Friday, December 23, 2011

A Menopause Carol

By E, Author of Shmirshky, The Pursuit to Hormone Happiness

It’s a cold winter night and the town is buzzing with holiday cheer. The lampposts are decorated with wreaths and red bows, doorways are adorned with just a bit of mistletoe, and the smell of pine trees and cinnamon fills the air. If, as the saying goes, this is the most wonderful time of the year, why are you feeling like Scrooge? Could it be because your hot flashes make you hate fireplaces, your brain replays “Jingle Bell Rock” when you can’t sleep at night, and your irritability makes you want to punch anyone who has the nerve to wear any shade of red or green? Don’t let your menopause chain you down (the Marley brothers will tell you it’s not worth it)! Three ghosts will visit you—the Ghost of Menopause Past, the Ghost of Menopause Present, and the Ghost of Menopause Yet to Come.

The Ghost of Menopause Past: Welcome to your memory. Have you been missing it? If you’re going through perimenopause or menopause, odds are you have been. Over the holidays, lucky families will reunite to spend quality time together, baking cookies, going on walks, and sharing memories. It’s the perfect time for the different generations in your family to talk about how to deal with your body’s changes during menopause. The Ghost of Menopause Past can be anyone who has already gone through it and with whom you feel comfortable talking about your experiences. Talk to your mother or your aunts. Though every woman’s experience is different, it is comforting to be able to share with your family.

Most women have never talked with their moms about menopause because menopause has always been taboo and it can be an awkward thing to bring up (“So, I’ve been experiencing memory loss lately and I can’t remember your name... Remind me?”). Baby boomer parents often aren’t used to discussing such personal matters. The best advice: jump right in. This woman had you in her womb for nine months, changed your diapers, and may have helped you with some really awkward situations while you were going through puberty. She knows you, she knows her body best, and knowing the history women in your family have with bodily changes like menopause will help you perfect your path to hormone happiness.

The Ghost of Menopause Present: How do you feel? No, really! How do you feel? Listen to what your body is telling you. We have the tendency, especially over the holidays, to lose ourselves in the hustle and bustle. So many women are used to operating at feeling 80% or less that they forget 100% is possible. You can achieve 100% a number of ways now. Step one is tracking your symptoms so you can detect patterns. Finding a doctor that specializes in perimenopause and menopause is the next step. Ask your doctor about tests you should consider taking. With those results and your symptoms chart, you may decide, with the help of your menopause doctor, that you’d like to try using hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Bioidentical HRT is a great way to ease menopause symptoms. Here is a great list of questions to ask your provider if that’s the route you want to take.

Some women are looking to herbal remedies as alternatives or complements to treatment. These may or may not be beneficial and I urge you to be guided by a qualified menopause specialist when trying them, with your symptoms chart and blood tests in mind. Some integrated medicine specialists recommend trying soy products for their potential to ease some of the common menopause symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats or vaginal dryness. Dr. Gordon Saxe, Director of Research and an integrative physician at the UC San Diego Center for Integrative Medicine, explains the difference between healthy soy products and soy products to avoid. It is important to understand the difference (read the article about it here).

Whatever path(s) you choose, consider throwing a Menopause Party. Women across the country are hosting parties because it’s a fun, easy way to share information and resources. Moreover, you will leave with a wonderful new support system to help you on your individual path to hormone happiness. With friends and family in town for the holidays, gathering your loved ones is easy and surviving the holidays is even easier (just check the Menopause Holiday Survival Guide).

The Ghost of Menopause Yet to Come: This ghost (think Casper) embodies the great life you can have when you’re proactive about seeking the help you deserve. This is a game-changer! It’s your self-empowered future as well as the future of the next generation of perimenopausal women. We’ve come a long way from girdles and curlers. It’s time to educate young women so they have it easier than we might have. Being prepared and communicating are the keys to breaking the taboo that has loomed over perimenopause and menopause. Remember talking to your kids about sex? This is way less awkward than that!

By taking steps toward hormone happiness, you will take the “Bah! Humbug!” right out of your life. Live your life in the past, present and future. Learn from your past and use the resources you have available, ask a menopause specialist anything and everything, and prepare your daughter, daughters-in-law, and nieces for what they may experience. Then smile, open the window to the snow (or the sunshine if you are in the Sunbelt), buy a huge turkey, step up and speak up. You are not alone. There are 50 million women in the United States in menopause (not to mention all of those in perimenopause). Remember: Reaching out is IN. Suffering in silence is OUT!

Celebrate yourself along with the holidays!

“E" is the pen name of Ellen Sarver Dolgen, author of Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness - a cut-to-the-chase book on perimenopause and menopause (PM&M), filled with crucial information and hilarious and heartfelt stories. It condenses a confusing, daunting medical topic into an easy-to-understand, purse-sized guide which can be used as a reference throughout your PM&M experience. Reading Shmirshky is like getting a big, comforting hug from a dear friend who happens to know a lot about menopause! Visit for everything you wanted to know about perimenopause and menopause but were afraid to ask!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Can Your Holiday Anxiety Have a Benefit?

