The menopausal transition is a natural process that all women will experience. During this time many women notice an inclination to withdraw, but it is important to be aware of the health benefits of socializing. Social support can come in many different forms, such as family, friends, neighbours, or even online support groups. Having social support during the menopausal transition can help women cope with the physical and emotional changes that come with this stage of life.
One of the best ways to support yourself during this time is to build a community of like-minded individuals. A community of women who are going through the same transition can provide a safe space to discuss the physical and emotional changes you are experiencing. Having a community of people who understand what you are going through can help you feel less invisible and can make you feel more seen, heard, and understood.
The menopausal transition is accompanied by many life changes, some grieve the end of their fertility, others find themselves with an empty nest, others have the added financial burden of children that never leave, unfortunately, it's a time when many struggle in their relationship with their significant other, many have to deal with ill health or death of their parents, some women experience feeling like they have lost their identity and feel lost and alone.
Psychotherapist Esther Perel is known for saying “The quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives”
Humans are social creatures and we need human interaction. Not all of us have significant others or living family members, but we all still need to find ways to connect.
The menopausal transition is a time when many women don’t feel like socializing, they want to withdraw and hibernate. And I have nothing against a night in. Let me say there is no need to socialize in the same way you did in the past. But you still need to make human connections.
Maybe, instead of a night out dancing, may you meet up with a friend for a coast walk or bush hike. Instead of dinner and drinks, you move to have a brunch date? Instead of cocktails and gossip you try a trivia night or a book club?
As Esther said the quality of your relationships and social interaction counts. We all know the saying “misery loves company” if you are hanging out with doom and gloom type people this can be contagious. We tend to get what we expect. If you are dreading menopause this is linked with a higher frequency and intensity of symptoms. If you are looking forward to this new stage of life and feel empowered by it, you are likely to experience fewer problematic symptoms. So choose who you hang out with wisely.
Studies have shown that having social support during the menopausal transition can reduce stress levels and improve overall mental health. Social support can also help to reduce both acute and chronic symptoms linked with your transition. Moving forward, women who are more socially connected are healthier, live longer, and have a better quality of life in general.
Let’s look at a couple of these studies
This study includes a support group and a control group. The support group attended 10 group sessions. These sessions included general information about this stage of life and lifestyle sessions on relaxation techniques and exercise.
What they found was that the support group experienced a significant benefit over the control group, especially in regard to improved quality of life, lower vasomotor symptoms (think hot flushes/night sweats), improved psychosocial skills, enhanced physical health, and even better sexual health.
Another study “ the relationship between health status and social activity of perimenopausal and postmenopausal women” found that although everyone experiences varied degrees of stress, it is not the stress itself but rather the degree to which you hold on and react to the situation that is linked to the poor health outcome. The more resilient to stress you are the better your outcome. Women with less stress resilience and are currently upset by a stressful event are 21% more likely to experience more frequent and more intense menopause-related symptoms, especially hot flushes.
So how can you boost your resilience? Everyone will find different stress management tools are more or less effective for them but the most universally beneficial strategies include social connections, exercise, eating well, mindfulness, and pet therapy, volunteering - having a purpose and feeling needed.
Getting back to social support, after years of lockdown and government-imposed isolation many women are struggling to find meaningful connections. If this is you, please know you are not alone, there are so many women in the same boat as you who would love an invitation to connect. Think about a distant family member you have lost connection with, an old school friend, an old neighbour, old work colleague. It’s time to reconnection to old friends and find new ones. Finding new friends later in life isn’t as hard as you may think. Think about joining a local group, it could be a church group, an regular exercise class, volunteer at an animal shelter or bush regeneration group or learn a new skill. The university of the 3rd age offers so many different types of classes from languages, to history, exercise, forms of art even trips away.
If like the first research article mentioned, you would like to join a support group program that discusses the menopausal transition and looks at natural ways to support you at this stage of life. Please consider joining my Menopause Makeover program.