Surviving menopause isn’t for sissies. Next to menstruation and childbirth, it’s the most life-altering event women experience. Hot flashes, night sweats, confusion, heart palpitations, anxiety, depression–I’m juggling them all. From one sister-warrior to another, here are drugfree coping strategies for hot flashes and night sweats.
* Don’t get chilled. When I’m sweating and overheated, my first inclination is to throw the covers and strip down. But I’m also cold at the same time. NAMS, the North American Menopause Society says that’s because hormone changes affect parts of the brain that regulate metabolism and body temperature. In menopause, my body acts more ectothermic (cold-blooded) than warm-blooded. I have to make my own heat. Hot flashes happen more at night because I’m not conciously staying covered. I get cold and don’t realize it. Staying warm helps my body regulate it’s internal thermostat.
* Wait it out. But I can’t stand that feeling of being overheated, you say. I know, it’s irritating. Especially when you’re not sleeping very well and waking up off and on all night. I usually have hot flashes as I’m getting into bed as my body adjusts to being covered. If I wait a few seconds, the sweatiness passes and I can settle down to sleep.
* Lose weight. I know, everyone hates hearing this, but weight loss tames menopause issues. I’m a little over halfway through my goal to lose 100 pounds. I’m nowhere near where I want to be, but even where I am is better than I was. I breathe, sleep and feel better.
* Take black cohosh, dong quoi, vitex (chasteberry) and soy daily. All these are indicated in menopause. Since I’m not sure which is the magic elixer for hot flashes, I take them all. I stopped taking soy for awhile and noticed a reoccurence of night sweats, so I started that one again.
* Take valerian before bed. Valerian root isn’t specifically for women’s issues. It’s a natural, herbal muscle relaxer. But it helps me sleep more soundly and wake less frequently. I take 3 capsules. I have also used a Valerian blend with catnip and other natural supplements. It’s sold in the vitamin aisle of your supermarket as “natural sleep aid.”
* Take a warm bath or shower. This is especially helpful in winter when the atmosphere is colder. It helps regulate my body temperature so that I don’t get overheated when I get under the covers.
* Do deep breathing and gentle stretching. When I get hot flashes, I often get heart palpitations with them. It feels like my heart is trying to escape through my throat (very nasty feeling). I practice deep, cleansing breaths like I used in childbirth. Yoga-type stretching helps calm my nerves.
* Calm your mind and soul. Before bed, I tend to catalog all my screw-ups, worries and frustrations from the day. That stresses rather than calms. I meditate on tranquil thoughts. I visualize myself letting go of cares and tension. I forgive those I’m upset with, starting with myself.
As with every life challenge, take menopause issues one day (or moment if necessary) at a time.