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January blues...Menopause blues ...or both?

Happy New Year everyone and welcome to January - for some of you it’s easy, you just throw yourselves back into life with gay abandon but for others the darker months of January and February are a real battle to get through. Whether it's January blues, menopausal blues or a bit of both they are a real 'faff' and get in the way of everyday life, so here are some practical ways to help you cope that don’t involve sticking your head in a light box all day!

Mind you if that’s what you need here is a handy link for (SAD) Seasonal affective disorder.

Motivation is a key word when trying to combat low mood swings, especially when combined with hormonal fluctuations that you have no control of.

So what are your options... lifestyle choices are one that you can make and implement yourself without too much effort. Addressing your diet, exercise and sleep can really help.

Diet : No I’m not going to advise you to start some crazy diet that isn’t sustainable, just be more aware of what you are eating, especially after Christmas. Once you’ve finally got through the last mince pie, chocolate and sticky toffee pudding really look at what you are consuming. There is a saying 'you are what you eat' and it's true - introduce more vegetables and fruit into your diet, it might take a bit more organising on the shopping front but your body will love you for it.

Incorporate lots of healthy greens like spinach, green beans, broccoli and asparagus - if you don’t like them individually do what I did with my teenagers last night - chop them up more finely and toss them into a stir fry…quite amazing the range of veg one of my sons unknowingly consumed last night !

Fruit wise - variety is always better or try chopping up yourself a bowl of fruit salad which can last all week, add to every helping a dollop of natural yoghurt (the flavoured ones are prone to having sugar and additives in) and shake on a handful of granola on top - one I regularly use available in all stores is Lizi's

Eat more fish, especially oily fish and cut down on the red meat for a while.

So cut down on your carbs, eat the healthy fats and increase the fruit and veg...

Combine that with drinking plenty of water throughout the day, cut down your caffeine intake or try decaff coffee and herbal teas for a while … I know being from Yorkshire I too draw a blank there, one of the things I can’t give up … a good brew!

Alcohol … ah … yes we’ve all probably consumed a tad too much over the festive period so again cut down - very hard to do a dry January which a few of my friends are determined to do - easier to do a dry mid- week then look forward to a gin & tonic or your favourite tipple at the weekend. But again drastic changes are harder to sustain, so do a level of abstaining that you know you can cope with!

Exercise : definitely a must in these darker months - releasing endorphins has a wonderful effect on the body and the mind - but isn’t it hard to get motivated as it’s usually dark when you go to work and then before you get home. Usual solutions of going to the gym or the swimming pool, finding that head torch to go for a run are all not terribly appealing (but hats off to you if you do manage even one of those) - try the alternative of short sharp bursts of exercise within the confines of your own home !

The best buy I made in relation to exercise last year was a skipping rope - yes a skipping rope. As a woman in her 50s I naturally hadn’t done a lot of skipping in recent years but then by chance tried a friend’s the other day. Oh my goodness what a fantastic form of HIT (high intensity training) not only was I out of breath within a short space of time, but my pelvic floor was challenged and I soon took on the appearance of someone who might have just been for a 10 mile run ! So the advantages of skipping for us menopausal women :-

  • The obvious...exercise

  • Challenges pelvic floor - remember to suck in and pull up before commencing skipping !

  • Balance and co-ordination - no not as easy as when you were 12 years old is it!

  • Releases endorphins and so helps you not only physically but psychologically.

Skipping is just one form of exercise that can be done in a confined space within the comfort of your own home - there are so many other things you can do without enormous amounts of effort and having to get changed into appropriate attire (always off putting after Christmas usually a little tight and lycra is always unappealing when it’s cold!), drive long distances to gyms and other sporting venues. Another way…whilst eating said stir fry last night there was a series of rather good 80s music on the radio - marvellous exercise dancing round the kitchen - have you ever realised why every single contestant enjoys Strictly come dancing so much every year and claims that it’s the best thing they’ve done - they are exercising every day and releasing those endorphins … lucky ducks!

Another extremely successful way to tackle low mood swings is through CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). Positive thinking through CBT has long been known to be a good way to combat mood swings and depression. One book to recommend if you have never tried it or don’t have access to clinical therapists is ‘Managing Hot flushes and night sweats’ by Myra Hunter & Melanie Smith a brilliant self help guide to CBT — the same principals adapt to low mood swings.

One of the biggest mistakes in recent years is to treat low mood swings as you would clinical depression and the amount of women I come across who have wrongly been prescribed anti-depressants is unbelievable - the NICE guidelines clearly state :-

1.4.5 Consider HRT to alleviate low mood that arises as a result of the menopause.

1.4.6 Consider CBT to alleviate low mood or anxiety that arise as a result of the menopause.

1.4.7 Ensure that menopausal women and healthcare professionals involved in their care understand that there is no clear evidence for SSRIs or SNRIs to ease low mood in menopausal women who have not been diagnosed with depression

Sleep is such an important part of coping with low moods — if we are tired and worn out through lack of sleep or disturbed sleep patterns then it’s not going to help - always try and get a good nights sleep. Easier said than done if being woken up with night sweats or essential visits to the loo in the middle of the night. Night sweats are so hard to cope with — do the obvious by wearing natural fibres, having a cool well ventilated room and rehydrating. There are a multitude of alternative remedies out there if you don’t fancy the hormonal route but looking into HRT should have a positive effect on them. Watch how much and what you drink prior to and leading up to bedtime to help prevent night time visits to the loo. Excessive alcohol and stimulants like tea or coffee won't help that sleep either.

So why did I start this post by saying that motivation is a key word — because all of us have to do it for ourselves. We have to somehow motivate ourselves to buy the right foods, get out of our weekly rut of always doing the same meals, we have to make more educated decisions when it comes to alcohol and we have to find that extra 10 mins in a day to fit in some form of exercise. Absolutely no-one is going to do it for you, which is the same for managing your menopause — it is up to you to get as much information as possible on board yourself so you can make educated decisions, keep a note of your symptoms and then if they require help from primary care going and communicating with your GP. Very important when going to see any clinician is to communicate well — remember they are not telepathic they can only react to what you have told them!

It might sometimes feels like climbing up Everest but just give it a go — I can honestly say that your body will love you whether physically or mentally not to mention the positive effect it will have on those around you …

Good luck and as ever if you would like to get in touch or would like to organise a workshop please email me and pass on our blog details to anyone who you think might be interested thank you .

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Any information is as accurate as possible at time of writing and is for information purposes only. The information and support that Let's Talk Menopause provides is for your own personal use. It is not intended to replace or substitute the judgement of any medical professional you may come in contact with. You should always seek advice from your healthcare professional regarding any medical condition.


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