I recently entered the much despised stage of life: second puberty. More commonly known as menopause. This is a stage of life that most women go through with varying degrees of symptoms and frustrations and lengths of time. Do I want a taco? A salad? My husband’s head on a platter?
It changes often and quickly. Sometimes I just want to be left alone. Other times I want all my people around me. I want to eat the carbs, but I want to stay in the same size pants, which is, for the record, impossible. I have yet to find a diet or miracle food to prevent the dreaded menopause belly,
otherwise known as muffin top.
I exercise, I eat right (most of the time), I limit alcohol intake, I read books, I love my pets and my family, I am spiritual; I try, I really really try. My body has completely changed the way it reacts to everything; things aren’t where they used to be and my skin is crepe-y and speckled in places you can’t even imagine.
Yet, sheesh, I want to kill someone on the daily (I won’t, I promise). I want to eat an entire pizza. My vision is stupid, my body revolts with food I used to eat in excess (um, hello cheese and carbs), my mood swings are wild, and my filter is cracked and a little broken most days.
As I’m just getting into this body chaos, I’ve thought of a few things that are helpful for those of us just starting this stage.
Here are 10 tips for entering menopause with grace:
1. Be honest with yourself.
Is having that extra taco really a big deal? If your psyche can’t get past it, then don’t. But honestly, eat the tacos.
Don’t be excessive and do long-term damage to your body, but go for a walk, a jog, a hike. Ride your bike, do some yoga. Find something active to do for a ½ hour each day. It’ll help stabilize your weight and reduce stress, which we all need less of. Just remember that exercise isn’t a competition (and if you’re an enneagram 3 like me, this is a dumb statement).
3. Be honest with your partner.
They’re often on the receiving end of your mood swings, your binge eating, your hot flashes, and your lack of libido. Assure them it isn’t personal … most of the time.
This is the biggest one for me. When I was younger, my mother never spoke of puberty or the changes happening to my body so I am open and up front about it now. I laugh about my second puberty ‘problems’ more often than imaginable. I’m a little bit crazy sometimes—and it’s funny!
5. Remember you’re human.
We all make mistakes, we all bite off someone’s head without realizing it, and we all have the capability to forgive. Be self aware enough to apologize.
6. Get a puppy.
What?! This one is mostly for my husband to read. It’ll help, I promise. (See how I snuck this into the middle of the list? We’ll see if he’s reading … stay tuned).
7. Stop freaking out about clothing sizes.
I’ll admit I’m the first person to freak out when my pants get a little snug. I am a product of the 80s and 90s when skinny was in and strong was fat
and I have yet to find my way out of that hole. Sizes are just a number, similar to age. If you feel good, then you definitely look good!
8. Talk to your doctor.
My doctor and I have been very open about this—it helps that she also is going through this forsaken second puberty. I’ve chosen not to use any hormonal supplements or medications right now, but the day is coming, I can tell. If your doctor is as good as mine, enlist their help with the varying levels of help available to you. There is absolutely nothing wrong with natural or chemical supplements if it helps prevent you from doing something that will put you in the news…
9. Keep a calendar.
Apparently this stage of life can last anywhere from four to 10 years, and you’re going to forget stuff you never thought you would. I literally just figured out my body a few years ago and now it’s changing again; a calendar helps you keep track of all this wildness.
Comparing yourself to the 45-year-old woman with a tight booty, perky boobs, and firm skin is not only unnecessary and a complete waste of time, but it’s unfair. It’s unfair to you, your husband, and your children. You’re awesome, quirky menopause and all. Everyone does this stage differently … that 45-year-old woman who seems perfect to you, well, she might have massive night sweats or some other symptom you don’t see. Trust me.
Grace, lots of grace.
Set boundaries to protect your health and happiness
One other tidbit I’ve adopted the past few years for a variety of seasons, not just because of my sometimes irrational reactions to menopause: Set boundaries. If you have toxic relationships, it is 100% okay to remove yourself from these relationships. If you have time constraints for your job and can’t participate in someone’s fun pickleball tournament without feeling overwhelmed, then be honest and upfront about that.
Boundaries are healthy and necessary. We set them for our children and we need to give ourselves permission to set them for ourselves based on our current circumstances. If someone doesn’t like your boundaries, that’s their problem, not yours. You do not owe anyone a long drawn out reason for your mental health. Like we always tell our children, “Be honest with yourself and those around you.”
In addition to the above mentioned suggestions, make lists. Lots of lists. I also have ADHD and lists are my lifeblood, but last week I went to the grocery store without a list. I bought six bags of candy! Why? I have absolutely no idea, but they were delicious. I regret it now (only a little), but at the time, it’s what I needed. Did my pants get snug as a result? Yep. But I was happy, so happy, as I dined.
Your personal happiness is worth it. This is a tough stage. Enjoy the little things—eat the cake, drink the wine. It’s okay, it really is.
Menopause is an opportunity to discover more of ourselves
Menopause isn’t a killer of dreams or a life altering disaster. Rather it creates an opportunity for us to determine what really motivates us, what our priorities are. It can give humor to an otherwise boring day. It doesn’t excuse us from being kind, but rather encourages us to be aware of our words and actions so we’re not turning into wild and untamed women.
Our partners and families love us, but they are not punching bags. God created us as complex beings. Embrace this complexity, appreciate the quirks, and encourage conversations to normalize our lives. We’ll get through this with a little collateral damage, but nothing life-altering. A little grace goes a long way.
Now, go get a snack and a good book. You deserve it.
Accepting love for yourself can be hard during this stage. Writer Jodi Shultz explains why you’re always enough, just as you are: