Archive for Emotional Health

When Mom Needs a Break

maternal stress

Mothers today, whether they work or stay at home, are more stressed out than ever before. Due to the rise in nuclear families most mothers, both single and married, perform more domestic duties alone. This along with society’s changing expectations regarding “ideal motherhood” compounds the daily stress mothers face today. This maternal stress, combined with stress faced by working mothers, can be detrimental to one’s health and well-being.

Stressed Mothers More Likely to View Their Children as Being Difficult

A study from the Journal of Pediatric Psychology revealed that maternal stress is more likely to cause mothers to view their children as being temperamentally difficult. The study, led by Stephen J. Sheinkopf, was conducted at Bradley Hospital, Brown Medical School and Women & Infants’ Hospital and consisted of asking a group of mothers, some of whom had indulged in cocaine use during pregnancy, how temperamental they viewed their infants to be.

The result was that extremely stressed out mothers, regardless of whether they engaged in drug use or not, were more likely to view their babies as being temperamental. It also found that low socioeconomic status exacerbated maternal stress. Past studies have revealed that high maternal stress is related to children exhibiting poor behavior. In addition to its negative impact upon children, built up stress can cause long-term health problems for mothers, ranging from ulcers to depression and anxiety.

Some Mothers Rebel Against Standards for Ideal Motherhood

Society’s changing expectations regarding ideal motherhood further aggravate maternal stress. Modern mothers today are expected daily to handle the housework, plan and prepare meals, ferry the kids to and from school/after-school activities, be actively involved in the PTA, entertain kids, help them with homework, break up the kids’ fights, maintain bedtime routines, and/or work outside the home all at the same time primarily on their own.

On top of this today’s mothers are expected to live by the latest trends in childcare and household maintenance, which include things like exclusively breastfeeding, preparing health conscious meals, sustaining an eco-friendly home life, busying kids with lots of kid-friendly outings and activities, and so on. While living by these trends is admirable, it becomes difficult to maintain when mothers are stressed by their more mundane domestic duties.

In response to modern society’s enormous expectations, some mothers have decided to openly rebel against it. French philosopher and feminist Elizabeth Badinter claims that mothers today have become slaves to their children. In her new book Le Conflit, La Femme et la Mere (The Conflict, the Woman, and the Mother), Badinter states that women should value themselves as being women first, mothers second, by ditching the latest mothering trends, engaging in some intermittent freedom away from home, and going back to work if they haven’t already.

In Australia Amanda Cox, mother of three, has formed the Bad Mothers Club, where she and her fellow “bad” mothers commiserate over having given up in the race to become perfect parents.

Some Helpful Tips for Stressed Mothers

Mothers can significantly reduce maternal stress through the following solutions. First, mothers should learn to make a schedule every day listing all the chores they intend to do. Next they should categorize these chores based on discovering which chores need to be done right away, which can be done later, and which don’t need to be done at all. Mothers should then simply perform all the necessary chores they are capable of doing, thereby significantly lowering their daily stress levels.

Secondly, mothers should learn to delegate chores and responsibilities to others. This can mean having both fathers and older children help out more around the house. It can also mean hiring someone to help out, whether around the house like a housekeeper or around the children like a nanny or teenage babysitter. Mothers can also form Mommy Co-ops within their communities and swap services with friends and neighbors facing the same predicament of having too much to do with so little time.

Thirdly, mothers should learn not to take on too many chores and activities at once. If for example the local community group asks a mother to volunteer for them on their upcoming project and she does not have the time and energy for it, politely decline the offer.

Finally mothers should take time out intermittently to relax and unwind, whether through shopping with friends, spending a romantic weekend with one’s spouse, or simply getting a makeover. Regular exercise can also help to significantly reduce one’s stress levels.

Mothers Should Not Stress Themselves Out

In living up to today’s standards for ideal motherhood, mothers face incredible amounts of stress. Such stress can lead mothers to experience long-term health problems and regard their children as being difficult. Some mothers have started defying society’s high expectations; most mothers however can benefit from applying a few simple and effective tips for reducing stress.

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Women and Emotional Counseling

emotional counseling

Sometimes talking with other female friends, writing down thoughts and frustrations, or counting to ten are not enough to keep female depression and anxiety at bay. Circumstances are often beyond simple control: unemployment, high-stress work, post-partum blues, divorce/separation, female mid-life crisis (not just for the men), death, chronic illness, acute disease, identity crisis and so on.

