There are many challenges, tragedies and anxieties brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, and women in particular are experiencing lock down very negatively. Recent research shows that lockdown has further affected anxiety and sleep patterns in women over the age of 40. Studies have found that women, more than men are increasingly turning to alcohol to cope with the changes to work and finances, home schooling, fears for the health of elderly parents or children away at university. This is not only raising concerns that we could suffer more from chronic diseases in years to come, but that this is also a recipe for a mental health disaster.
Menopause and peri-menopause can be emotionally and physically exhausting at the best of times without a pandemic halting ‘normal’ life. Dealing with a myriad of menopausal symptoms like; sleep disturbance, weight gain, low mood, memory loss, mood swings, loss of confidence and anxiety as we get used to home isolation is taking a real toll!
If you are going through the menopause or peri-menopause during the Covid-19 crisis, your immediate concerns may be how to manage hormonal symptoms, especially as many of our usual coping mechanisms have diminished during lock down and with a lack of routine the temptation to over-eat, drink more alcohol and not take exercise will only aggravate menopausal symptoms. You will undoubtedly also be wondering how the virus may affect you given you also feel under siege by your hormones.
Most research shows that its advanced age and those with underlying health conditions that are more likely to contract Covid-19 and suffer with more severe symptoms. For women frustratingly it appears that losing the protective effects of Oestrogen and Progesterone also increases the risk of not only type 2 diabetes and heart disease, both these co-morbidities will increase the risk for those who contract Covid-19. But also, a decline in these hormones could increase your chances of both contracting the virus or coping less effectively with it.
What can we do to protect ourselves from this virus and ease our menopausal symptoms? Important new research is suggesting hormone therapy in the form of Oestrogen and Progesterone (DHEA and Testosterone may also be prescribed) offers not only benefits to menopausal symptoms but protection to women against contracting Covid and are more likely to cope better if they do. BHRT can help with many other health issues, such as heart disease, insomnia, depression, obesity, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis.
But in spite of Covid-19 cases dropping, less hospital admissions and fewer deaths being recorded lock down restrictions are painfully slow to abate. We are learning about new strains, continued restrictions to travel and social interactions. So, it seems we are not out of the woods yet and may not be for a considerable time. We need to look at ways to adapt to this new normal! Can we use this forced pause to life to allow us the time to re-examine our priorities, and enable us to manage our health and menopause better than before?
The pandemic has forced us to evaluate all that is really important. We have had to learn how to cope without social interactions, changes to our working lives and restricted time with friends and family. So now more than ever health and wellbeing have to take priority. By taking a step back now with fresh eyes to explore the benefits of lifestyle changes, evaluating how improving our diet, taking time to exercise and for relaxation to ease anxiety will not only ease the challenging menopause burden but improve overall physical and mental wellbeing.
When this pandemic is over, whenever that maybe, there has to have been a silver lining to pausing all of our extra-curricular activities, cleared diaries and social gatherings! Could we try to maintain time for more pauses in our ‘normal’ life? Can we learn from the time saved by working from home, zoom meetings, the importance of time to just be, for exercise, gardening, baking, meditation, sitting and reading, going for walks and taking time to reach out to friends and family? If we do not, will we look back at this time as just “when time stood still”? Or can we look back on it to a time when we took control of one the few things we could, our health.
Five things you can do right now to improve your overall health and wellbeing and help ease menopause and peri-menopause symptoms.
- Speak to a health care provider to explore BHRT. (Body or Bio Identical Hormone therapy).
- Take daily exercise (at least 30 minutes a day), find a combination you enjoy and stick with it. For e.g.: walking and weight training, running and Pilates, HIIT and yoga. A cardio and resistance combo will ensure you improve your overall health: cardio-vascular, muscle tone, increased metabolism and emotional health.
- Take supplements – a naturopath or nutritionist can advise which ones you need.
- Make changes to your diet: eat more fresh vegetables – at least half of your daily consumption should be plant-based, think about half your plate containing non-starchy vegetables, a quarter protein, a quarter carbs, have fruit or nuts and seeds for snacks and drink more water 1.5 litres a day for most people.
- Take time to relax every day: a long soak in the bath (add lavender and magnesium flakes to further improve relaxation and ease aching muscles), read a book, take time in nature, download an app and meditate before bed, especially if you have trouble sleeping.