Radical Self-Care: Navigating Menopause with Grace and Confidence
Let's get real here: do we even know what self-care means?
We hear about self-care a lot, but often it seems to imply bubble baths and saying no to things that might actually be fun to do. Now, I'm all for relaxing but there's got to be more to self-care than sitting in scented water waiting for the relaxation to happen.
So what does 'self-care' actually mean?
I think of self-care referring to activities that promote our physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.
It plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health, especially during the peri to post menopausal transition. Self-care activities help reduce stress levels, promote relaxation, and improve the functioning of various systems in the body. So yes, bubble baths might be precisely what it means to some people, but it also means much more than just that.
How does self-care work?
Our bodies do a lot of things without us having to think about them. Much of this happens thanks to the autonomic nervous system (ANS) which regulates several functions in the body, including heart rate, digestion, respiration, and perspiration. It's what keeps us going - can you imaging if you had to consciously think about keeping your heart pumping or had to actively digest your food.
The ANS is divided into two branches: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).
We all know our SNS - it's the system responsible for the "fight or flight" response, which prepares the body for physical activity or stress. It's our natural, and healthy response which keeps us safe in times of danger.
The PNS, on the other hand, promotes relaxation and rest. It is what allows us to slow down, to rest and repair. Our PNS is our natural state of being.
Or at least, it should be.
When we engage in self-care activities, such as meditation, deep breathing, or yoga, we activate the PNS.
This promotes relaxation, reduces stress and lowers blood pressure. It can also improve digestion, promote better sleep, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
Doesn't that sound good?
During the peri to post menopausal transition, you may experience several physical and emotional changes. Self-care activities can help alleviate these symptoms by reducing stress levels, promoting relaxation, and improving overall wellbeing.
Studies have shown that women who practice self-care activities experience fewer hot flashes, improved sleep quality, and better mood.
In other words, menopause will feel a lot less stressful.
What's more, self-care activities can help us shift our mindset and cultivate a more positive outlook on life. By taking care of ourselves, we can improve our self-esteem, confidence, and sense of self-worth. All things which take a knock during menopause.
Here are my top three tips for incorporating self-care into your routine during the peri to post menopausal transition to help you feel more like yourself:
Getting enough sleep is crucial for overall health and wellbeing - we all know just how much feeling tired can affect us. Establish a bedtime routine that promotes relaxation, such as taking a warm bath, reading a book, or practicing meditation.
Try to do the same things every night so that your body knows when and how to wind down.
Mindfulness activities, such as meditation or deep breathing, can help reduce stress levels and promote relaxation. Consider joining a yoga class or downloading a mindfulness app to guide you through relaxation exercises.
You could even try some of the more 'old fashioned' mindful activities (which were never considered 'mindful' in the past, but which most definitely are good for bringing all sorts of calm) such as jigsaw puzzles, crochet, gardening or curling up with a good book.
Connect with others:
Social connection is essential for mental and emotional wellbeing - it's probably more important than you realise! Schedule regular coffee dates or phone calls with friends and family members to maintain social connections.
Make this a high priority. While it might seem like a 'nice thing to do', staying in touch with the people that lift us is actually vital.
You can see that self-care activities play a crucial role in maintaining overall health and wellbeing, particularly during menopause.
By activating the PNS, not only can we promote relaxation, reduce stress levels, and improve the functioning of various systems in the body.
During the peri to post menopausal transition, all self-care activities help alleviate symptoms, improve mood, and cultivate a more positive mindset.
By following the above tips to prioritise your self-care, you will easily boost your overall health and wellbeing. You will also inspire those around you who will also benefit from the wide-ranging effects of taking time to look after your own self.
And that really is what self-care is all about.
There is no one-size fits all approach to menopause - so finding out what works for you is key. Join my FREE Menopause The Basics Course to learn more about menopause, how it affects you and those around you and how to learn more.
Why do I believe life begins at menopause? Read more here.