To deal with such issues, it’s sometimes necessary to meet with a psychological therapist. Although each type is beneficial, not all therapists are designed for the same kind of treatment. The more education a therapist has (example: a psychiatrist), the more likely they deal with the scientific side of therapy, such as administering medication. Social workers, on the contrary, deal with therapy as well as community outreach and aid. The following therapists counsel and treat women for depression and/or anxiety:

Psychiatrists

Psychiatrists are MDs, or medical doctors. Having gone through medical school, clinical rotation, and residency, these professionals have the most amount of medical education. Psychiatrists focus on the medical side of female emotional health, and currently concentrate on medication dispension and monitoring.

Psychiatrists will know the most about the medical and physiological side of depression and anxiety. Unless the case is very serious, a psychiatrist might not be the initial therapist worked with. The following types of therapists can make recommendations for a patient to be evaluated by a psychiatrist.

Psychologists

Psychologists are highly trained in women’s emotional counseling, psychological problem-solving, and rehabilitation. Their education focuses on clinical therapy, although they do have knowledge about the medical side of depression.

Psychologists have doctoral degrees in psychology, so although they are highly qualified to counsel patients, they are not licensed (like psychiatrists) to dispense medicine. A psychologist can determine if a patient might benefit from medication, and then he or she can refer the patient to a psychiatrist for this purpose.

Counselors and Social Workers

Counselors are trained in psychology and therapy practices. They often work for psychiatrists or at clinical practices. Counselors often have excellent resources at their fingertips, including support group contacts, community outreach programs, and such.

Social workers are similar to counselors in that they work to provide counseling, community outreach, and social welfare programs for women.

Both counselors and social workers usually have a master’s degree level of education. They do not dispense medication, but instead refer patients to psychiatrists for medicinal analysis.

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What is Agoraphobia

agoraphobia

Agoraphobia arises from an internal anxiety condition that becomes so intense that a person with this disorder feels a loss of control. This fear then turns into a pattern of avoidant behavior. Many people who experience agoraphobia oftentimes fear the outside world. They are afraid of being in places where help is not available, making them feel trapped. Most agoraphobics become housebound because it is the only place where they feel safe and secure. Some of the commonly feared places are:

  • elevators
  • bridges
  • shopping malls
  • sporting events
  • lines

The exact cause of this is unknown, but many develop agoraphobia after having a severe panic attack. Affected people will often avoid places or situations that have triggered an attack for fear that it may happen again. Many agoraphobics continue to be in a constant agonizing state of anxious anticipation due to these worries.

How Agoraphobia is Diagnosed

Mental health professionals frequently find it difficult to diagnose agoraphobia because it is often associated with severe panic attacks and acute anxiety. However, by asking questions, performing a physical examination, and through personal history from patients, doctors can begin to diagnose the disorder.

Family members and friends can also help professionals in the diagnoses of agoraphobia because they spend more time with the patient and can frequently witness the symptoms that a doctor may not be able to detect on the first visit. An example of this is a spouse may notice that the person affected by agoraphobia may become more and more reluctant to leave the house.

Symptoms and Risk Factors

However, there are several symptoms that can help doctors better diagnose the disorder. Symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • feeling that the body or environment is not real
  • becoming dependent on others
  • becoming housebound for long periods of time
  • fear of crowded places/ public places where escape may be difficult causing a loss of control
  • feeling helpless and anxious
  • experiencing dizziness, lightheadedness, and a rapid heart rate

Some phobias can affect job performance, as well as social and interpersonal relationships. Many who have the disorder oftentimes become housebound for years. Some of the risk factors associated with agoraphobia are:

  • nervousness and anxiety
  • extreme stress due to certain situations
  • heredity
  • being between the ages of 18 and 35
  • personality disorders

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to help people with agoraphobia to learn how to function effectively. However, because the phobia is often accompanied by other disorders (panic disorder and anxiety disorder), mental health professionals have to treat those as well. There are three types of treatment: therapy, medication, or a combination of both.

