Your Complete Guide To Getting Through The Menopause And How You Can Start To Feel Like ‘You’ Again

menopause-blog

Whilst the menopause has never been spoken about so openly as it is today, it is still largely an unknown, misunderstood matter to most, even though 50% of people will experience, or have experienced, the menopause.

From hot flushes to anxiety, the symptoms of menopause range from physical, emotional and mental, all of which have a huge impact on women’s daily lives.

To encourage further conversation and education, we’ve partnered with some of the leading menopause experts and worked with some wonderful women in our SilkFred community to create this complete guide to help manage menopause the best we can; together.

What’s World Menopause Day?

World Menopause Day is held every year on the 18th October, led by the International Menopause Society. The purpose of the day is to raise awareness on the menopause and support options for improving health and wellbeing.

Highlighting the importance about raising awareness, Tracey Allport of MOTH therapies says: “Not only does menopause affect women, but it affects partners, families, friends and colleagues too; so it is vital that we have an open and honest dialogue, to create awareness amongst everyone, so women can be suitably supported and understood.”

What are the most common symptoms of the menopause?

It’s reported that up to one-third of women will experience severe menopausal symptoms that impact their daily lives. Therefore, it’s crucial that we speak about these symptoms to educate ourselves (and others) on what to look out for and how to try and manage the effects.

 Menopause nutritionist, Emma Bardwell explains: “There are 34 official symptoms, but in reality that figure could probably be doubled. Women have oestrogen receptors all over their bodies so effectively they might feel the effects from their scalp to their toes.”

According to the experts we spoke to, the most common symptoms can include:

  • Hot flushes
  • Weight gain
  • Mood changes
  • Thinning hair
  • Skin changes such as sagging, rosacea and acne
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Brain fog and memory loss
  • Fatigue

We also partnered with a selection of remarkable women from our SilkFred community who have kindly shared their own experiences with the menopause: 

Nicola, 40 from Lincolnshire discusses her symptoms: “I’ve never suffered from mental health issues, but in the last 12 months I have become very anxious. I didn’t even know anxiety was a symptom of perimenopause until recently.”

Maxine, 50 from Renfrew says: “I was expecting the hot flushes but did not expect the brain fog, sore heads, lack of energy or interest in most things, tingling in my fingers, joint pain and the irritability.”

Alyson, 58 from East Yorkshire says: “I started to lose all my confidence, especially at work. I would get halfway through a sentence and then either couldn’t remember what I was going to say or couldn’t remember what something was called.  My mind would go totally blank.”

What are the lesser known symptoms of the menopause?

Whilst hot flushes and mood changes are well-known as classic symptoms of the menopause, there are actually many more which are rarely spoken about.

Menopause expert Libby Stevenson expands: “There are many lesser known symptoms, and it’s these symptoms that make menopausal women feel like they are going crazy.”

Some of the more unusual symptoms include:

  • Anxiety while driving
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sore breasts
  • Burning mouth
  • Tinnitus/ringing in the ears
  • Vertigo/dizziness
  • Sore gums
  • Forgetfulness
  • Restless legs
  • Dry eyes
  • Sensitivity to noise
  • Migraines/headaches 
Source: Canva

Emma Bardwell adds: “Perhaps the most unusual menopausal symptom I’ve come across is called formication, which is the feeling that insects are crawling under the skin and can be terribly discomforting.”

Recalling the early stages of her menopause, Estelle, 57 from Wallsend says: “I, like many other women, only really thought of menopause as my periods stopping. I had no idea of the ‘side effects’ and the physical and mental effects that the loss of hormones would have on me.”

“My periods became intermittent and I became less interested in sex with my husband which I later found out was the perimenopausal stage. In early 2020, I thought I was having a breakdown – I was anxious and extremely emotional all of the time. I cried at the drop of a hat and then couldn’t stop sometimes. I had hot flushes and I found it difficult to fall asleep at night. I started suffering from restless leg syndrome and had palpitations.”

How does the menopause affect your mental health and self esteem?

As Emma Bardwell says: “Women’s confidence can take a real knock at this time. Women feel their bodies are changing and they often complain that fluctuating hormones make them feel like they’re no longer in control.”

