If you live in one of the few Gen-X households in the US that still has a landline (don’t ask why), you know that the only people that really call you on that number are your parents and TELEMARKETERS. And while I do have Caller ID on my landline (again, please don’t ask why), every once in a while, I’ll pick up the phone on an unrecognizable number for a reason that I really can’t explain (kinda like why I still have a landline). One such occasion happened last week, during which I was reminded that winter is coming and it’s time to “winterize” my home. While I can look at the calendar and see that winter, is indeed, coming, I’m still not quite ready for the cold weather, and am admittedly behind on my weatherizing checklist.


That got me to thinking -- apart my from home…and oh yeah, my car -- what else might need winterizing? While we might think about winterizing our homes and our automobiles in preparation for the change in climate, we don’t always (or rarely) apply the same care and planning to ourselves.


Monday, December 21st marks the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. And depending on where you live in the world, the onset of winter means shorter days and colder weather. For many of us, this means our access to sunlight will decrease, and we’ll likely be spending even more time indoors. For me, this usually means less movement and a proclivity for seasonal depression, due to the limited sunlight and increase in gray days.


The air will be colder and drier, which means our skin, nails and hair are subject to the same – adding to their already mercurial and ever-changing state, the closer we get to menopause. So, what can we do to ready ourselves for our menopausal journey through cold, dark(ish), winter?


Like most things lately, I’m finding that taking notes on new discoveries I’d like to try or making lists helps a lot. Even though I misplace or throw them away half of the time (brain fog and all), when I do manage to hold on to them, they prove quite useful. With some of my newly gained insights and learnings in mind, I’ve mapped my own plan for winter according to a mind, body & spirit orientation. Certainly it’s not original, and may even seem a bit un-inspired, but it’s easy to remember and sums up my range of needs pretty well…


Mind

The onslaught of stress and anxiety we’ve all been processing for the past several months has seen the need and demand for mental health services increase significantly. And for those of us trying to manage our menopause transition, the hormonal fluctuations associated with perimenopause can exacerbate that stress.


With all of this mental trauma and social isolation, it’s no surprise that more Black women are seeking help. Yet, finding and accessing a range of qualified mental health service providers who are also Black women, can be challenging. I recently read an article which cited that in the US, women of color make up less than 5 percent of psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers available to treat those who need help.


That said, the emergence of digital health clinics and innovations in tele-health services can help make it a bit easier to find the limited number professionals of color who are out there. Through digital platforms like Black Female Therapists and apps like Health in Her Hue, you may be able to find a qualified counselor or psychiatrist in your area who may be able to treat you in-person or through a virtual session.


Mindfulness and breathing apps can also provide helpful support in managing your stress and anxiety, day-to-day. Over the past couple of years, I’ve tried a few different ones and Calm was a longtime favorite until they started charging for pretty much all of their content. In the past year I shifted to Oak, which I like a lot. It’s pretty straightforward and offers (free) options for meditation and breathing exercises, both guided and un-guided. I also like that you can see how many people are meditating and breathing along with you in real-time, letting you know that you’re not alone.

Body

Protein, protein, protein! The importance of eating a protein-rich diet can’t be overstated. Last month, for World Menopause Month, I interviewed registered nutritional therapist, Jackie Lynch about her new book, The Happy Menopause, in which she emphasizes the importance of protein for women as we age:


“...to extent possible, every meal [should be] a protein-rich meal. Of course, with protein, it can be the meat and fish or eggs. But it should also include your plant-based proteins, like soya and lentils, chickpeas and your grains like quinoa, nuts and seeds… Really think about getting in your protein with every meal and snack. We need protein for so many different things and it’s crucial for balancing your blood sugar, which will help reduce your sugar cravings.


We also need protein to support our muscle function and muscle tone, because after menopause transition, most of us have lost about 40% of our muscle mass, so protein will help with that. We need strong muscles to keep us fit as we grow older to help with balance and reduce our risk of falls, and also support our bone health.”


A regular intake of Vitamin D can be helpful in alleviating many of the most frustrating symptoms linked to perimenopause, including depression and weight gain. Vitamin D has also proven effective in helping to manage hypertension and Type II diabetes -- conditions which disproportionately affect Black women.


