For many women, the menopause can be a psychological, emotional and intellectual turning point as well as a physical one, but it does not have to mean a decline.
What is Menopause?
The word “menopause” is usually used to describe the time in a woman’s life between the ages of 45 and 55, when her fertility declines and her menstruation stops. The word literally means “cessation of menstruation”.
The menopause has quite rightly been given a good deal of attention because it is a dramatic event. There are many changes: hormonal, physical, mental and emotional, which occur during the change, and there is the obvious and inescapable punctuation mark of ho more menstrual periods. To feel confident, it is necessary that we know what is taking place in our bodies, so that we can understand that the mechanism is normal.
The menopause is closely involved with gaining new insights, maturing, changing standards, choosing new lifestyles and developing new opinions and priorities. It may be a confused state, or it may be plain sailing. We must draw on our reserves of serenity and maturity.
Referring to the menopause as “the change of life” is misleading and can be counterproductive. The menopause isn’t the only change that will occur during your life and it is unlikely to be the most significant change. Life is a series of gradual changes – we don’t suddenly reach a turning point and start growing old when we reach midlife. Ageing is a continuous process that begins the moment we are born. I believe that a healthy attitude to the menopause is to see it as a time in which to rediscover yourself, to assess your life and its purpose, and to establish new aims and goals.
Many of us have spent much of our lives trying to please other people. We put a great deal of effort into taking care of our children, husbands, parents and friends. We try to be what they would like us to be, and very often we lose sight of who we are and what we want. By trying to become everything to everyone, we can end up being nothing to ourselves. By the time we reach middle age most of us carry around the received “wisdom” of society, left-overs from old customs and traditions, fears that are often obsolete, and beliefs that may be borrowed. Without clearing out all these redundant feelings, we can lose touch with our inner selves.
It is important to resist negative stereotypes associated with the menopause. These are often culturally created, and do not reflect the reality of our individual experiences. In countries where age is venerated and older women are respected for their experience and wisdom, fewer physical and psychological symptoms of the menopause are reported. Many Asian, Arabic and African women positively welcome the end of fertility and childbearing, and, perhaps as a result, they seem to encounter fewer difficulties than Western women.
In countries that lack a tradition of myths and misconceptions about the menopause, ageing seems to be regarded as a more natural process; women aren’t adversely affected by negative images and may feel less confused by what is happening.
If you believe that in order to be beautiful and successful you must be young, then you may not enjoy your middle age to the full. If you are convinced that the quality of life deteriorates from the age of 50 onwards, this can become a self- fulfilling prophecy; because you believe it is going to happen, you may inadvertently make it happen by not taking care of yourself and adopting resigned, negative attitudes.
Developing a Positive Attitude
The first step in developing a positive attitude towards the menopause is to look back and assess what we have already accomplished. This can reassure us and give us the impetus we need to make decisions about the future. If we forget to acknowledge what we’ve already done, we can make future goals seem much less attainable.
No matter how active we’ve been, or what contributions we have made things that don’t interest you, household chores for example. You have as much potential as when you were young, but now you are better equipped to harness it. Make a list of things you “must” do in the rest of your life, things you may never have attempted before.
Some women break out of their usual lifestyle after many years as wife, mother, and family caretaker to to our work and our family, contemplation of the future can bring mixed emotions. We may find ourselves debating two alternatives: trying to continue living and working as we have always done; or starting to make changes, perhaps reducing our workload. You might justifiably say to yourself that you’ve been working all your life, so why should you feel guilty for not working now? It’s important as we get older to learn how to enjoy leisure time and to find new and varied diversions.
Find out what excites and motivates you. Stop spending time on indulge an entrepreneurial spirit and branch out entirely on their own, perhaps setting up a guest house, opening a shop, or running a small business. You may remember your mother in her 50s claiming that she was growing old. If you’re still alive at 85, as my mother is, 35 years is a long time to be old, and an intolerable length of time to be inactive.
We have a responsibility to ourselves to make the most of each month, year and decade. Repeat this to yourself every day, and if you feel you lack energy, the best technique is to get angry, particularly if you feel you’ve stifled your anger and held back in the past. Put yourself in touch with your anger, and use it as fuel. It’s absolutely crucial to respect and to trust who you are. You need self- respect before you can respect others and understand them as individuals. Older women are perceptive, experienced and wise about relationships and life. We can benefit even more from joining a group of women of a similar age to us and sharing our experiences.
The strong interaction between your mind and your body means that you can make your menopause more difficult with negative thoughts. If you believe you’re sick, you can start to behave like a sick person. Repeat some of these statements like a mantra each day and you will gradually become convinced of their truth. Positive attitudes will maintain your self-esteem.
- My body is strong and healthy and can become healthier each day.
- My female organs are in good shape.
- My body chemistry is effective and balanced.
- I eat healthy, nourishing food.
- I’m learning to handle stress.
- I’m calm and relaxed.
- I work efficiently and competently.
- I have the freedom and confidence to enjoy life.
- I can be happy and optimistic at this time of my life.
- My life belongs to me and it brings me pleasure.
- I devote time to myself each day.
- My friends and family are more enjoyable than they have ever been.
- I’m going through the menopause more easily and more comfortably with each passing day.