Chaos to Calm

Navigating Perimenopause Together: A Guide for Partners, Friends + Family

August 20, 2023 Sarah McLachlan
Chaos to Calm
Navigating Perimenopause Together: A Guide for Partners, Friends + Family
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Are you equipped to support the women in your life as they navigate through the often misunderstood stage of perimenopause? Let's be real here, there's much more we can do to understand the hormonal upheaval and changes that women go through during perimenopause. This episode is all about breaking down societal attitudes and misconceptions, identifying the how to be a great support, and showcasing how to be an effective ally during this pivotal life phase. 

Discover practical ways to help create a supportive environment, from active listening to meal preparation, and even celebrating the small victories. We delve into self-care necessities like wholesome food, restful sleep and the pursuit of a purposeful life, all while acknowledging the mood swings and changes that come with perimenopause. By understanding and spreading awareness, we can take steps to ensure that perimenopause becomes a positive and empowering phase of life. Join our conversation and let's start making a difference!

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Sarah McLachlan  00:03

Hey there. I'm Sarah McLachlan. Thanks for joining me on the chaos to calm podcast, a podcast designed for women over 40 who think that changing hormones might be messing with their mood, metabolism and energy and want to change that in a healthy, sustainable and permanent way. Each episode we'll explore topics related to health and wellness for women in their 40s. Like what the heck is happening to your hormones, what to do about it with nutrition, lifestyle and stress management, and inspiring conversations with guests sharing their insights and tips on how to live your best life in your 40s and beyond. So if you're feeling like you're in the midst of a hormonal storm, and don't want perimenopause to be horrific, then join me on chaos to calm as I share with you how to make it to menopause without it wrecking your relationships and life. 

 

Sarah McLachlan  00:59

Hello, and welcome to episode number 21 of chaos to calm. We are talking today about being partners in perimenopause. And yes, this episode might be more for the people around you. But I also think there's lots of juicy stuff for you to think about as well. So just start with I want you to think that to the days of puberty, you know, think back to the confusion, the chaos Who am I? What do I want to be? It's pretty hectic, right? In your bodies and many of you probably listening, would have teens going through puberty right now. And you know, something that we do as a society and in our culture is we often make allowances for teens in puberty. We make allowances for their mood swings, the churlish behavior, the growing pains. But when it comes to us in perimenopause, and look, perimenopause has a lot of parallels with puberty. And we will talk about some of those today. But there's often a lack of empathy or understanding or any of those allowances for women in perimenopause. 

 

Sarah McLachlan  02:23

So wonder if you've ever considered that difference in the attitudes or the treatment between puberty and perimenopause, I want you to hold that thought as we go in because I'm going to start by talking about the contrast between puberty and perimenopause and the support particularly and considerations. So let's start by looking at the common ground between puberty and perimenopause, both the times of significant and tremendous hormonal changes there, you know, leading to physical emotional upheavals. I always say teens become like giant toddlers with a larger and meaner vocabulary in puberty, because they can be harsh. And I'm not saying that's how we should be. And we should be given, you know, carte blanche to be like that. But I do want to highlight that the brain changes and the rewiring, that they're going through are really similar to what you're going through in perimenopause and into menopause there as well, yet, but without the allowances there. And, you know, why is that? Why is society's response to these two really similar significant life events, so different? 

 

Sarah McLachlan  03:37

It's so focused on youth and reproduction and the capacity to to create other people, children, that we forget about how significant and wonderful the other end is. That's what you know, maybe I'm not saying it. How I want to today, perimenopause, or menopause brain kicking in here for me. But why why is that the way it is? We're so focused on youth and fertility and, and beauty, we forget about the beauty, or we don't see the beauty in moving into this next phase of becoming, you know, a mature woman. Anyway, let's keep talking about it. Let's dive dive in. I'm on a roll here today.

 

Sarah McLachlan  04:32

But I wanted to talk more you know about how we nurture our teens during puberty, because these are all like springboards. I want you to start thinking about how you nurture yourself or if you're a partner or an ally, you know, a man or a woman around a perimenopause or person, how can you help support them so that they have a perimenopause experience and that isn't horrific than actually is really wonderful transformational life affirming time. 