While moderate exposure to direct sunlight is one of the best and most efficient ways to get a regular intake of Vitamin D, Black and South Asian women tend to have lower levels of Vitamin D, due to a darker skin pigmentation. And with shorter days and more time indoors, you can ensure you’re getting in your daily dose of Vitamin D by taking an over-the-counter supplement (I currently take 1000 IUs per day).


If you’re unsure of how many daily units to take, you can ask your doctor or pharmacist. You can also get your daily intake through limited foods like, fortified milks and cereals, and fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines.


Stay hydrated and moisturize… During menopause transition our skin loses some ability to hold water and can get pretty dry. This can be especially noticeable and uncomfortable when the air is cold and dry. In addition to drinking plenty of water each day, Dermatologists recommend that as we get older, we use a mild cleanser on our skin instead of soap. And using a fragrance-free moisturizer after showering can help keep our skin hydrated and reduce irritation.


Personally, I’ve always struggled with dry skin – and had a bad time with eczema when I was growing up. Although I eventually outgrew it, I’ve been pretty discerning about what I put on my skin, sticking almost exclusively to Dove soap and Aquaphor over the years. However, earlier this month I was inspired to try a couple of moisturizing products from the new stateomenopause line, largely because of their focus on menopause transition and their commitment to designing products with and for women across a diverse spectrum.


I have to say that after just a couple of weeks, I’m a big fan of the Whipped Body Cream (an 8oz. container retails for $24) and the CBD Body Oil (the 4oz. spray retails for $38). I’ve been using the fragrance-free body cream right after I get out of the shower and my skin feels soft and (I want to say supple, but won’t) hydrated for hours after. I REALLY LOVE the body oil, which has a very faint, but pleasant fragrance. I’ve been using it on my hands several times a day – mostly after hand washing – which is more times than I can count in the midst of COVID-19. Thanks to my new friends at State Of, Menopause Made Modern subscribers will get 20% off of your first order when you use the MenopauseMadeModern promo code.

Spirit

A couple of months ago I invested in an annual subscription to Shine. They were offering a discounted rate of $35 for one year -- which is just under $3 per month -- so I decided to try it out (BTW, they’re currently running a Black Friday promotion on their site for the same rate). In all fairness to Calm, I’ve evolved on my general principle of not paying for apps when I can get a seemingly comparable service for free. But even more so, I’ve come to appreciate the practice of mindfulness as a lifestyle approach to better managing my overall well-being and something worth investing in (though I continue to struggle with daily practice).


I was compelled to invest in Shine, because it’s woman-owned and its programming is designed and produced, inclusive of women of color…and because they kept showing up in my Instagram feed (I can personally attest to the effectiveness of their marketing). Technically, this entry could also go under “mind” along with the other “meditation” resources, but ultimately, I logged it under spirit, because of the thoughtful and intentional curation of content that resonates with me personally, including their libraries dedicated to Black mental health and managing during COVID-19.


You can select from a range of guided meditations based on how you’re feeling or the time of day. The meditations and affirmations also vary in length – making it convenient to work into your lifestyle. I’m currently loving “Morning Mindset,” which reminds me to be accepting of myself as I am, and to be intentional in thinking and bringing about the kind of day I’d like to have.


These were just a few things that came to mind as I thought about how I’m 'winterizing' my menopause. Metaphor aside, it’s really just another reminder to be thoughtful and intentional about our self-care as we head into a time of year that can be more challenging for some of us.



With the close of World Menopause Month, it’s only fitting to take some time to reflect back on its purpose and the meaning of it all. It was just a year ago that I even became aware of it, and with so many arbitrary and made up recognition days and months (October was also National Pizza Month), I was pretty skeptical of its significance. I mean, really, who’s heard of it and why is it a thing? And exactly who and how is it helping? Even so, I went about posting and sharing different calls-to-action on my social accounts, feeling obliged by the symbolism of it all.

Fast-forward one year, and my skepticism has evolved to genuine intrigue, and dare I say, hope. Last month alone, I learned about, and connected with, some AMAZING women around the world who are doing substantial work not just to grow awareness and normalize conversation, but build and fuel a menopause marketplace that serves the broad spectrum of women’s needs. I’ve happened upon some pretty bold and brilliant efforts (new and existing) being led by women who are committed to addressing menopause openly and embedding it within the systems that recognize and support it as a fundamental life and health stage. And with the discovery of each new voice, I’ve become much clearer on World Menopause Month and why it’s so important.

