As a natural process that does or will affect more than 50% of the world’s population, we don’t hear much about menopause.
In fact, the recent State of Menopause study found that 29% of women aged 40-65 didn’t seek out information on menopause until they began experiencing symptoms.
That means that when perimenopause started sneaking up on you, you may have been a woman who didn’t know what you didn’t know. So you probably didn’t know it could be so hard and isolating. You didn’t know how it could change you. You didn’t know how long it could last. You didn’t know who to talk you.
If that sounds like you, we see you. And we’re here to support you.
What is Menopause?
It’s one of the “big three” we often think about when we talk major hormonal events in a woman’s life: your first period, pregnancy, and menopause. But what does it mean?
Menopause is actually a day – an anniversary to be specific. It marks the date you’ve officially been 12 months without a period.
What so many women struggle with – and doesn’t get a lot of airtime – is the time leading up to menopause, called perimenopause.
During perimenopause, your monthly hormonal cycles start winding down, causing levels of reproductive hormones to fluctuate.
How can I tell if I’m in Perimenopause?
While menopause occurs on average around age 51, perimenopause symptoms can start showing as early as your mid-thirties – sometimes earlier – which means a lot of you reading this right now have experienced some of its many and varied symptoms.
Lasting an average of 4 years, perimenopause can occur over several months to a decade.
For some women, their timeline will mirror their mother’s. But others – including those who’ve had medical treatments or conditions that triggered menopause – will have their own unique experiences.
No matter when it starts, it can leave our bodies imbalanced.
If you’re in or beyond your late 30’s and experiencing changes in your menstrual cycle or symptoms that are making you feel like you’re just not yourself, read on.
Perimenopause: it’s not all in your head.
Experts agree there are more than 40 (!) possible symptoms of perimenopause, and up to 90% of women will experience at least one.
Long before you miss your first period, there are a host of unpredictable, variable, and month-to-month symptoms that can be traced back to fluctuating, out-of-balance hormones.
That’s because reproductive hormones – such as progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone – impact our entire body: how we feel, behave, function, and more.
Let’s look at estrogen as an example. Even though it’s primarily recognized for its role in regulating the menstrual cycle and preparing the body for pregnancy, it also serves an important role in other functions throughout the body, including the brain (ex. cognitive function and stable moods), skin (protects against the effects of aging), muscles (improves mass and strength) and thyroid (stimulating thyroid growth). That’s why when reproductive hormones go out of balance, the effects can be far-reaching.
That’s why hormonal-based issues – from PMS/PMDD to perimenopause and PCOS to endometriosis – can get complicated and it gets hard to trace symptoms directly back to their root cause.
Hormone imbalances during perimenopause can cause:
- Hot flashes
- Feeling warm – like you have the flu
- Night sweats
- Struggling to fall asleep
- Waking up at night for no reason
- Feeling down or sad
- Feeling stressed or nervous
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Stomach/gut issues
- Hair loss
- Acne/skin irritations
- Dry skin
- Excess facial hair
- Body aches
- Brain fog
- Headaches & migraines
- Low libido
- Uncomfortable/painful intercourse
- Vaginal dryness
- Vertigo (feeling dizzy)
- Painful periods
- Irregular periods
- “Not feeling like yourself”
Another tricky thing about these symptoms is that they can ebb and flow, increasing and adding up slowly over time. Sometimes, it takes a while to realize what’s going on, and oftentimes by the, you’re feeling pretty awful.
If you’ve gotten to that point, please know that you have options, and don’t have to settle for your new status quo.
If you haven’t, it’s time to get proactive.
For both, there are start doing today to help.
How do I survive Perimenopause?
There are so many conversations out there about the best ways to navigate this phase of life, and they often come with hot debates (we’re looking at you, intermittent fasting and HRT).
But what it comes down to is simply this: what is right for you.
While people like us, your friends, healthcare professionals, social media experts, etc. can support you along the way, the journey is yours.
Discover what works best for you, what you’re comfortable with, and what can help you feel like you’re not just surviving perimenopause, but thriving through this natural phase in your life.
Getting your balance back doesn’t have to be complicated. Remember: daily habits add up. Oftentimes, small changes in your day-to-day can make a bigger impact than a one-off occasion.
Here’s a list of micro-habits that can help bring back balance:
- Breathe deeply
- Get out in nature
- Focus on gratitude
- Practice grounding
- Spend time with friend IRL
- 10 minutes sunlight on your face in AM
- 7-8+ hours sleep daily
- Practice good sleep hygiene
- Avoid blue light (ex. from device screens) at night
- Limit EMF exposure
- Turn Wi-Fi off ay night
- Activate your vagal nerve daily
- Move your body daily
- Build more muscle
- Take a walk
- Use non-toxic products
- Limit alcohol intake
- Reduce sugar consumption
- Take vitamin & mineral supplements
- Fill ½ your plate with veggies
- Eat the rainbow
- Eat balanced meals
Good news: that’s a lot of options! Better news: you don’t have to do them all, and you’re probably already doing some.
Here’s how to set yourself up for hormone-balancing success:
- Make a list of those things you already do.
- Choose 3-5 others that you’d like to incorporate into your life.
- Plan on how you can easily integrate those into your daily routine.
- After 2 weeks, check back here and add a few more to your list.
The more these balancing micro-habits become part of your daily life, the more your body can lean on them for support rather than just white knuckling it or trying to follow an extensive, complicated plan.
Perimenopause symptom support.
In addition, approaching the cause with the hormone-balancing micro-habits and strategy above, you may want to consider addressing the symptoms as well.
Here are some of our favorite natural adaptogen & nootropic options to supplement your peri-wellness toolkit:
Peri: a rite of passage that you’ll pass.
Remember the excitement, shame, nervousness, and pride you experienced with your firsts – your first bra, your first period – it’s back!
But this time, let’s do better. Tuck the shame and embarrassment away. Say “no” to anyone who suggests it’s all in your head or thinks you should just struggle through in silence. You deserve to THRIVE!
Women are speaking up now – women with direct experience and expertise in this phase of life, and they’re in print and online ready to inform. From books like “The Menopause Manifesto” by Dr. Jen Gunter to podcasters like Dr. Ellen Albertson’s “Rock Your Midlife” to groups like menopause NP Jessica Badonsky’s Agelust Labs Lab (in facebook and Instagram) there’s someone near you who’s on the same journey and offering their informed guidance.
And, as always, let us know how we can help!
Women, we see you. And we’re here for you.
Be well. Stay kind.