Women fear growing old. The prospect of wrinkles, body aches, fatigue, and menopause adds to negative feelings about aging.

Whether you are 20, 35, or 47, you can better prepare for the aging process by reading this article as it will help you understand what to expect and how to cope successfully with this normal stage in life every woman will enter called “menopause.”

” I feel on edge. I can’t sleep or think clearly. My husband is tired of my forgetfulness. Sometimes I just fly off the handle for no reason. I am having trouble with sex. I don’t know what is happening to me? Could this be menopause?”

Nancy, age 52, sat limply in my office looking frustrated, worn-out, and depressed. I have counseled many women with complaints like hers. Women complain of overwhelming symptoms of perimenopause and menopause, which impairs their emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual health.

Surprisingly, in a recent BBC news article, “Women are Happier after Menopause” it quoted a Jubilee Report where 76 percent of post-menopausal women said their health was better, 75 percent said they had more fun, and 93 percent said they had more independence and more choice in everything from work to leisure pursuits.

Most likely, you are feeling more like Nancy and are looking for answers to help you cope with the uncertain territory of perimenopause and menopause. I want to provide you with information about what to expect when you begin experiencing menopausal symptoms and how you can more effectively handle this new stage of life.

What is menopause?

Menopause begins a new phase in a woman’s life, when (usually) in her 50s, she stops having periods. Menopause is a natural biological event in which the menses stops when the function of the ovaries begins to cease. The process of menopause does not occur overnight, but rather it is gradual. This so-called perimenopausal transition period is a unique experience for each woman and can begin when women are in their 40s. A woman is in menopause when she has had no menstrual periods (menses) for 12 months and has no other medical reason for her menses to stop.

The early symptoms of menopause include abnormal vaginal bleeding, hot flashes, and mood changes. Late symptoms consist of vaginal dryness, urinary problems, muscle, and joint aches.

How to cope

I encourage women to take better care of themselves in every aspect of life: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Physical Wellness

Because hormone levels are decreasing, there will be fluctuations in the symptoms women experience. Vaginal bleeding and hot flashes will come and go. There is no set time when these symptoms will stop. Some will experience symptoms for over a decade of their lives. Hormone or estrogen replacement therapy taken orally or applied topically may be prescribed by a doctor, which can help alleviate symptoms of hot flashes and vaginal dryness. It is important to manage your own treatment and research the best kinds of medical or natural interventions. Recently, a research project discouraged the use of combined hormone replacement therapy: estrogen and progesterone. Lifestyle changes should include quitting cigarette smoking, curtailing alcohol intake, exercising regularly, and consuming a balanced diet with adequate calcium and vitamin D. Such changes are beneficial for increasing physical wellness and preventing complications such as osteoporosis and heart disease.

Emotional and Mental Wellness

When you are experiencing the symptoms of hormone loss, you will tend to feel blue, which can then increase your emotional fragility and lower your self-esteem. Deficiency in hormones and lack of sleep cause irritability, confusion and sadness, angry outbursts, tears, and relational problems.

While estrogen therapy may be recommended to help elevate mood, women should also incorporate natural methods of elevating their mood such as lowering stress and increasing recreational and exercise programs. I encourage women to explore new interests and hobbies that they will enjoy, such as learning a new craft or a skill like photography, writing, or computer technology. You can even start participating in meaningful recreational and social activities such as hiking, biking, bird-watching, participating in a book club, or enjoying Christian ministry - maybe even a career change can prove to be less stressful!

Spiritual Wellness:

The area of spiritual wellness can offer the greatest stability for women who are entering this new stage of life. I encourage you to take more time to practice meditation and prayer for they will help you form a strong sense of inner peace and calm, which will then alleviate depression and anxiety caused by menopause.

Why not write out some goals to help you better manage the perimenopausal/menopausal symptoms you are dealing with and consult with your physician about medical interventions? Determine to take better care of yourself and move forward in this new phase of life. You, too, may find that this stage is a happier experience for you, as others have reported.

This article was written by: Lynette Hoy, NCC, LCPC

Photo Credit: Thomas Hafeneth