Therapy is normally the treatment of choice of mental health professionals. Cognitive behavioral therapy is used to help teach relaxation techniques and allows the patient to face the fear that may be causing the disorder. It prevents the patient from falling back into their avoidant behavior by helping them become aware of the situations that might trigger an attack.

Anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications can also be used. These kinds of medications can help make situations lose their intensity and allow the patient to cope with the stress and fear that the phobia creates.

Agoraphobia is a serious and severe disorder that affects less than one percent of the American population (Agoraphobia, John L. Miller, MD). The phobia is not something that should be ignored or taken lightly. People who are experiencing these symptoms and who have high anxiety levels should seek out a trained professional as soon as possible.

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Women and Friendship

women friendship

In life, it’s important for women to have close friendships with other women. Physiologically, females have a greater need to emotionally bond with others. Whereas many men get by with loose, casual relationships with other men, women tend to look for nurturing, emotionally-fulfilling bonds with other women.

This need starts in childhood and increases during adolescence, when teenage girls find support from their female peers. Often, less emphasis is placed on the mother-daughter bond as teens venture out and test the waters of young adulthood. But once reaching full adulthood, many young women re-establish the mother-daughter bond as one of their primary female relationships.

The Psychological Benefits of Female Friendships

Women seek each other for emotional support and identity. Together they can create healthy communications and gratifying exchanges of ideas and feelings. Add more women into the mix and an entire emotional support system has emerged.

Psychologically, women gain self-esteem, validation, and happiness from such exchanges. Female friends can boost each other’s self-worth through compliments, honest opinions, and suggestions. In times of trouble, females seek one another out to know that their feelings or experiences are normal and healthy. From these interactions, female friends bring away an increased sense of happiness and fulfillment.

The Physical Benefits of Female Friendships

The psychological benefits of friendship may be more apparent, since its positive impact can be immediately felt. At the same time, there is a physical benefit to forming such close female bonds.

Physical gains can be both internal and external. With happiness and validation comes a lowering of heart rate, blood pressure, stress, and the tendency to overeat. The immune and digestive systems work more efficiently.

When women form supportive bonds, they often plan group activities or form exercise groups. This can improve the individual women’s external aspects, such as weight, complexion, flexibility, and tone.

Situations that Lend Themselves to Positive Female Bonding

  • Family ties: Mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, and cousins can form tight female bonds. These are often the primary relationships in women’s lives.
  • Childhood/college friendships: These relationships can end up being some of the longest-lasting female bonds of a woman’s life.
  • Mommy groups/ other mothers: Such friendships arise out of a common need— to support and be supported as a mother.
  • Coworkers: Other female coworkers, depending on the type of industry, can be supportive of career goals and understanding of office tension.
  • Women with common interests: Joining activities such as tai chi, yoga, a cooking class, a book discussion group, or a volunteer organization can promote friendships out of common goals and the nurturing of these goals.

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Women and Meditation

meditation

Meditation, the art of tuning out the world and focusing on the calm within, has many benefits for women. Not only can it cause needed relaxation, but it can remedy such problems as anxiety, headaches, PMS, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome.

The process of meditation calms the mind and lowers stress levels, something that can wreak havoc on women’s bodies. In doing so, it can help the above-mentioned physical, stress-induced ailments. And meditation can also help mental stress, such as anxiety and depression. It aids the participant in staying “in-the-moment”, thereby concentrating on the present and not rehashing the past or worrying about the future.

Several types of meditation can help women:

Journey Meditation

This form of women’s meditation involves visualization. The participant imagines a peaceful, relaxing scene in her mind, including sounds and smells. Relaxation sets in as the meditator concentrates on this peaceful image, such as a beach, a forest, a farm, and so on.

Practicing journey meditation involves sitting in a comfortable spot and resting hands on the knees or thighs. Several slow breaths clear the mind as the meditator imagines a serene image. This practice and all of the other meditation practices can range from 5-15 minutes, and are most helpful if done two times a day.

Mindfulness Meditation

A form of meditation that brings the participant into the present, calming moment is mindfulness meditation. Women can access this present-mind status by concentrating on their current breathing.

The process of mindfulness meditation is simple. As a woman becomes mindful of her surroundings (sights, sounds, smells), she settles into a comfortable spot and becomes aware of her breathing. The mind relaxes and focuses on this breathing as the outside world disappears. Slower, relaxed breathing is helpful for heart rate, digestion, blood pressure, and anxiety. Distracting thoughts are squelched with the promise of addressing them later.

