Archive for Emotional Health

Relationships

Many women express mixed feelings about the relationship they have with their partner.

For some women midlife is a time to spend together and relax in the comfort of the relationship. Others may be in a relationship with little communication and support because the partners may have grown apart over the years.

Changes associated with menopause can and do affect sexual relationships. Changes to the vagina (vaginal dryness and thinning of the vaginal wall) as a result of menopause can mean women are less likely to want penetrative sex because of associated pain and low libido.

It is important that women talk about these experiences and seek help when necessary. A woman needs to talk to her partner about these changes so the danger of miscommunication is avoided.

Sometimes male partners fear hurting their partner. Rather than ignoring the problem, it is better for the relationship and future sexual experiences to discuss the physiological and emotional changes that may result from menopause.

Improving the Relationship with a Partner

One of the most important things is to discuss your problems openly. Treat each other as friends and plan things to do together. Vary the routines of what you do together.

There are many ways two people can be sexual with each other that do not involve penetrative sex (use your imagination). Both partners could read relevant books and other resources.

Talk about the changes and issues with other women friends. Seek out a psychologist who specialises in working with couples.

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Depression and Anxiety

Depression

woman-anxiousMany theories have debated the link between hormones and depression. When all of the research is summarised it appears that oestrogen and testosterone are likely to account for a small percentage of the depressed mood women experience around the time they become menopausal.

Women who have had a hysterectomy are more likely to experience depression than women who have had a natural menopause. It may also be that physiological changes such as hot flushes and night sweats have a secondary or roll on effect on the feelings and thoughts of women at this time.

It is important to remember that depression at this time of life is also influenced by previous episodes of depression, stress, relationship satisfaction, self esteem, body image, social and cultural factors.

Anxiety

Anxiety involve extreme feelings of fear and worry.

When intense anxiety is experienced over a length of time and interferes with daily life, then anxiety can be perceived as a problem that requires both medical and psychological treatment.

Symptoms of anxiety may include:

  • a racing heart or palpitations
  • rapid breathing
  • sweating
  • dizziness.

There are many different kinds of anxiety such as:

  • panic attacks
  • phobias
  • social and generalised anxiety.

Some menopausal symptoms are similar to anxiety- type symptoms such as:

  • hot flushes
  • sweating
  • awareness of breathing
  • ‘crawling skin’.

Managing Depression and Anxiety

If a woman is worried, it is important for her to discuss their symptoms with a health practitioner or psychologist to seek clarification about the symptoms they are experiencing.

  • Keeping a diary can help you to identify thought patterns so these can be challenged.
  • Relaxation techniques are a valuable tool.
  • Talking to friends, family or a trusted health professional can also be very worthwhile.

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Culture

cultureThe culture in which you live may impact on your experience of menopause and ageing just as it may determine your lifestyle to a large extent.

In some cultures a woman’s life is likely to involve much more physical activity and/or will traditionally have a diet that contains more plant oestrogens which may decrease the frequency of hot flushes.

In Australia the average life expectancy for women is about 83 years. As a result, a large proportion of women will live almost a third of their lives after menopause. For indigenous women however, the picture is unfortunately very different. The Australian Bureau of Statistics current projection for 1996-2004, shows the life expectancy for indigenous women is 64.8 years. For these women health issues are related to the problems of heart disease, diabetes and respiratory diseases and menopause may have less relevance.

However, perhaps the most important influence a culture has on a woman’s experience of menopause is in the way the culture views women and the importance of their fertility and its attitude in general to ageing.

In Asian cultures, menopause is regarded as a natural event and women are not apprehensive of its onset.

Occasionally, in some cultures, this time of life can bring an almost mystical status, as postmenopausal women are thought to possess healing and supernatural powers. Alternatively, in a youth orientated society, it may be seen only in terms of losses.

What can you do to support your emotional health and well-being?

Along with your own tried and true techniques you can use some of the strategies and coping skills here.

  • Keep a diary of your thoughts and feelings.
  • Identify and challenge negative thoughts about yourself.
  • Learn and practice relaxation techniques.
  • Make a list of your positive strengths and attributes.
  • Take time out to do something special.
  • Increase your physical activity.
  • Eat a balanced diet and eat regularly.
  • Set aside time to problem solve.
  • Identify your role/s and whether changes and additions need to be made.
  • Talk to trusted friends, partners and family members.
  • Seek further support from a trusted health practitioner.

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Body Image

woman-cyclingBody image is the way we think, feel and picture our body. From childhood through adolescence and on to adulthood, body image changes.

For women, body image can change through the regular menstrual cycle, pregnancy and at midlife. During the menopause there is often a shift in fat deposits from the lower to the central body. Negative body image may appear to be a problem for some women going through menopause, particularly their distress at a perceived increase in weight.

These negative feelings can also influence self esteem and sexuality. Further, society’s negative views of ageing women can be very undermining.

Changes to the body associated with menopause, such as hot flushes, have the potential to make women feel differently about their body image. Some women going through menopause report that they do not know their body any more – “I used to know what to expect from my body, now it is like my body is not under my control”.

Weight and Body Image

Even at midlife, the “ideal” look is being about looking thinner to look better. Yet it is important for the individual to be at their own healthy and comfortable weight not compared to anyone else.

While nutrition, physical activity and other behavioural patterns influence the risk of disease beyond the reproductive years, it is never too late to modify lifestyle to optimise health and wellbeing.

Useful Resources for Body Image

  • Physical Activity – Adults need at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise (such as walking) most days of the week.
  • Nutrition – Healthy eating and dietary recommendations.

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Emotional Health

Emotional wellbeing is all about how you see yourself, your roles and the goals you may have in life. Issues relevant to wellbeing unfold at every stage in life from childhood to midlife and beyond.

Coping with your emotions during the many changing phases of life is not a simple process. Relationships need support and development, along with coping with the every day stresses and strains in the challenges of life.

Good Emotional Health

  • Take time out for yourself. By nurturing yourself you’ll have the emotional energy to do other things you need to do. Recognise the things in your life that recharge you and ensure you do them regularly. A deep relaxing breath or a positive affirmation takes only a second. Go for a walk with a friend, make time for a chat with a friend, sit in the park, go to a movie, prepare a relaxing bubble bath, book a facial or manicure, or make time to do whatever you want to do.
  • Think about your inner voice – what messages is it sending? Women whose internal dialogue is overly critical, perfectionistic, depressed or anxious will report reduced functioning than those who have learnt to support and encourage themselves.
  • Do a regular emotional audit. Is there an issue that has been on your mind? Do you have a management plan? What can you do and how can others assist you? Take time out to think about what is going on in your life and how you can best manage it.
  • Women who have a role or a number of roles say they feel good about themselves, have less illness and are more satisfied with their lives. Think about your own role/s. Is there a good balance?
  • Talk to a psychologist if you need help managing difficult situations in your life.

Resources

  • Body Image – Body image is the way we think, feel and picture our body. From childhood through adolescence and on to adulthood, body image changes.
  • Culture – The culture in which you live may impact on your experience of menopause just as it may determine your lifestyle to a large extent.
  • Depression & Anxiety – Many theories have debated the link between hormones and depression.
  • Relationships – Many women express mixed feelings about the relationship they have with their partner.
  • Self Esteem – Self esteem is what we believe and feel about ourselves and the way we evaluate ourselves.
  • Stress – Stress occurs when we feel threatened or cannot cope with a situation.
  • Testosterone – Testosterone and other related hormones in the body (also known as androgens) play important physiological roles in women.
  • Wellbeing – There are many psychological, social and cultural factors that can also influence our experience of menopause.

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