I have been living with hot flashes for years and have adjusted by lowering the temperature, wearing layered clothing, taking deep breaths, yoga practice and techniques, exercising, fanning, drinking cool drinks, and getting undressed.
I remember my first hot flash. It seemed to last forever. As I slept, I dreamed I was inside a burning house; I realized the fire was inside me. I was an oven, cooking myself, inside out. Then came the volcanic sweats. First I thought I had bugs crawling on me, but actually they were rivulets of sweat streaming and dripping down my body as I slept. This has led to serious sleep disturbance. I fall asleep in my absolutely delightful bed only to awaken on fire or drenched. Even in the deep cold of winter I sleep with the window cracked, keeping my room at a cool 52 degrees. As the heat rises I pull the covers off my body, and have found if I lift my arm up and rotate my wrist I feel some relief. Of course, now I am awake, really awake, and must start the sleep process again. I am sad to report I wake every hour or so. I need help, for sure.
As if my sleep time were not tense enough, during the day my feet have taken to pain with aching in the actual bones and last weekend my heels hurt so badly I could barely put my feet down to walk. I "raced" to the next store to buy insoles and inserts. I am happy to report that they worked immediately. I am incredibly thankful. We continued our shopping and enjoyed the remainder of the day. I spend my weekends chasing a three year old. There is no time to exhaustion or pain.
There are plenty of list of menopause symptoms along with various methods of treatment, but I think I will share some I use that are not listed in mainstream materials, along with some of those I prefer to ignore. Let's get those out first.
My basic food groups include chocolate, alcohol, coffee, tomatoes, spinach, whole grains, high fiber foods, and carbohydrates. Various remedies seem to want to exclude a few of those. I believe in living well and that includes necessities and indulgences.
Breathing is a necessity. Breathing is the basic element of being awake, alive, and aware. I have found breathing allows me to relax during a hot flash and actually move through it from beginning to end. They are not shortened, but at least I recognize the passing. And while I deny feeling irritable, or having bad moods, I spend a good deal of time exhaling through trying moments. I have a lot of trying moments these days.
“Learn how to exhale; the inhale will take care of itself.” Carla Meluci Ardito
Yoga has been and remains a powerful part of my life. Yoga is the union of mind, body and breath allowing us to find ourselves in the present moment, in our bodies, aware of ourselves. Sometimes I practice a specific set of poses, but always I find the standing, forward bend, back bend, side openers, hip openers, child's pose, inversion (downward facing dog, rabbit, or candle) and of course, corpse - the final letting go. Whether I need to shift my mood, some physical discomfort or perspective, yoga offers a path toward change. Once I believed I needed a regimen, style or pattern. Now, I accept I need only be present with my intention to be.
I practice self care. Self care seems to be neglected, left as an afterthought, or relegated to special occasions. Self care can be anything that lifts one's heart - massage, pedicure, hot baths, facials, reading for pleasure, writing, crafts, walks, sauna, exhaling. As my body changes, I recognize I need to be proactive in feeling well rather than expecting things to just go well. I am thankful to have been gifted with healthy hair and skin. Other than stress induced eczema, I have soft, smooth, pliable skin. As a good stewart, I am thoughtful about what I apply to my body and make sure I am fed well inside and out. The skin is the largest organ of the body and as such deserves to be fed the yummiest delights we can find. Even for the frugal, a nice slathering of coconut oil, available from your grocer will delight your body. If you are concerned about the smell or oil, apply before a shower or bath as a gentle massage. Oils, lotions, and creams (free of petroleum products) will prevent excess drying and maintain skin health.
No matter where we are in the growing, shifting, aging process we need to maintain our spiritual health as well. This may be a simple as setting aside time to exhale, find the breath, and recognize the present moment. We may also choose prayer, meditation or celebration with others. However we choose check-in with our life essence, we recognize life as a gift (for as long as we have it).
Oh, yes, there are herbs and vitamins, supplements and medicines, techniques and therapies, all designed to ease the symptoms of a naturally occurring process. What I want most is to find my own beauty in the journey. There are moments I feel powerful and more alive than ever. When I workout and the sweat is the result of effort - hard work - I smile. I listen to my music and go just a bit farther. When I play with my grand-daughter, lifting, bouncing, chasing, crawling about, I am thankful for freedom of movement and the strength in my body.
All the more reason to sort out the discomfort. I have plenty of dancing years ahead. Plenty of time and desire for the joys of life. It's early yet. Menopause ushers in a womin's expansion and not just around her hips and middle. Life gets bigger with new choices and opportunities. My children are adults and I look forward to traveling and sharing the world with them. Who has time to for delays and setbacks? I'm here for the party.
Happy New Year!