 

Sarah McLachlan  05:03

So you think about our teen, we let them sleep in, we understand we make allowances for this sudden outburst. Maybe we even indulge them in their favorite foods or comfort foods and that sort of thing. You know, like in our family, I remember adjusting our routine to make space for my daughter's changing needs, while also most of the time ignoring my own changing needs. Because that was another thing. She she was going through puberty, while I was going through perimenopause, actually doing a whole another podcast episode on that in the future, with another woman who's, you know, in the same boat, and many of you are in that boat now, because we have our children later. Anyway, it was a real family effort around that. My husband had to stop being annoying. That was probably harder for him than it was for me, making sure we ate dinner earlier so that my child could go to bed earlier, that have a thing, you know, how did these concessions make teenagers going through puberty makes the transition easier? We make a lot, don't we? Imagine if we applied the same and the same amount of empathy towards women in perimenopause? How different would your life be? 

 

Sarah McLachlan  06:14

I remember my 16 might want- they're now 16, but they were getting really frustrated with me about being forgetful while I talked with them while I was in perimenopause. They hadn't really talked about being in perimenopause with them because, you know, other reasons I'll go into. But I also had forgotten to do something that was important to them. And I did feel really bad that I'd let them down, but also what my child needed to hear, and so did the rest of my family and my friends and people around me was that I was struggling, and that I actually needed some grace and space to be able to show up how they were used to, you know, my brain was going through this upheaval, but I still had adult responsibilities that kept me from being able to sleep as long as I wanted to, or or that lighten my load. Or, you know, I couldn't just chill out as much as I needed to. 

 

Sarah McLachlan  07:07

So let's talk about that need, we really need that similar support during perimenopause, I really strongly feel that it is a significant phase. Why don't we extend similar understanding and an empathy? Just like we help our teens I want us to reflect on how we can support ourselves, but other women in this critical life stage. So yeah, this episode is in part for you, as a perimenopausal woman or someone wondering that maybe you're in perimenopause. It's also for those people around you and to help you bring them on board as ours. So I want you to think about you yourself, other women around you going through perimenopause, what would benefit you? What, what would help you to have a smoother or a better experience of perimenopause because let's remember, it doesn't have to be horrific. It's not just oh, well, I have to just put up with it. Hopefully, it'll be over and done with soon. It's not that at all. And that's the thing once I started recognizing my needs, and then voicing them, things really changed for me. 

 

Sarah McLachlan  08:16

And I always think it's worth thinking about and talking about how the research the scientific research tells us that non-western countries that have a deeper respect and reverence for mature menopausal women, they also don't have the symptoms of perimenopause that we do. It's so interesting. So let's talk about the first step of creating or being a good ally in perimenopause.

 

Sarah McLachlan  08:45

I think the first step is understanding what is perimenopause? What can it look like? How does it be? So a lot of people might not really understand what happens in perimenopause, they're only thinking about menopause and, and associating that with old women. But, you know, it is a natural stage in our life. It does mark a shift, you know, we're moving between one phase of life to the other end, it is really transitional, there is a lot of change, but remembering it can start anywhere from your late 30s to 40s. That's something important for people to know. 

 

Sarah McLachlan  09:22

And another thing, newsflash, especially in the early phases, it's more than hot flushes and mood swings, or, you know, it's essential for anyone wanting to be an ally or great support to understand this phase deeply. When so, you know, that's something that you can get, I can go back and listen to earlier podcasts. I've gone through what is perimenopause, what it involves the different symptoms. So, you know, just thinking about basics that they need to know, gradually producing less estrogen, and that can lead to numerous physical, emotional and hormonal changes. And let's not forget about progesterone there as well. There's a whole raft have different changes. And it's really important to remember, like I was saying that I've said in other episodes, these changes will be unique to you. So it's important for the people around you that you tell them what's going on for you, from that perspective, what symptoms are bothering you, how are you being impacted, you know, those hormonal fluctuations, the changes in estrogen and progesterone and other hormones to a what lead to the symptoms and, you know, insomnia, memory problems, changes in your energy levels, brain fog, you know, feeling irritated and angry and impatient. But then there's also physical pain as well. Itchy skin, heavy bleeding, there's all sorts of stuff that can go on. So don't forget, you can access my freebies as well, which will help you work out, well, are these symptoms related to perimenopause or not? And what phase are you in? 

 

Sarah McLachlan  10:54

What a great conversation opener! You could take, you know, discuss that with your family or, or with your friends. They might be surprised that you're in thinking about perimenopause, they might be surprised to find, oh, that they're in perimenopause as well. But yeah, it does impact you heavily we know that I find that with the symptoms, you know, brain fog, insomnia, all the many other things as well, they can impact your daily life, and impact how you show up. And when you're used to being on the ball. And you know, juggling lots of things at once, you can start to feel really frustrated and overwhelmed and disconnected from your family or from your friends. You know, feeling like you're there's something wrong with you or that, you know, they don't understand where you're at, but you could also become disconnected from yourself. And that's what I noticed as well, disconnection from ourselves in our symptoms. And it can be a great relief, when you connect with people through understanding what's going on, and you get support to talk about it and implement strategies to reduce that feeling. 