According to the FemAging 2020 Tech report, the global population of women 40+ is growing daily, and an estimated 1.1 billion women will be of perimenopausal age by 2025. A recent report by the Female Founders Fund estimates that menopause presents a $600 billion market opportunity for businesses catering to women in mid-life. We represent a powerful and influential consumer segment and it’s high-time that menopause be elevated to the same level of education as menarche,* and regarded with the same care and attention (not to mention, investment) that our society puts toward fertility.

While most of us can agree that this is worthwhile and important every month throughout the year, World Menopause Month provides a point in time in which we can rally together and put a heightened focus on an issue that we’ll all go through, and is life-changing for so many. It’s an opportunity to amplify each other’s voices and share resources that have helped (and are helping) us get through. And to be reminded, that we’re not alone in this. It’s through our respective and collective efforts and the sharing of our individual stories, that we’re able to process our own experiences and help make it better for others. We can celebrate each other’s successes and learn from each other, all the while, shifting the traditional whispers of desperation and shame, into unabashed roars and unified calls to MAKE IT BETTER.

So, I come away from this year’s month of recognition inspired by the groundswell, and optimistic about the future of menopause for women and those affected by it. In the past year, we’ve seen more women-led, mid-life focused ventures emerge: more digital clinics and health providers, like Vera, Femality Health and Evernow; more information and content producers, like Alva, Gen M and Menopause What Works?; more research, like FemAging 2020 and Women Living Better; more influencers and advocates, like Omisade Burney-Scott and Karen Arthur; more wellness products and services, like State of Menopause and Tabu; and more mentors and advisors, like Charlie Harris Reid and Pamela Windle. All leading to greater coverage by the mainstream media and awareness among investors.

No doubt, we’re making progress -- and with all of this “more,” the needs and stories of women of color around the world are still disappointingly under-served and under-represented. So, my hope – and growing expectation – is that the year ahead will bring us more Black, Latina, and Asian voices who are not only contributing to the conversations on menopause, but shaping, influencing and benefitting from the billion dollar marketplace it represents.

*Note: I was last week years old (i.e., 46) before I learned that menarche is pronounced MEN-ar-kee and NOT Men-arch. Not sure why, but my mind was kinda blown and I felt compelled to share.


I recently had a conversation with a group of friends about self-care and what it means to each of us. We are a group of women from different backgrounds with different perspectives, so of course our thinking about this topic was no different. But for me, the thing I remember was struggling to feel connected to what was being said.

As I think back to the conversation, I realize something: for me, self-care is very much related to self-love. In many ways, I think I use them interchangeably. So, in the conversation with my friends, I struggled because I was not able to separate the two. To me, self-care isn’t just about taking care of yourself – making yourself look good, going to spas, walking etc. It’s more about listening to yourself and being attentive to not only what you need, but what you want.

Self-love is showing yourself kindness, care and most importantly, understanding. It’s about consciously choosing to put my needs and wants first. Doing what you want to do and not because you have to or are supposed to. It’s about trusting myself, believing in myself and treating myself with respect. Honestly, it’s something that I find very hard to do. I think this is why I think about self-care and self-love like twins.

I have been on a journey, as most of us have.

As a woman and mom of three, consciously communicating what I want and need over the years has been a struggle – and really, really hard. I remember a time when I didn’t even know what I wanted -- I couldn’t find the words. So, the concept of self-care felt foreign to me – and honestly, a bit selfish. It felt unattainable (and a little expensive), because I was lost and unfocused. It felt wrong for me to take care of me and put my needs first. It’s not that I’ve never done things that I’ve wanted to do, but I don’t think I communicated them very well, nor was I being honest with myself. Those things only happened after everyone else was taken care of.

I was never the priority.

The good news is I’ve learned. I have learned to say no, I have learned to establish boundaries that protect my well-being and I have learned to be unapologetic about standing up for myself. I’ve learned to make time for me – whether through exercise or spending time with my friends. Today I am a better wife, friend and mom because I have learned to love myself and take care of myself. The journey hasn’t been easy but I’ve gotten there…well, am getting there truthfully.

So, when I reflect back to my conversation with my friends, I would say “self-care” is about making your own needs a priority. Remember -- we are told to put on our mask first when faced with an emergency -- so we can help ourselves, and then help others.

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Aiyshen and her wife are working mom's of three -- two college students and an 11th grader.

menopause made modern

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