By Dr. Ellen Diana, Ph.D., Psychologist & Educator

Can anxiety have benefits? Christmas, Hanukkah, and the New Year are fast approaching and along with them often come high levels of anxiety. Worries emerge, to name a few, over shopping for just the right gifts, preparing for family get-togethers, fielding conflicts over competing needs of friends and family, and trying to make this year’s event “the best one ever.” All these worries and concerns take their toll and lead to stress and anxiety. Anxiety has traditionally been viewed as negative but can anxiety ever be beneficial?

An article by Alice Park in the December 5th issue of Time magazine states that anxiety can be positive as well as negative. The author cited the advantage of anxiety in creativity, sports performance, and acting. The boost of energy that comes with anxiety, in these instances, can spur individuals on to their highest performance. So can anxiety be a friend as well as an enemy? Ms. Park notes that the hormones that drive anxiety can stimulate the senses to function at their peaks.

The key to managing anxiety is to recognize that anxiety is, in and of itself, neither positive nor negative, but that it’s an individual’s response to it that determines the effect. So, if you feel a burst of energy associated with planning holiday events, then any anxiety which accompanies this energy feels helpful and positive. If, however, you look ahead to holiday events with stomach-churning trepidation, you’re not likely to derive any benefit.

Anxiety occurs when an individual senses danger and, in cases where danger is actually lurking, it keeps you safe. There isn’t likely to be any danger associated with holiday events unless you’re interpreting it as a protracted dinner conversation with a long-winded uncle, or maintaining a cheerful smile while consuming grandma’s inedible turkey stuffing.

To enjoy the holidays to the fullest:

• Keep events in perspective;

• Avoid catastrophizing;

• Ask for support when needed; and

• Recognize, most important of all that you are in charge of your reactions.

Use and manage the adrenaline boost of anxiety. Make a decision to enjoy the holidays and stay focused and single-minded about this goal.

Happy Holidays!

Have you taken the free assessment at Act now to get your personalized course reccomendations!

About the Author:

Ellen Diana is a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist with 30 years’ experience working with children, adults, couples, and families in schools and in private practice in Phoenix, Arizona. She has published a number of articles in scholarly journals on psychology and education, and co-authored five self-help books in the Charge Up Your Life series. Helping women to evolve into their best selves through personal growth and self-awareness is a passion of hers. Ellen raised three successful children as a single parent and so has special interests in mentoring other women in transition and helping parents to raise resilient children. Contact Ellen at or through her website

Monday, December 19, 2011

Financial Resolutions for the New Year

By Renee Hanson, Private Wealth Advisor

The New Year is fast approaching, are you ready to get your finances in order for 2012? If so, here are some tips to get started:

1. Create a budget.
By setting and tracking income and expense categories, you not only keep your current finances organized, you can also set the wheels in motion for reaching long-term goals like buying a new house or financing college.

2. Make it automatic.
You’ll have fewer details to worry about by automating as many financial chores as possible. For example, you may be able to eliminate trips to the bank with automatic payroll deposit. Automating your monthly bills for things like cable, electricity and trash removal can also save you hours of valuable free time each month.

3. Inventory your assets.
A financial inventory provides a useful snapshot of your assets so you can understand where you are now and what you must do to reach your goals.

4. File important documents.
In addition to your financial inventory, keep other important documents like tax returns and statements from investment accounts organized and accessible. You’ll also want to keep insurance policies, wills, trust documents and other important paperwork safe and available to those who may need them.

5. Computerize the process.
There are a variety of software packages and on-line resources available to help you keep your financial life organized. Most of them are very inexpensive – and some are even free.

With the basics in order, you can focus more clearly on all the things you’d like to accomplish in 2012!

Want to learn more easy to implement tips to reach financial success? Become a member of today and check out out interactive courses on budgeting and saving!

Renée A. Hanson, CFP®, CEP®, CDFA™, CFS, is a private wealth advisor with Hanson, Ayala & Associates, a private wealth advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. Her passion is in helping women achieve their dreams and financial goals, regardless of life’s many obstacles. Renée is licensed/registered to do business with U.S. residents only in the states of AZ, CA, CO, GA, IA, IL, MI, MN, MT, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, PA, SC, TX, VA, WA, WI. Please visit: to learn more. Ameriprise Financial does not provide tax or legal advice. Consult your tax advisor or attorney. Brokerage, investment and financial advisory services are made available through Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA and SIPC. Some products and services may not be available in all jurisdictions or to all clients. © 2011 Ameriprise Financial, Inc. All rights reserved.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Holiday Survival Guide

Dealing with menopause with the extra added holiday stress.

By E, Author of Shmirshky: Pursuit of Hormone Happiness

If you’ve stepped outside at all since mid-October, you’re well aware that it’s coming. The holiday season—the tornado of wish lists, baking, family reunions, and house cleaning, with a 90% chance of stressor thunderstorms. You may find yourself building a mental bomb shelter to avoid the incoming ribbon, tempting cuisine, and raucous of silver bells. If you’re experiencing menopause concurrently with the holidays, highs could be in the low 100s, and emotional lows could come in high frequency.

