Importance of a Support Ecosystem During Menopause
Menopause can present a variety of challenges for many women. Experiencing symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, and weight gain, can range in intensity across the board. With so many different experiences, women might feel like they're battling their menopausal journeys on their own, making it even harder to overcome these challenges. Don't worry, you are not alone – there are roughly 2 million women in the country who are going through the same difficulties. That is why it is important to create a support ecosystem where you and others like you can offer each other the necessary support network you need to get through it.
Support Ecosystem in Menopause
An overview published on Menopause.org suggests that since the life expectancy of women is going to grow with each year, by 2025 there will be about 1.1 billion postmenopausal women in the world (1). This already presents a lot of opportunities for women to find and/or create the support networks they need. Dealing with menopause alone can impact your health, happiness, or quality of life. You might have read or heard a lot about how it is important to speak to your doctor about your symptoms but what about speaking to friends, family, work colleagues and others about menopausal struggles?
Advice from Friends
Seeking support from friends can help you open up about the topics you might be too shy to discuss with your doctor. Talking about things like mood swings, vaginal dryness, or even low sex drive with your friends of similar age can help you navigate some of the problems they present with the important relationships in your life. When talking to friends for advice, remember to try to feel comfortable asking them for their input and advice. Sharing your feelings and emotions is a very healthy thing. At the very least, it might be easier for women to receive validation of their symptoms. Why is this so important? As a woman entering menopause for the first time, you may have no idea what to expect when it comes to your symptoms. It's important to double and triple check with friends of a similar age group to get an idea of what your baseline symptoms might be. When all else fails, ask your friends about their experiences and get some insight early on. Preparing for menopause is just as important as treating it.
Speaking to Family Members
Another important part of a support ecosystem in menopause is your family, in particular, your partner. Many women find it embarrassing to bring up their symptoms in the presence of their romantic partners. More often, they are afraid that they won't be understood or belittled, especially in the case of symptoms that have an impact on their sexual lives. However, if you do not share your feelings with your partner(s) then how will they understand what you are going through and help you find a way to work around it? You might be afraid to hurt their feelings, but it actually will hurt them more if you struggle with it on your own. Psychological studies have found that interactions between menopausal women and their partners help them to improve the overall interpersonal relationships (2). Open and honest communication between partners, romantic, sexual, or otherwise can help alleviate some of the struggles that come with menopause.
Why Support Ecosystems are Important
So, why does the idea of a support ecosystem matters so much for women in menopause? When women are too embarrassed or ashamed to talk about their menopausal symptoms, it places them at greater risk of ignoring other health concerns that are affected by menopause. It can also increase the likelihood of developing significant levels of anxiety, depression, and even panic in some cases. Connecting with people who have gone through or are currently going through similar experiences can help you gain a better understanding of how this transition will affect you. Whether through social media, in-person interactions, or even just occasionally going to forums on websites, you can find a whole community of women out there who can help you overcome your doubts, concerns, and challenges.
Looking to start building your support ecosystem? Then implement these three steps to help you get on the right track.
Get More Information
As important as strong friendships are, friends do not always have all the information. In order to better understand the symptoms and other potential health issues you may experience, it's important to get familiar with the more technical medical jargon. Know what hot flashes are and understand how they happen. Learn what you can about how hormones affect the brain. Get to know the wider breadth of symptoms and side effects that other women might experience. For instance, did you know that chronic inflammatory diseases (CIDs) can worsen for some women as they enter menopause? Or that sex can become painful as a result of decreasing estrogen? Without understanding how the body is affected by menopause, it will be difficult to pinpoint what symptoms you experience and how to alleviate them.
Express Your Emotions
Not everyone can understand the transition your body is going through during menopause. You children, your spouses, your partners, your colleagues, and employers may need you to explain what symptoms you're experiencing and how they're affecting you. Prioritize talking to all the different people in your life about what you're experiencing and how they can help you to get through it. That could mean anything from asking your employer to have a small fan in your office to help cool you off during hot flashes, or to having your family help you with your workouts to combat postmenopausal osteoporosis. Be open and honest about the issues you're experiencing and be prepared to discuss how you can all help alleviate some of the difficulties.
This is also a good way to talk about some of the emotions and mental changes you're experience during your menopausal journey. Talk openly about things like anxiety, mood swings, and depression as you may experience all of these emotions as some point during menopause. Talking it out helps reduce stress, but it also helps you identify what you need to do to address your concerns both physical and emotional.
Improve Your Health
Having a solid support ecosystem has a positive effect on your overall well-being. Psychologists have found that social relationships have an impact on the overall health of adults as they age (3). Having supportive friends and family can help you make better lifestyle choices as you transition into and out of menopause. Understanding the measures that others have gone to achieving long-lasting health can help you make the right decisions for you.
(1) J. Manson. “Overview of menopause.”