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!

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