The rise in documentaries, celebrity-led podcasts and media coverage is finally giving perimenopause and menopause the public attention it needs.
But with 92% of UK women feeling unprepared for menopause, according to the Primary Care Women’s Health Forum, the conversation can’t start soon enough.
Vitality’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Anushka Patchava, stresses the importance of balance when women are going through the menopause.
“Excessive stress, hot drinks, caffeine, inactivity and sleep deprivation are triggers of some symptoms, such as: hot flushes, irregular periods and anxiety.
“We know that maintaining balance is a challenge; one that we are all continually looking to perfect, but those adjustments don’t need to be overnight,” she says.
Today is World Menopause Day, and here at Vitality we explore four small incremental changes that can make a big impact to your menopausal experience.
1. Prioritise sleep
More than 85% of women experience hot flushes during menopause. This can make it uncomfortable to sleep, and it can be rather debilitating, with most experiencing them at night.
“You wake up with this unbearable heat all over your body, from your head to your toes,” Joanne, aged 55, explains.
“You feel restless, sweaty and cold all at the same time. When you do manage to get back to sleep, generally you don’t want to get up. You’re so tired from being awake for a good portion of the night.
“Invariably, you’re like a bear with a sore head, you’re anxious, emotional, crotchety and completely irrational.
“Whilst you know it’s the menopause making you feel this way, you find it hard to accept it, but once you do, you realise you’ve been suffering with so many other symptoms.”
Above all, establishing a bedtime routine that works for you and improving your sleep hygiene can be so beneficial when it comes down to coping with this disruption.
What do we mean by a strong sleep hygiene? According to Sleep Foundation Organisation, it “means having both a bedroom environment and daily routines that promote consistent, uninterrupted sleep”.
2. Take time for your mental health
Changes in your hormones can impact your mental wellbeing, as well as the physical, says the NHS.
Anxiety, stress and even depression can be brought on by the menopause, so it’s incredibly important to look after your mental health.
If you’re new to looking after your mental wellbeing, try yoga, meditation, or a wellness app, guiding you through breathing exercises, soundscapes and wellbeing courses to explore mindfulness.
Partaking in wellness activities, like group or individual yoga classes, heading out for a walk/run into nature, or taking part in other physical activity like visiting a gym or going for a swim, are proven to have mental health benefits dealing with the emotional aspects of menopause, as well as with insomnia and cognitive function.
3. Eating the right foods
Keris Marsden, Director of Nutrition and Weight Management at Peppy – a life-changing app which supports those on their menopause journey – explains that it is common for women’s bodily functions to shift as our hormones decrease, which means energy and blood sugar levels change and weight gain begins to occur.
Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet and including foods like soy, dried fruits and nuts that are high in phytoestrogens – an oestrogen-like compound naturally found in plants – which has been found to support the body in dealing with the effects of menopause.
Reducing the amount of caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and spicy foods has also been found to significantly improve symptoms, says the NHS.
You can give it a try by setting yourself goals.
If you’re a regular coffee drinker, try just having your favourite cup of the day or switching it out for something new, like hot water with lemon or a lower-caffeine replacement drink.
Alternatively, limit alcohol consumption to weekends if you find yourself drinking more frequently than you would like.
4. Reach out, get support
More than just coping with the mental impacts of the menopause and hot flushes, women go through a handful of physical changes too.
Conception, for one thing, is no longer a possibility, which may be something you want to know more about or plan for.
That’s why two years’ ago, Vitality partnered with the Peppy app, to offer support for more members who are perimenopausal and menopausal.
Peppy offers a one-to-one consultation with a fertility expert, offers valuable resources, group sessions and more, helping to make this chapter one of the best yet.
Finding and being able to access support in a time where a sense of isolation and loneliness may be around women is crucial to health and wellbeing, as Vitality member and fellow Peppy user Monika explains.