Vibrational or Sounding Meditation

This type of meditation has been seen in movies and on television. It employs the use of a repetitive sound or word; essentially it is a form of chanting. The word “vibrational” comes from the movements or vibrations of the vocal cords.

To practice vibrational/sounding meditation, pick a comfy spot and sit or stand. Cleanse the mind with several deep breaths. Then select a word that appeals to you. A good choice would be one that is multi-syllabled and calming, such as “peacefulness.” Short sounds like “ah” or “ohm” also work. Chant the word and focus on it, letting the outside world fade into the distance.

Movement Meditation

The final form of meditation, which involves movement, can include yoga and tai chi stances. It helps to draw in good energy and cast out bad, stale energy.

To practice movement meditation, cleanse the body with a few initial deep breaths. Then take a squatting stance and concentrate on flowing, fluid movements of your choice, such as opening the arms or stretching out the legs. This meditation focuses on the movements that the body makes, and it is great for stiff, painful joints or sore muscles.

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Exercise Towards A Better Mood

Feeling down-in-the-dumps lately? How about anxious or irritable? If so, join the club. It is estimated that 17 million people in the United States suffer from depression. Women are at a higher risk than men due to a variety of biological, social, and psychological causes (infertility; sexual abuse; poverty; being a minority, lesbian, adolescent, alcoholic or drug abuser; and having the personality style of being passive, dependent, pessimistic or negative in attitude and thinking). Also, men have different coping styles. Men are more likely to involve themselves in work, sports or going out with friends, all of which distract them from their worries and give them a sense of control. Women tend to dwell on their problems, often with other women.

Before you go running for the Prozac, consider it’s been proven that a program of exercise, coupled with counseling, can reduce depression and speed up the healing process. Exercise will elevate your mood, increase your metabolism, give you a higher energy level, decrease your stress, reduce your blood pressure, and lower your cholesterol – all important factors of the complex puzzle of depression. Also, by increasing energy levels, you alter your body chemistry. This could eliminate the need for medication (though this depends on the severity of depression). Ultimately, the need for medication must be monitored by a doctor.

Studies have found that exercise, whether mild or vigorous, makes a big difference in mild to moderate depression. Three studies compared exercise to psychotherapy, concluding that exercise was at least as effective. One study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign suggests that emotional benefits from exercise are related to elevated feelings of self-confidence. When people believe they are capable of achieving more, it has a positive reinforcing effect.

Taking a walk when you’re anxious will reduce tension, while regular exercise encourages a calmer state of mind. One woman I know takes a walk through the grove of trees in back of her house, focusing on the chirping of the birds, the crunch underneath her feet, and the way the sun filters through the trees. She said when she was a little girl, she used to sing to the pixies and elves in this forest! A walk through these trees clears her mind and eases her mood instantly. A friend of mine in Canada takes a walk with her dog by the lake, sometimes going solo, other times bringing along another friend and her dog. An instant physical, mental, and spiritual booster.

Consider these other factors with respect to exercise and mood:

  • Exercise boosts the quality and quantity of sleep. (Now who doesn’t feel better after a good night’s rest?)
  • Exercise increases immunity, with regular exercise giving a 50% increase in the blood’s killer cell activity and up to 20% more virus antibodies. (You know – the mind-body connection thing.)
  • Movement increases the blood and oxygen to the brain, which boosts mental sharpness, vigor, and creative thinking. (Who needs Gingko Biloba?!)

So what types of exercise are the best for combating depression or anxiety? Speed walking, jogging, aerobics, hiking, bicycling, rowing, and cross-country skiing are good, as these activities use the large muscle groups in a rhythmical way and give you a good aerobic workout. Throw in three days per week of strength-training of moderate intensity, and you’re on your way to feeling and looking your best.

As for counseling, according to Donna Bellafiore, LCSW, CADC, and Katharine Huss, Fitness Consultant, counseling can provide a mechanism for venting feelings and reducing thoughts that deplete energy. New skills learned in counseling are used for the handling of stressful situations that occur daily. These skills give a person new perspectives and a fresh way of looking at situations.