You can now safely emerge from your bomb shelter, keeping these tips for survival close at hand. Above all, remember to BREATHE.

Be kind to yourself

Chances are you are your biggest critic. Your personal standard is higher than anyone else’s standard for you, and you want everything this holiday season to be perfect. As a menopausal woman, you may be on an emotional roller coaster, experiencing what feels like insanity. Put down those mental ward brochures. Listen to your body, track your symptoms, find a perimenopause and menopause (I call it PM&M) specialist and give yourself a break. What you are going through is normal.

Reaching out is IN

Holidays bring families and friends together. Tensions rise with pressures to clean the house, make meals, and buy gifts. This year, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Any little thing a family member can contribute helps, whether it’s decorating cookies or curling ribbon. Furthermore, take this family reunion as an opportunity to talk with your mother or daughter about your experience with PM&M. Busting open the conversation about menopause is a way to learn from your mother and prepare your daughter. Reaching out is IN. Suffering in silence is OUT.


November and December are prime pound-packing months. Turkey, ham, stuffing, creamed corn, gingerbread, mashed potatoes and cookies are just too delightful to pass up. You may be reluctant to indulge after putting on a few pounds as a result of menopause, but shrink the little sumo wrestler inside your head that’s reinforcing negative thoughts. Go on a brisk walk with a family member. Catch up on each other’s lives—how often do you get the chance to talk with your son or daughter and burn calories at the same time? Plus, in this chilly weather, your body has to work harder to keep it’s temperature up, burning calories more quickly! Remember: Be kind to yourself and prepare for a sumo-free new year.

Adopt tweezers

As you go through menopause, your hair is thinning and you’re freaking out. You know you’re going to be pulling your hair out anyway when your in-laws come to town, and you’re an inch away from putting a “wig” on your holiday wish list. What’s worse is that those missing hairs are resurfacing on your chin! Breathe. Hair loss is a common symptom of PM&M. Buy some tweezers and keep them with you so you’re always prepared for surprises. As for the hairs you’ve lost, be sure to get your thyroid levels checked. Once you balance those, you’ll have plenty of hair designated for pulling.

Take notes with reminders to relax

Mental to-do lists are difficult enough to keep track of during the holidays. Memory loss is one of the most common challenges perimenopausal and menopausal women face. Not only might you forget what your son wanted, you may forget your son’s name! Buy yourself some post-it notes–they will become your best friends in PM&M and they will help you focus on one thing at a time. In addition to writing tasks, remind yourself to relax.

Help your heat

Outside temperatures may be down, but your personal temperature is likely keeping you toasty. Even in the snow you’re sure you’d be able to go outside in shorts and a tank top, and hot flashes can be extra frustrating over the holidays when everyone else wants the heat turned up. 85% of women approaching menopause in the U.S. experience hot flashes of some kind, which can be caused by hormonal fluctuations. See your PM&M specialist about hormone replacement options. It’s helpful to be aware of the typical hot flash instigators, some of which are alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods, stress, and smoking.

Everything will work out

With all the holiday commotion, you may find it difficult to turn your brain off for a good night’s sleep. Insomnia is also a natural symptom of PM&M. Lack of sleep can make you even more stressed, depressed, and grumpy than you already are. Find a PM&M specialist (this may not be the doctor that delivered your babies) that can help you find a personalized path to hormone happiness. In the meantime, adopt the mantra, “Everything will work out.” Holidays are not about stress—they are about being thankful and happy. Everything will work out if you trust that it will. Remember to breathe and repeat your mantra, and you might just hypnotize yourself to sleep.

How will you remind yourself to BREATHE this holiday season?

About “E”
"E" is the pen name of Ellen Sarver Dolgen, author of Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness—a cut-to-the-chase book on perimenopause and menopause that's filled with crucial information, helpful guides, and hilarious and heartfelt stories. Known for her humor, compassion, and sassy personality, E has appeared on numerous television and radio broadcasts, including: the “Rachael Ray Show,” “The Doctors,” Oprah Radio, Playboy Radio, “Tell Me More” on NPR, Doctor Radio, and dozens of other regional and national media outlets. She appears monthly as a menopause and women's wellness guest on KSWB Fox 5 Morning News San Diego and is a regular guest on the popular radio show, “Broadminded,” on Sirius XM Radio (Stars XM 107). E is also one of the first regular contributors to debut on the Huffington Post’s latest site, Huff/Post50. When E isn’t promoting women’s health and wellness, she’s busy trying her best not to eat all the ice cream in the freezer.

About Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness
The book, Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness is your perimenopause and menopause (PM&M) toolkit. It condenses a confusing and daunting medical topic into an easy-to-understand, purse-sized guide that can be used as a reference throughout your PM&M experience. Reading Shmirshky is like getting a big, comforting hug from a dear friend who happens to know a lot about menopause!

Oh, and by the way, "shmirshky" (pronounced SHMERSH-KEY) is a playful name for vagina and the women who possess them. Visit for everything you wanted to know about perimenopause and menopause but were afraid to ask!