Christmas, for all its fun and frivolities, can also be one of the most stressful times of year too and for women going through the menopause the stress levels can become even greater.
The menopause is often thought of as ‘the last taboo’, often trailing way behind many other health and wellbeing issues in terms of a subject that is spoken about openly. In fact, up to 50% of UK women admit to being too embarrassed to talk about the menopause, even with their own GPs.
But as with everything, it is absolutely imperative that we talk about this subject, as it’s something that every woman will experience and we need to create greater visibility surrounding both the symptoms and the triggers of the menopause, some of which I want to discuss in this blog post, in order to break down any stigma or misconceptions surrounding it.
The menopause can be a distressing time for women especially when they aren’t sure what to expect from their symptoms and are uncertain as to which triggers will set these symptoms off. In order to feel in control, women need to be equipped with the knowledge that will help them manage the symptoms and triggers during this time of their lives.
So back to Christmas, we all know that it is one of the most stressful times of the year, but did you know that for menopausal women, it is also one of the biggest trigger times for symptoms of the menopause?
Yes, I’m talking about the hot flush!
When women are faced with increasing levels of stress, it is very common for them to experience a higher frequency of hot flushes than normal. Other triggers, including drastic changes in temperature or consuming greater amounts of alcohol or coffee, triggers that are prevalent during the festive season, also contribute to an increased occurrence of hot flushes.
The extra stresses of Christmas shopping, meal planning and sticking to a hectic pre-Christmas social calendar, never mind the actual day itself, can be hugely demanding for women who often feel as though the responsibility is left solely to them to ensure that everyone else is having the most wonderful time of the year.
Stress is one of the major factors in triggering hot flushes; the release of adrenaline into the bloodstream causes the heart to race and blood flow to increase, therefore leading to a subsequent increase in temperature – hot flush is simply your body’s response, in an attempt to cool itself down. But a hot flush can be overwhelming in its intensity and as your body attempts to bring your temperature back down to a normal level, it can leave you sweating and even shivery afterwards.
Alongside stress, there are other factors that come into play when it comes to bringing on a less-than-festive flush. Varying temperature extremes that come from dashing in and out of busy shops, or rushing in and out of the kitchen on Christmas Day itself, also contribute to kickstarting a hot flush. And because there’s so much extra to do at this time of year and because there’s so very little time to fit it all in, we often feel overwhelmed and exhausted meaning you might not think there’s any harm in consuming that extra cup of coffee to help give you a bit of an energy boost. Or I’m sure many of you indulge in more wine with friends than you usually would in the run-up to December 25th, but both caffeine and alcohol are hot flush triggers too and it will only worsen the problem.
Don’t worry that your entire social schedule, shopping routine and gift list has to go out of the window this Christmas, in fact I firmly believe that making small lifestyle changes this Christmas may help to reduce stress levels and keep those hot flushes at bay.
To help you, here are my five top tips for surviving a menopausal Christmas:
Wear Temperature-Control Undergarments
This is such a simple change to make, yet it can really make a big difference. There are some fantastic menopause-specific undergarment ranges on the market that use temperature-control fabrics to help regulate body heat, reduce those awful post-flush shivers, and wick away moisture to avoid any embarrassing sweaty situations too. These garments are designed for wearing underneath your clothing during the day, so you can still wear your regular clothes and get all dressed up for the festive season, but remain confident that you are in control underneath.
Layer Up Your Clothing
Layering is the ideal solution for helping to regulate your temperature when you’re out and about. Layer a temperature-control tank top with a t-shirt and a cardigan, rather than wearing one bulky jumper, to help you better manage your body’s response to the changes in temperature. Choose cosy, but breathable, garments that are quick and easy to pull on and off, depending on how hot or cold you feel.
Swap Your Coffee For A Matcha Tea
The caffeine in your regular teas and coffees will stimulate the central nervous system, accelerate heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature, all of which can bring on a hot flush. Even plain hot water can induce an episode, so I recommend trying something cooler to start your day. A bottle of cool iced matcha tea is always a good choice, as it’s cool and refreshing, with very low levels of slow-release caffeine, and an incredible level of antioxidants to help keep your body hydrated and healthy, which is especially important in winter when germs are rife!
Reduce Your Alcohol Intake
Yes, I know this can be very tricky around Christmas, but if you find that a glass of wine brings on a sweaty, shivery flush, it’s best to find an alternative. If you don’t want to feel like the odd one out without a glass of something with dinner, there are plenty of non-alcoholic options in the supermarket, or you could try making delicious mocktails with fresh fruit juices. Pomegranates are credited with high levels of oestrogen and antioxidants that can help ease the symptoms of the menopause, as well as being packed full of rich levels of vitamins C, A and E, and folic acid. Make yourself a deliciously festive, non-alcoholic cocktail this Christmas, using pomegranate juice and seeds, so you can still join in the festivities, but also help soothe your symptoms at the same time.
Limit Exposure To Extremes In Temperature
If you can stay indoors and do your Christmas shopping online, you might find it much easier than dashing in from the cold into a store that has its heating ramped up to maximum, and then back outside into the cold again. Extremes in temperature can bring on hot flushes in a flash, so if you are able to avoid exposing yourself to them in the lead-up to Christmas, you are likely to find that you have a far more comfortable Christmas shopping experience. If you do find yourself getting hot and flustered whilst out and about, it’s a good idea to be prepared by carrying a cooling face mist with rosewater in your handbag. This will soothe and refresh the skin, and help you to cool down.
Top Suggestions to Help You Through the Menopause this Festive Season:
- Invest in some Become temperature control garments to help regulate your body temperature.
- Drink regularly to keep hydrated, especially cooling drinks such as OMGTea Iced Matcha tea or perhaps try making a pomegranate ‘gin’ cocktail, made with Pom Juice and Seedlip non-alcoholic spirits.
- Try doing your Christmas shopping online, with stores such as King & McGaw or Trouva, to help you find gifts without the stress!
- Spritz your skin with Aster & Bay’s Rosewater Mist to cool down and refresh you from the outside in.
Dr Rosy Fazzi MBChB, MRCGP, is the head of the Women’s Health department at Dr Nestor’s Medical Cosmetic Centre in Edinburgh. She is a specialist in women’s health issues and is passionate about the treatment for management of intimate female problems at various stages of life.
Dr Rosy understands the mental and physical impact on women that can result from menopause and childbirth and she is enthusiastic about empowering women with the options to restore their sense of intimate wellbeing and general health. She offers bio-identical hormone replacement therapy, which is an alternative to traditional HRT, and can help ease the symptoms of the menopause.