You have the power within to gain control over your life. Take time to take care of yourself by getting regular exercise and seeking counseling, if needed.

Moments In Meditation

I’ll admit, I’m writing this meditation article because the subject intrigues me. Personally, I’ve never tried meditation, but I know of several people who do practice it and swear by its benefits. I was diagnosed with high blood pressure five months ago. My doctor gave me two months to try and bring my blood pressure down to normal-range. I lost some more weight, continued my exercise program, took certain vitamins and herbs under the counsel of a nutritionist, and strictly lowered my sodium intake. Two months later, my blood pressure barely budged. My doctor had no choice but to put me on medication. Not only did my father have high blood pressure, but I also tend to be the intense, anxious, perfectionist type.

Stephan Bodian, author of “Meditation for Dummies,” says if you’re like most people, you’re so caught up with what’s happening around you – the look in other people’s eyes, the voices of family and coworkers, the latest news on the radio, the messages appearing on your computer screen – that you forget to pay attention to what’s happening in your own mind, body, and heart.

So why try meditation? Numerous studies have proven that if you meditate regularly, you might lower your blood pressure (aha!) as well as your cholesterol level. Meditation also keeps stress under control, eases anxiety and even chronic pain. It provides your mind and body with a deep state of serene attentiveness.

Meditation can be practiced anywhere – home, office, on an airplane, or in a hotel room. It can also be done by anyone of any age, profession, culture or religion. Meditation will not conflict with your religion, as it doesn’t involve any belief, philosophy, religion or change in lifestyle.

Exercise (or even relaxation) does not do the same thing for your mind and body as meditation. Yes, walking, jogging, fishing, golf, gardening, reading a book, etc., are all enjoyable activities and to some people are relaxing, but they don’t release the deeply rooted stress and tension because the body and mind are engaged in activity.

To get you going, here are some tips from Stephan Bodian and Jon Kabat-Zinn (author of “Wherever You Go There You Are”):

  • Vow to meditate every day, even if only for five minutes. Consistency is what’s important.
  • Find a quiet place where you can sit undisturbed. Eventually, just being there will be calming.
  • Find a comfortable sitting position. You can use a cushion, or lean back against a sofa.
  • Focus on your breath (deep breathing), a word (or mantra), or a visualized object.
  • Begin each session with a few deep breaths and consciously relaxing your body with each exhalation.

Stephan Bodian also says not to worry if you’re meditating the “right” way. There is no “wrong” way to meditate! One day you may feel full of energy, your mind will be clear and you think you’re getting the hang of it. The next day you might be so overwhelmed with thoughts or emotions that you sit for 20 minutes without even noticing your breath. The point is not to do it right, but just to do it – again and again.

Meditation, combined with an exercise program and a healthy diet, will undoubtedly improve your mind and your body. After researching and writing about the topic of meditation, I’m ready to try it. How ’bout you?

For further reading, look for “Meditation for Dummies” by Stephan Bodian; “Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life” by Jon Kabat-Zinn; and “The Best Guide to Meditation” by Victor Davich.

Wellbeing

Midlife and Menopause

wellbeingThere is little doubt that hot flushes and vaginal changes can be directly linked to the hormonal changes of menopause. What about things like depression, anxiety, mood swings and low libido? Are these related to the hormonal changes of menopause or is there more to it than that?

We are now starting to understand just how much the experience of menopause is influenced by what else is happening in a woman’s life at the same time as the physical changes.

There are many psychological, social and cultural factors that can also influence our experience of menopause. These may include:

  • life experience and situation
  • personality
  • previous mood problems
  • roles
  • attitude to ageing and menopause
  • relationships with a partner
  • family and friends
  • sexual function
  • body image
  • social and cultural expectations.

It is helpful consider how these factors may impact on your experience of menopause. At the end of each section in this fact sheet you will find some questions that may help you to do this.

Mood

Many women say they are depressed, anxious, irritable and moody because of menopause. The hormone changes of menopause do not appear to be directly responsible for clinical depression and anxiety, but instead, seem to cause mood swings and irritability, which can make life difficult in itself. The exceptions to this are for women who experience a surgical or early menopause, where mood may be more significantly affected. Women in the perimenopausal stage may experience more intense mood swings because of hormone changes, but this is not necessarily clinical depression. If you are depressed or suffering from anxiety then this is far more likely to be a result of other experiences. Perhaps you have experienced a prior depression or anxiety, have a negative attitude to ageing and menopause, have lots of stress in your life, smoke or maybe you don’t exercise.

