Although many of us associate the word intimacy with sexual relationships, the word by definition actually implies close familiarity, or friendship. The importance of our connections with friends and community cannot be overstated. Equally important is the connection we feel with ourselves.
For many women, the changes associated with menopause can lead to feelings of detachment from themselves and others. Hormonal changes can cause fluctuations in body temperature, mood, and energy, as well as shifts in body composition and weight. These often unpleasant side effects, in turn, can cause a woman to feel anxious and detached, and interfere with her motivation to take care of herself and maintain intimate connections with her spouse or partner, friends, family, and community.
In my work with clients who are going through perimenopause or menopause, I always recommend some simple steps they can take to celebrate themselves, reduce menopause-related stress, and reconnect with the important people in their lives.
Take two 10–15 minute time-out breaks a day.
Whenever you feel overwhelmed by the everyday stresses of life, find a quiet space where you can sit and breathe deeply for ten or fifteen minutes. Reinvigorate your body and soothe your mind with a cup of calming tea, like chamomile, valerian root, or ashwaganda. Try to empty your mind of clutter and reflect upon your positive self. Focus on the unique things you have to offer to yourself and to others.
Take two 15-minute walks per day.
Take a walk to reduce stress and get in touch with the world around you. Spending too much time indoors can exacerbate a sense of detachment, and can make negative thoughts snowball inside your mind. Getting out into the fresh air helps you expand your horizons and get a glimpse of the bigger picture.
Early morning walks are particularly beneficial.
Getting into the habit of walking as soon as you get out of bed will let you take advantage of the serenity of the early morning, and kickstart your circulation and metabolism for the day.
Create a positive and nurturing environment when you eat.
Choose vital, earth-based ingredients for your meals to avoid post-meal sluggishness or sugar fluctuations. Eat quietly and indulge in the sensory experience of each bite. By focusing on your meal, anxious thoughts will subside, and you’ll come away from the table with a clearer, calmer mind.
Prepare for sleep.
Try to avoid using any gadgets or watching TV for an hour or two before bed. When your bedtime nears, take a twenty-minute soak, put on comfy clothes, dim the lights, and do some simple stretches while breathing deeply. Preparing properly for bed will make you more likely to enjoy a deeper, more relaxed sleep, which in turn leads to a more positive outlook in the morning.
Schedule a pamper-me day once a month.
If you have trouble finding time for yourself, schedule a “me day” once a month and clear your calendar to make sure that your responsibilities don’t interfere with it. Spend the day by indulging in your favorite relaxing pursuits, such as hiking, swimming, yoga class, or meditation. Follow your activity with an hour-long massage to work out any pent-up stress in your muscles. End the day by lighting some candles, turning on soft music, and enjoying some at-home spa treatments. Massage your hair with hydrating coconut oil and wrap in a towel for 20–30 minutes. Prepare a soothing face mask with 2 tbsp of honey and 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar. Take a long bath in bathwater infused with your favorite essential oils, and then exfoliate your skin with a natural loofah sponge.
Some of us tend to feel guilty if we take time for ourselves. But remember, if you are feeling stressed and disconnected from yourself, the connections that other people have with you can suffer as a result. By helping yourself, you help them—and you help your relationships as well.
Our nutrition expert, Peta Cohen, M.S., R.D., has been a clinical nutritionist and metabolic specialist since 1996. Peta specializes in examining the root causes of complex and chronic health issues, and helping clients prevent the diseases caused by lifestyle choices, environmental influences, epigenetics, and aging. With her extensive clinical and research experience, she's been invited to share her knowledge at seminars and conferences worldwide. In Peta's articles for the BoomSpot, the blog of the online store theBoomShop.com, she gives practical tips on how adults 50+ can improve their health right now. Learn more about Peta at PetaCohen.com.