To raise awareness of the mental effects of the menopause, we asked our SilkFred community to share their personal experiences with how it has affected their self esteem:

Maxine says: “I feel like I no longer know who I am, I don’t recognise the person I see in the mirror. 

I’m now unsure what clothes or styles suit me and struggle to find clothes. I rarely go shopping anymore and if I do, I often come home downbeat after trying items on.”

Linda, 61 from Northamptonshire says: “I had to change the way I dressed; buying clothes which I could layer on and off easily. I found a lot of knitwear too hot and had to find lightweight knits instead.”

“I also lost confidence in how I dress and would love to try new styles and colours where I can remain fashionable whilst dressing for my height and changing body shape. I want to be ‘me’ again.”

What can you do to help relieve symptoms and feel like ‘you’ again?

Whilst it can feel like a very isolating time, women who are going through the menopause shouldn’t feel like they have to go through it alone. As well as speaking to a doctor, your partner or close friends, there are countless communities you can reach out to to find women who are going through similar experiences, and online resources where you can hear other women’s stories, such as:

Emma Bardwell says: “Many women find that once their symptoms are under control they feel buoyed up and renewed, ready to take on the next chapter of their lives.”

“I see many midlife women starting up companies, embracing new ventures and finally doing things for themselves after a long time of looking after other people.”

“Women are a force to be reckoned with at this time of life – they’re wiser, more resilient and much more fearless than when they were younger.”

So, in summary, what are some of the small changes you can make to start to feel like you again?

  • Talking to your loved ones
  • Having open conversations about the menopause
  • Reaching out to your doctor
  • Joining communities to talk to other women going through a similar experience
  • Listening to podcasts, and hearing about other women’s experiences

How can you adjust your wardrobe to lessen symptoms and feel good about yourself?

Silky Boyfriend Shirt | Cream
Silky Boyfriend Shirt | Cream By Azurina | £40.00

For hot flushes and night sweats, Tracey Allport advises: “Fairtrade organic cotton is one of the best materials to wear, as it is both breathable and chemical free, meaning this will help to keep you cool and your body won’t absorb any chemicals which can potentially disrupt hormone balance.”

“Other natural skin friendly fabrics to consider are silk, bamboo and Tencel™”

Clothing made from synthetic fibres, Libby Stevenson warns, will “trap heat and are not breathable, only making menopausal women feel hotter.”

Emma Bardwell shares her tip when it comes to layering: “I often recommend wearing lots of thinner layers that women can easily take on and off as needed, that way women have more control of their personal thermostat.”

A common symptom which many women feel self-conscious about is bloating, dubbed the ‘menopause belly’. 

Dotty Day Dress Beige Polka Dot
Dotty Day Dress Beige Polka Dot By Pretty Lavish | £55.00

To combat this, Emma Bardwell explains: “I’m a big fan of what I call ‘buffet dresses’… midi dresses that have plenty of room.”

“Many women find that roll-necks and high collars can mess with their temperature control and set off a hot flush, so try to avoid these if you can and opt for scoop necks and v-necks instead.”

Tracey Allports adds: “Clothing which is flattering, highlighting natural curves, whilst allowing for comfort and changes in the body throughout the day is important. Flowing and stretchy fabrics are key, to allow for movement and breathability.”

Why we need to keep the conversation going all year round

Since we can remember, the menopause has been treated like a taboo topic. But, if we keep the conversation alive and educate women on how to manage their symptoms, giving them information to make informed decisions about how best to manage them, the menopause can be a time to transition and thrive.

Nicki Williams from the Happy Hormones podcast says it perfectly: “Education and awareness around menopause are key to improving the experience for those going through it. It’s not only women who need to understand what’s happening and how to get help, but men and younger girls should also be educated so that they can support the women in their lives, and be prepared for the future.”

And here’s how you can join the conversation yourself…

Struggling with menopause symptoms and not knowing what to wear? We’ve created our very own menopause edit with menopause-friendly pieces to keep you feeling both comfortable and stylish. Browse the edit here.

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