Think cool! Beat the hot flushes…
Up to 85% of women going through the menopause experience hot flushes. Although flushes do not pose any serious risks to health, many women find that they seriously disrupt social and work life – understandable, given that they may be accompanied by anxiety, sweating, increased heart rate and facial and bodily reddening. Hormone replacement therapy and anti-depressants may be prescribed after a visit to the GP, but both come with potentially undesirable side effects. The good news is, you can reduce the frequency and severity of flushes! Research conducted by Baylor University, Waco, the College of Education, University of Texas and the School of Nursing, Indiana University, Indianapolis has shown that techniques including visualisation, relaxation and having a mental ‘safe place’ to go to can all help manage hot flushes.
All you need to do is ‘THINK COOL’.
T is for Time out: Hot flushes can come on suddenly and can cause embarrassment, anger & anxiety – some flushes can last for a few minutes, which feels like an age when you are experiencing one. Taking ‘time out’ let’s you gain control of the situation. It might involve removing yourself physically from a situation, or practicing some of the techniques outlined below – most of which can be done in the busiest of environments.
H is for Harmonise: It is easy to feel disconnected from your body, particularly when it is behaving in a way which seems unusual or out of control. Although hot flushes may be caused by hormonal changes, they are often made worse by unresolved feelings of anger and resentment, which sometimes only surface at the time of menopause. This is a good time to connect with your body. What is it – and your flushes – trying to tell you?
I is for Imagine: Close your eyes and imagine, or visualise, something which makes you feel beautifully cool – walking into a swimming pool or enjoying a cool shower, perhaps. Practice visualising this feeling when you are nice and relaxed, and think of a word which sums up this cool feeling for you. The next time you feel yourself flushing, close your eyes, say your special word and visualise that cooling experience.
N is for Nurture: So many women are used to caring for others, but forget to give themselves that same level of care. This can be a difficult time. Make sure you nurture yourself through it, whether that’s ensuring you get plenty rest, taking the time to address emotional issues which are coming to the fore or caring for yourself physically, ephors by making it to a yoga class or having a relaxing massage.
K is for Knowledge: Hot flushes may be unpleasant, but it is useful to know that they do not cause any permanent harm and to understand how your body reacts during a flush. Take action and make sure you know in advance what steps you can take to help manage flushes.
C is for Calm: Physiological changes – including increased body temperature, racing heart beat, sweating & anxiety – happen at an alarmingly quick rate during a flush. The temptation is to internally scream ‘STOP!’ – which only makes the symptoms worse. Instead, you can accept that you are having a flush and breathe through it to reach a state of calm. Bring your awareness to your breathing, taking controlled breaths into your stomach and focusing on slowing your breathing. Imagine that you are breathing in a cool silvery light, feeling the cooling sensation throughout your body until you feel calm and in control.
O is for Oasis: Identify an oasis, or safe place, where you can go in your mind when you are having a hot flush. Simply closing your eyes can take you there and will help you feel safe and protected, whilst you wait for the flush to pass.
O is for Observe: It is easy to get annoyed at yourself during a hot flush, feeling that everyone around you is looking at you. The next time this happens to you, take a moment or two to observe how you are judging yourself. Are your judgements helping? Probably not. Shifting perspective can help reduce your self judgements, and can help flushes pass more easily. The next time you have a flush, instead of getting caught up in how you feel about it, take a step back and try observing – almost as if you were someone just looking in – what is happening. Let it happen, without self judgement and without getting caught up in your physical and mental symptoms. This mindful technique helps you avoid getting into a downward spiral of a fight with yourself.
L is for Lifestyle: Maintaing a healthy weight and doing exercise, practicing yoga and meditation and avoiding certain foods such as alcohol and caffeine may all help to reduce hot flushes. Most important of all is practicing self care – even if you’ve never done so before – and that involves having a good look at whether or not your lifestyle supports who you are at this moment in time. Remember, the menopause is literally half way through life for most women, so take the time to develop a lifestyle which is going to support you for the next half!