The symptoms of menopause are a real bummer, but the damage they do can sometimes be far greater than hot flashes or night sweats.
Although it sometimes seems like menopause will last forever, it does eventually pass. What does last is our important relationships with friends and family. Avoid harming the things in your life that truly matter by swerving out of the way of the following pitfalls.
1. You're Stuck In The House
Agoraphobia is the clinical term for a fear of leaving your home. In some cases, the condition gets so bad, that people basically become shut-ins.
A lot of the time, people with agoraphobia have developed a fear of the outside world because of some traumatic event. Surprisingly though, a great number of agoraphobics avoid leaving their homes for fear of embarrassment.
That pathway to this phobia usually starts with public panic attacks (a condition where the person believes that they are going to die). The panic attack eventually subsides, and the sufferer realizes that they have embarrassed themselves publicly. A fear of suffering another panic attack and the subsequent public embarrassment keeps them in the safety of their home.
What in the world does that have to do with menopause?
Hot flashes. While not as debilitating as panic attacks, hot flashes can cause severe sweating, and obvious signs of physical distress for sufferers.
Depending on your location and disposition, suffering a hot flash in public can be very unpleasant, as well as embarrassing. Many women decide, either consciously or subconsciously, that the risk is too great, and they avoid time in public to eliminate it.
The result may not quite reach the level of agoraphobia, but a fear of hot flashes in public does keep many women from a full, vibrant social life.
If this sounds like you, the key is to think about your social health in the long term. While it may be easy to avoid discomfort today, an extended period of avoiding valuable interactions weakens your connections to people.
It's hard to be vulnerable, but don't let hot flashes keep you away from the people you care about. Menopause is completely natural, and the people that love you will certainly understand.
2. Emotional Volatility Wreaks Havoc
Most of us like to think that we have a good handle on our emotional health, that the way we behave is the result of careful thought, and intentional choices.
And that may be true... mostly.
But our physical state, and hormonal fluctuations in particular also play an important role in our mental and emotional lives. Maybe more than we give it credit for. That fact is crucial to consider during menopause because fluctuating hormones are the defining feature of this phase of life.
So what should that mean to you?
It means you should be on guard. By the time you reach menopause, you've likely developed comfort and confidence in the way that you interact with others, especially those that are closest to you. You know what it means when you feel irritated, angry, or sad, and you respond to people accordingly.
But a shifting hormonal landscape often introduces volatility. If you aren't aware of the change, it can be easy to do damage to your relationships.
We recommend giving yourself a little more space and time than you typically would. Take the extra minute to ask yourself if this is really the way you feel, especially when you're upset.
3. Sex Disappears
"Sex doesn't matter after 40."
- People under 40
Sexual health remains important throughout almost all of our lives. In fact, according to one study profiled by the UK Daily Mail, the best age for sex is actually 66!
Sex strengthens the bonds of our most intimate relationships in an obviously unique way, and should not be abandoned just because the years start to accumulate.
Unfortunately, menopause often makes things difficult. Lowered estrogen levels can lead to a lack of vaginal lubrication and elasticity, turning a valued bonding experience into a painful chore.
No matter how strong and mature an intimate relationship may be, the loss of sex is bound to be a strain. For a deeper dive, and strategies for addressing this problem, read our article: Menopause and Sex
4. Your Battery's Drained
Maintaining relationships is often a lot of fun. Who doesn't love spending time with the people that they care about, laughing, connecting, and investing in each other.
Of course, keeping relationships strong isn't always a walk in the park, and even when things are relatively easy, you still have to spend the energy it takes to engage. That's why fatigue during menopause can become a real problem.
The hormone shifts of menopause can drain our batteries, and that problem is often exacerbated by intrusions into quality sleep.
Because of these struggles, the priority can easily become simple survival, fulfilling your obligations until you can rest again. That isn't exactly a recipe for being dynamic, and active in the lives of the people you care for.
The good news is that there are ways to deal with the issue of menopausal fatigue. You'll find a ton of them here in the SM Nutrition Library. Articles about improving sleep, correcting hormone imbalances, battling night sweats, and much more. So there are plenty of answers to be found.
But regardless of where you are in addressing fatigue, it's important to let friends and family in on what you're experiencing. When you let people know what you're going through, they have the opportunity to be there for you, and they understand when you're running on fumes.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway for all four of these relationship pitfalls is to allow the health of those relationships to be a part of how you think about menopause. By keeping friends and family close, you limit the impact of menopause in your life. That's a good thing.