Have you experienced depression or anxiety before?

Do you have other stresses in your life at the moment?

There are many treatments that are effective in alleviating the symptoms of depression and anxiety. It is important that you consult with your health practitioner or a psychologist if you are experiencing any significant or persistent changes in mood.

Mood and Domino Effects

Often the physical symptoms experienced with menopause (like hot flushes) impact on sleep which, in turn, makes you tired and affects motivation and mood. The physical changes associated with hot flushes can sometimes feel the same as anxiety or panic attacks. It can be helpful to keep a mood and menopause diary to track your symptoms, to distinguish between physical and emotional symptoms, and to understand the patterns between these symptoms.

Midlife and Ageing

Some women see menopause as a time of transition, some look forward to the next stage of their life, and other women have negative feelings and may interpret it as a time of crisis. The attitude you have to this time of your life will influence your coping, your emotional wellbeing and your experience of mood disorders, like depression and anxiety. A negative attitude to menopause and ageing can result in more menopausal symptoms, which are often more intense.

What is your attitude to ageing and menopause?

Role and Purpose in Life

Women who believe their roles in life to be of importance and value (particularly as they relate to family, relationships and career) have higher levels of wellbeing, feel better about their health and often have less intense menopausal symptoms. Having roles in your life that you feel good about helps you to feel valued and worthwhile.

What roles do you have and do you perceive these roles as important?

Interpersonal Relationships

Partners

If a woman perceives there are significant problems within her relationship she is also more likely to report symptoms of low mood, regardless of menopausal stage. We know that widowed, separated and divorced women have higher rates of depression than women in relationships, regardless of whether they are menopausal.

If you are in a relationship, how do you feel about this relationship?

Does your relationship impact on your experience of menopause, or does menopause impact on your relationship?

If you are experiencing problems in your relationship it may be helpful to seek some professional counselling.

Children

Menopause means the end of fertility. For some women this is perceived as positive with no more concerns about contraception. For others, however, menopause is seen as the end to their ability to have children, which can be distressing. In our society today, many women who reach menopause are likely to have children of differing ages and stages, and up to thirty per cent of women who reach menopause have no children.

How do you feel about your relationship with your children?

If you don’t have children, has menopause caused you to reflect on your circumstances?

Friends and Social Support

If we have quality friendships and a supportive network of friends we are less likely to be depressed and more likely to adapt positively to the changes of menopause. Social isolation, lack of social support and depression are significant risk factors that contribute to coronary heart disease.

Do you have friends who you turn to, and are there for you, when you need support?

If not, perhaps you might like to think about joining, or starting, a group, or taking an adult education class to meet some people. Sometimes we don’t turn to our friends as we worry we might burden them, when really they may feel good knowing they can help and support us.

Libido

Libido, or sexual desire, is influenced by a range of factors, including menopause. Hormone changes, illness and medications will impact on desire. Other factors, such as previous sexual experience, relationship status and satisfaction, attitude, self-esteem, body image, personality and mood can also influence how much a woman wants to have sex. Many women present to their health practitioner around the time of menopause, describing problems with their libido. If menopause has made sex painful, seek help to address this problem.

Are there other factors which may be impacting on your sexual libido which you may need to address also?

The good news is there is help available to treat many libido-related concerns.

Body Image

Physical changes to the body, brought on by menopause, include changes in body shape, with weight shifting from the hips to the central part of the body, drier skin, decreased muscle tone, hot flushes and for some, osteoporosis. Some women talk about losing control of the body they always thought they could rely on. Other women discuss how wonderful it is to get to an age and stage where they don’t have to spend so much time worrying about their body.

What do you think and feel about your body at this time of your life?

If body image is a problem it may be helpful to discuss these concerns with your health practitioner.

Cultural and Social Influences

Some cultures hold older women in high esteem and they are seen as wise and respected. Women in a western society often perceive that as they age they become invisible and their contributions and opinions are seen as less relevant.

Are there particular beliefs that you think might be related to your social and cultural background, which influence how you see your experience of menopause?

