Menopause needs a different narrative. The conversations I often hear in the exam room are how women feel their lives may never be the same — that they’re giving up all the things they enjoy in life. Menopause should be a story of natural, and in some cases, welcomed transition — not the chasing of a once-youthful age.
Where does this downward spiral start? Our outstanding qualities don’t depend solely on our estrogen levels. Our qualities depend on the experiences and growth that we’ve been developing since we first hit puberty.
Your past contains…
- growth of self-awareness and maturity
- knowledge and allowing that knowledge to shape our perspectives
- development and a stronger self-identity
…and these qualities need to be valued. All of this wisdom should be heralded — not ignored during this new phase. Not only for us, but for our families.
How do we convince ourselves and others that menopause is better than we think?
Society has always framed menopause with a negative twist. In 1966, “Feminine Forever” author Robert A. Wilson, MD, called menopause “a natural plague.” This talk of menopausal women as “crippled castrates” has sunk into our skin so deeply, that many women approach menopause with fear. And research has found that societies around the world still disparage women who are going through and have gone through menopause.
Thinking of menopause and aging as unwelcome is a psychological trap. We may not be prepared for the decrease in estrogen, or the impacts on our libido, mood, cognitive functioning, and sleep — but that’s only because we weren’t shown how to handle these changes. We were too busy dreading them.
With more clarity, decisiveness, and with an aptitude of emotional intelligence, aging can be approached in a positive way — you just need the tools.
Let’s embrace these changes and use the wisdom we’ve gained over the years to alter our menopause outlook.
1. It’s okay to feel and be vulnerable
The way we inform young women about menopause isn’t always helpful. In fact, it’s almost always dismal. Most minds think of menopause as stories wrought with low mood, depression, or anxiety. Instead, we should equip women for the future of menopause by tapping into the positive aspects.
By bestowing our knowledge and giving young women a means to accept who they are (and who they’ll become), we’re empowering them to take control of their menopause story.
Feeling vulnerable because of your changing body is nothing to be ashamed of. Going with the flow — instead of fighting against menopause — is a way of rewriting society’s narrative. And shaping your own story, too.
2. Get ready for sexual freedom
Sex after menopause can be vibrant and an opportunity for growth, healing, and pleasure. But how your sex life thrives during and after menopause heavily depends on how you communicate your discomfort and needs before menopause.
Often, the quality and expectations of the relationship, as well as sexual performance for both partners, aren’t addressed. Sexual freedom isn’t set in stone — it’s fluid and your preferences can change with age too.
So to set the stage for women to successfully navigate sex throughout menopause, continuous conversation needs to happen. If there’s no conversation, there can be no action or solution.
A check-in dialogue with your partner can help chronicle age-related changes. Talk about self-image, expectations, how you’re feeling, and even your newfound likes and dislikes — it’s all part of improving the good.
3. Revitalize your health and awaken a new spirit
With these new health changes and symptoms, think of menopause as a new time for health opportunities. Focus on stress-reduction techniques such as breathing exercises, tuning into your posture, or even adaptogens (supplements).
Changing up your routine won’t only help you cope, but may also help diminish symptoms.
Bonus: Empowering ourselves to create healthy life goals may also impact the onset of menopause. Finding simple ways to insert these changes comes in the form of small lifestyle shifts, including:
- revisiting how you sleep
- changing up your water intake
- eating more fiber
- trying new, trendy exercises
- focusing on strength or weight training
- trying new foods for variety in your nutrition
Remember, part of this transition is understanding that this is a journey. No, your body isn’t going to act exactly as before, but you can definitely influence how you cope with these changes. And psychological interventions that promote physical and mental empowerment have been shown to help reduce menopausal symptoms and improve overall health.
4. Don’t be afraid to seek alternatives
The resources for women going through menopause are vast and treatments don’t have to stop with the traditional ones. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has the potential to promote overall well-being in anyone going through menopause.
This takes us to stress. Whether we want to admit it or not, stress can really influence our physical health, emotions, and behaviors. Enter: Mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness elevates our mental states by allowing us to focus on the present moment.
This is so important in menopause because if we take the time to grant ourselves control over our thoughts and feelings, we can help reduce the effects of stress, pressures, and changes that our bodies are experiencing.
Teaching ourselves — and others — how to generate positive emotions and thoughts can result in a healthier lifestyle, and a happier you.
So how can this life advancement really play out?
Menopause isn’t an easy transition for many people. We know that the negative attitudes to menopause and aging can create an unstable transition associated with fear, loss, and sinister connotations. Together, we can rewrite menopause to being the time of inner wisdom that it ought to be.
Teaching men, partners, and young women this new narrative may, over time, reveal menopause as a period of self-control, self-maintenance, emotional resilience, and body acceptance. Empowerment isn’t only crucial — it’s your right for improving your health.
Dr. Shepherd is an OB-GYN, women’s health expert, and founder of Her Viewpoint, an online women’s health forum that focuses on addressing taboo topics. As an OB-GYN, she practices at the Baylor University Medical Center and specializes in minimally invasive gynecology. Dr. Shepherd has written for various publications and is a regular expert on “Good Morning America,” “The Today Show,” “Dr. Oz,” “Steve Harvey,” CBS News, and FOX News. As a healthcare expert and speaker, she strives to educate women on their bodies and help them understand their health conditions and how to address them appropriately. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.