In a recent dance class I attended, the teacher (a 30-something) instructed everyone to put their hands at the level of their chest. She demonstrated this by placing hers a few inches below her collar bone. Half jokingly, I said, "Where they are now, or where they used to be?" Everyone over 40 laughed -- everyone under looked at me like I was the crazy lady in the back of the class. And the hits just kept coming.
Last week, a friend e-mailed me a photo of myself from a recent party I had attended. My initial reaction was "Oh my god, I look like a shar-pei!" Where did all those facial folds come from? I would have immediately picked up the phone and made an appointment to see the plastic surgeon for Botox, but times being what they are, he has retired, and I didn't want to spend the money.
Then yesterday, I was taking a shower and noticed how the skin above my knees is starting to wrinkle. This must be what they (whoever they are) mean when they say, "As we get older, our skin begins to lose some of its elasticity." Well that sucks. And to think, I sat in righteous judgment of Sharon Osborn a few years ago when she announced on her television talk-show that she had gotten a leg lift.
And that's just some of the physical stuff. Don't even get me started on my newfound ADD, periodic loss of vocabulary or general brain blank (who was I supposed to call?) that occurs daily.
So, face-to-face with these peri-menopausal moments -- or what I jokingly refer to as "Perry Como moments," because I think something this intense deserves a funny name -- I decided to do what any self-reliant, smart modern woman does and start calling around for information and support. As luck would have it, help was only a speed-dial away. My friend and fellow author, Lynette Sheppard, RN writes the Menopause Goddess Blog and is the author of The Big M. Here are her top ten pieces of advice on how to be a menopausal goddess.
#1. Form a group of like-minded and like-afflicted women. Together, you can get through anything. Sheppard's own menopause group was the inspiration, and provided much of the content, for her book.
#2. When your concentration feels like a butterfly moving from one half-formed thought to another, try and view it like a change in the weather. In the meantime, help beat back brain fog by building in redundant systems. For example: Don't rely on one pair of sunglasses; have four -- one for work, one at home, one in the car and one to carry in your purse. "You'll be able to find at least one of them," says Sheppard.
#3. Cultivate obsessive-compulsive order: Create a place for everything, and put everything back in its place. Organize your pocketbook so that items have a permanent place to live. Check out the Purse Brite organizer, which allows you to quickly switch items between purses.
#4. Start playing Scrabble, chess, cards or other games that require concentration and mental agility. The more you use it, the less you lose it.
#5. If you find yourself taking the late-night "Fretliner Express" -- your own personal bullet train to worst-case scenarioville with no stop at reason, logic or probability -- think of Stephen King. In other words, try to remember that the fears you have at 4 a.m. are no more real than the plots in most Stephen King novels. In the morning, you'll more than likely wonder what all the fretting and fussing was about.
#6. To cool hot flashes, try layering clothes in natural fabrics for easy on-and-off action, placing an ice cube on your wrists to lower body temperature and discussing bio-identical progesterone cream with your health care provider. Emerita's Cooling Lotion is a good bet to keep in your purse or on your night stand.
#7. "Sadness and weeping over everything, including tire commercials, is normal," says Sheppard. Grieving the loss of your youth, firmness, temperature regulation and mental faculties can make you sad. Sheppard advises talking to your women friends, having a good cry and eating lots of chocolate. Oh, and be sure to carry Kleenex with you at all times.
#8. If you feel alienated, remember that menopause is like puberty to the tenth power --you need time alone to recover your balance. Write poetry, take a walk, soak in a hot bath, create a spa day at home and watch back-to-back Lifetime movies; either alone or with another menopause goddess -- she'll understand.
#9. Repeat the Menopause Mantra, "This too shall pass." This is a natural process, and with a little help from your friends, you will be able to find your balance once again.
#10. Finally, be gentle with yourself when you put the mail in the refrigerator. It can happen to anyone.
Karen Leland is author of the recently released books Watercooler Wisdom: How Smart People Prosper In the Face of Conflict, Pressure and Change and Time Management In An Instant:60 Ways to Make the Most of Your Day. She is the co-creator of a new line of Productivity Pads from Time Tamer™ and the co-founder of Sterling Consulting Group. For questions, comments or to book Karen to speak at your next event, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.