Empty nest and menopause

Maure Quilter's six nearly no-cost and practical ways that women can help themselves to feel better duing the peri-menopausal transition:

1) Handle your empty nest-do an inventory of your life. Mothers get absorbed with caring for their children and, when the nest empties, they often feel set adrift. It's an in-between place when roles and responsibilities shift. This is the perfect time to step back and do a mental inventory. You need a period of self-reflection before starting afresh with the second season of your life.

2) Good sleep-the cheapest medicine. Do whatever you can to get a good night's sleep. Sufficient rest is needed to restore body and mind during this period of hormonal change. Make sure the room is dark-even a small amount of light can disturb sleep. Try drinking herbal tea or having a light carbohydrate snack before retiring. When in bed, concentrate on relaxing your muscles and slowing your breathing. If your environment isn't helping, you may need to purchase a better mattress or a white noise machine. Finally, should insomnia persist, go to your doctor for a complete physical.

3) Do some form of gentle exercise daily. Try to build up to a minimum of thirty minutes at least five times per week. Experts say even 10 minutes at a stretch helps. If gym membership and personal trainers are out of the question, take the stairs whenever possible, dust and clean with gusto, stretch and dance to your favorite music, or find a TV exercise class that peps you up. Yoga and Pilates are also great ways to strengthen your body. Commit and give yourself this gift daily.

4) Remember your women friends. Going through the change can be stressful. Reaching out to others for advice and support is important. Seek out ways to meet both informally or on a more formal basis. Find a woman's group or form one of your own. Create a book club that involves sharing ideas and resources for common themes you are experiencing. Laughing and commiserating with one another is good for the soul.

5) Read articles. Check out the latest updates on women's health and peri-menopause. More magazine and O magazine seem to spark ideas. Use the Internet to gather information. Keeping abreast of current research helps you to better understand your own experience.

6) If your symptoms warrant it, ask your personal physician or girlfriends for a referral to a seasoned woman therapist. Interview several therapists on the phone until you feel you've found a good match. She may be your bridge to ZEST and ZIP or your kind and helpful guide.

Eileen Williams' six keys to making the most of this time of your life:

1) Fill your "nest" with new interests. As your children move out to create lives of their own, you are freed up to follow your own pursuits. Their drive for separation and independence helps you to develop your own more fully. You can become attuned to your own interests and activities, and focus on your own set of accomplishments. Take a class, take up painting, spend more time with your friends, travel-this is YOUR time.

2) Embrace the change. Focus on the positive aspects of growing older. Rather than an ending, in many ways, menopause marks a time of beginning. As our estrogen stores drop, so does their inhibiting effect on our testosterone levels, so the ratio of these hormones shifts. A number of our attitudes and behaviors change and we generally exhibit greater needs for independence, self-assertion, and mastery. Menopause is a time of energy, emotional equilibrium, and an urge for self-expression. Therefore, use your revitalized drive and your menopausal zest to create the life you want.

3) Reclaim your SELF. As women, we have spent much of our lives nurturing and taking care of others. Menopause is the major biomarker that shifts your focus from being there for everyone else to addressing your own goals and dreams. This is the time to fully express yourself both in your opinions and your creative outlets. So, ask yourself the following: What are the ways you see yourself changing? How are you honoring your own voice? In which ways are you expressing yourself creatively? Spend some time on self-reflection in preparation for the second season of life.

4) Evaluate your values. In order to make the best choices for yourself (evaluate), it is necessary to become very clear about what is important to you at this time in your life (your values). Values are sometimes called "windows to the soul." As such, they are the clues to uncovering your passion and to living life with purpose. What will you need to do to feel fulfilled? Maybe you want more time for yourself or time with friends. Perhaps, you crave more variety and excitement. Whatever it is, take some time and determine your personal definition of satisfaction and success as you embark on this new transition.

5) Revitalize your life--have the courage to try new and exciting things. This is the time to step away from the protective, but limiting, life you may have created for yourself in your younger years. We are the trailblazers in our own lives and menopause marks the stage to take risks and welcome change. Stepping out of the box can be frightening but it can also bring forth tremendous energy, enhanced self-esteem, and a renewed joy in living.

6) Live with gratitude. Rather than mourn the loss of youth, choose to create and manifest a life of meaning and substance. Menopause is a wonderful time in a woman's life, and what better legacy could we leave our loved ones than to come into our mature, feminine fullness, enjoy ourselves, and try to change the world for the better? Start a gratitude journal and come up with three things you are grateful for on a daily basis. This little exercise will shift your focus and help you notice the many positive aspects of your life.

About Maure Quilter:
Maure Quilter, MFT has been in private practice as a therapist for more than 20 years. She works with individuals who are experiencing anxiety, depression, grief, loss and other mental health concerns. Over her career, she's counseled hundreds of women dealing symptoms of peri-menopause. These range from general malaise and feeling out of sorts to full-blown depression. She helps her clients to address issues such as empty nest, painful memories, divorce and separation, bereavement, stress and conflict resolution.

Experiencing her own menopausal zest, Maure went back to school for a second Master's Degree and received her therapist's license at the age of fifty.

About Eileen Williams:
Eileen Williams, MA, NCC has appeared twice on View From the Bay. She has over eighteen years combined experience as a career and life transition counselor, workshop facilitator, university instructor, and writer. As a Nationally Board Certified Counselor with a Master's Degree in Career Development, she specializes in working with individuals facing career and life planning issues. Over her career, she's helped hundreds of midlife women deal with concerns that surface during this life stage, and assisted them to make informed, successful, and rewarding life choices.

She is a contributing author to Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause and has the top ranking blog for "baby boomer women over fifty" called the Feisty Side of Fifty. Eileen heartily believes in celebrating one's advancing years with spirit, sass, gratitude, and humor and through her counseling, speaking, and writing, she encourages others to do the same.

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