Summary

Physical, psychological, cultural and social factors can all impact on the experience of menopause. Who you are, what your life experiences have been, and how you feel about your life, will all influence the way you experience menopause. It is helpful to understand how you feel about the different areas of your life, along with the physical changes of menopause.

This information offers suggestions only and shouldn’t replace the help and support of qualified health practitioners.

Please seek help, information and guidance in any areas of your life that you are concerned about.

Menopause need not be a difficult time of your life. Some of the influences explained here may, or may not, affect you.

Take action, seek help and ensure you are in control.

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Stress

stressStress occurs when we feel threatened or cannot cope with a situation.

Life is busy and it is important to take time out to deal with influences that may be causing the stress. Some things that make people feel stressed include:

  • traffic
  • crowds
  • technology
  • relationships
  • children
  • family
  • mobile phones
  • work deadlines
  • poor health
  • holidays and events such as Christmas.

While a little stress is beneficial, too much stress can impact on health and wellbeing.

Some women may perceive menopause and midlife as stressful experiences. There may be a sense that the person a woman knew herself to be before menopause has changed, and now she is not so sure of what to expect from either her body or her emotions.

What seemed to be a body that was controllable and reliable is now breaking out in a sweat at the most inconvenient times, or periods are irregular and unpredictable.

Coping with Stress

It is important to identify what makes you feel stressed and try and make changes to lessen the feelings of stress. Identify and challenge thoughts and influences that make you feel stressed.

Increase your activity, if possible. Walking is a particularly good way of alleviating stress because activity increases the flow of chemicals in the body called endorphins, which improve mood.

  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Eat regularly
  • Eat a balanced diet.

Eight simple stress busters

1. Have adequate rest.

Although the hours of sleep required by each individual may vary, it is important to have an adequate amount of quality sleep that is most suitable for you. Lack of sleep may lead to problems including reduced alertness, shortened attention span, slower than normal reaction time and poorer judgement and more, which may serve to heighten your stress levels.

2. Recreation

Take a break from your work or usual daily activity. Applying your mind to something other than your every day job or responsibilities provides an important mental break. Get up and move each hour. If your job requires you to sit for long periods, where possible do try to stand up and move around for a few minutes every hour to get your circulation going.

3. Slow down

Lighten up your load of social engagements where possible and give yourself a break. Each day make a list of things that you want to get done, put the actions in order of priority and simply cross off the last half.

4. Reduce work or school hours

Working longer is not necessarily more productive. Reduce the number of hours you spend at work or school where possible. Don’t forget to get up and move each hour if are sitting at a desk all day. Prioritise your activities and lighten your work load where possible.

5. Nutrition

Eat a tasty, healthy diet that includes plenty of vegetables, fruits, wholegrains and cereals. This maintains your blood sugar and promotes energy.

6. Reduce stimulants

Caffeine stimulates the sympathetic nervous system causing stress. There are many non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic beverages from which to choose. Decrease your caffeine intake by drinking more water or herbal teas.

7. Quit smoking

Smokers should consider quitting this habit. Nicotine also stimulates the sympathetic nervous system causing stress.

8. Share your thoughts

Try to discuss the causes of your stress with people who understand your situation. They may be able to help you develop coping strategies. Joining support groups or developing new interests may be beneficial.

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Self Esteem

esteemSelf esteem is what we believe and feel about ourselves and the way we evaluate ourselves. It may be built on our roles and relationships, our body image, and our feelings about health. Self esteem can be based on the perceptions that other people have of us, as well as our own view of ourselves. It is learned and comes from childhood, friends, family, as well as our comparisons with others and life experiences.

People who have high self esteem focus on their achievements and successes, while people who have low self esteem tend to focus more on their failures.

If women going through menopause have low self esteem they are often more vulnerable to depressed feelings, anxious thoughts and increased health problems.

Improving Self Esteem

Some ways to improve self esteem can include:

  • Challenging unreasonable expectations you may have of yourself
  • Taking time to do something you really want to do just for you, that is, to be SELF-ish
  • Participating in lifestyle courses
  • Identify achievements and focus on these more than perceived failures

Take some time for yourself and review your lifestyle and relationships.

Understand and evaluate your situation as abusive relationships – physical, emotional, financial, mental and/or social can lead to loss of self esteem.

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