Hunter, has created this account to support women through perimenopause and menopause. You can connect with Charlotte and other women in the comment sections and through podcast episodes.
The Cusp – Provides comprehensive and compassionate menopause care that’s built around – and with – women. This is a paid-for service which shares regular expert events, including online symposiums with guest speakers and doctors.
MenoHealth – an online community that aims to empower women going through the menopause to live their best lives. They provide fun exercise classes, practical support and sisterhood.
These 6 wellness tips will help you feel healthier – both in your mind and body – as you navigate the menopause in your mid-life. The menopause is a challenging process, so above all, remember to be kind to yourself – there will be bad days! (But happily, there will be good days too.)
When you’re feeling down, visualise all the women across the globe going through this life process with you. There’s no need to feel ashamed, guilty, or lonely: you are not alone.
The most crucial thing to keep in mind is that the menopause is an entirely natural process, and it will eventually pass. Don’t be afraid to seek professional and medical support if things are too uncomfortable.
You deserve to be happy and peaceful, so take the help you need.
Have you got any wellness tips that you’ve found useful during the menopause? Let us know below or share with us via our Instagram @meandmetime