 

Sarah McLachlan  12:08

So your action step, I want you to educate yourself. If you've listened to my podcasts, go back and listen to those early primers on perimenopause and the hormone fluctuations. But share those as well with the people around you that will benefit from understanding about perimenopause knowledge is such a powerful tool, and it's so empowering. So let's start with that learning about that. 

 

Sarah McLachlan  12:32

Now, let's think about standing conversations and I said that you could use my freebie to help you with that dialogue is essential. It's I think, our generations role to really rise up and start talking about perimenopause and menopause and, and, and creating those conversations because, you know, when I was growing up as a, as a teen, we didn't really talk about periods or your menstrual cycle or anything, you know, perimenopause. I didn't even know that word as a teen. Menopause was for old ladies and they just got really crabby and angry and you kind of left them alone. And that was it. Yeah, when even when I first began to experience perimenopause, in my early 40s, opening up to my friends was hard. I felt, I think I felt shame. And, and I was worried that it made me old and I kind of didn't want to think about that as well. You know, that. That bogus myth that perimenopause means that you're old, it got to me, it gets to all of us, I'm sure because it's still part of that conversation. And I think that's we have to talk about it. So hey, I'm actually not old, but I am in perimenopause. And if we look at it as not being connected with aging or being old, then that's much easier to start opening up. And then when you do that, it can be liberating and comforting to find connection with other people feeling the same way as well. 

 

Sarah McLachlan  13:55

So I wonder how comfortable do you feel discussing perimenopause with your friends or family? And what do you think if you find it challenging? Why do you think that that is, and yeah, I think that we it's important for us to think about that and to then start coming overcoming those challenges or hurdles. I think the importance of talking about perimenopause is part of breaking that taboo. It is many people find it so uncomfortable to discuss topics related to your reproductive health. But when we openly discuss perimenopause, we can break down that stigma and that misconception associated with you, we can show everyone like we're not old. We you know, we still have a lot of purpose and joy and, you know, a lot to offer. And also, you know, talking it enhances your understanding or people's understanding of what's going on. We break down those stigmas. And we get to address our emotional needs. And that's so important, and I think it's so often falls by the wayside can really strengthen your relationships. 

 

Sarah McLachlan  14:59

So let's talk about some of these things, I want to talk about expressing your needs and emotions. Because I think that is a big thing for women in our generation that we don't always do. And this is how we can both help create great allies, but how someone can be a great ally as well. So communication is not just about talking bad about listening, which you're doing really well right now. But let's think about being active in that listening. 

 

Sarah McLachlan  15:27

Often, when we're having a discussion or expressing needs, we're not fully focused on understanding or or listening or hearing what the person is talking about. We might be thinking ahead to responding about what they're saying, or what we're going to say or what else we've got to do on our to do list today. So active listening is really mindful, really tuning into the person talking, you know, nodding, reflecting back what they've said to you asking follow up questions. And empathy is really key here as well. So one of the things I like to do with my clients is really help them to express their needs with clarity and empathy, and helping them practice how to say no, in a way that doesn't feel confrontational, or mean or any of those things. So yeah, we encourage them with their listening skills as well. And active listening can be a really great bridge to deeper understanding. So if you're an ally, practicing active listening, and empathetic communication, is really big for building that connection. And, you know, it's in the small affirmations and the genuine curiosity that we really connect with others. 

 

Sarah McLachlan  16:39

I wonder if you've ever used empathy with your kids, it's like empathy is like this hidden, magical tool. When you're working with kids. It's no different for the rest of us as humans. So empathy builds connection. So it is really important, I will talk about it a little bit more here because I want to talk about how to actively support people using understanding and empathy and, you know, perimenopause can feel really turbulent, if you've got things happening in your body can't always feel in control of what's going on in mood might be swinging around, you're irritated. Mostly, the daily demands of life and the busy life that many women live, contributes to those feelings and can make you feel overwhelmed. But this is where those allies around you, your partners, you know, husbands, kids, family, friends, they can make a huge difference. 

 

Sarah McLachlan  17:31

For you know, for partners, often most women bear the brunt of the host household management, let's be frank. And the emotional labor is huge when you're running a house and a family home. But this can become even harder in perimenopause and more overwhelming because your your brain is not functioning as it normally would or you're tired or you're not sleeping and things like that. So if people around you partners step in and assist with the household management mean, you know, maybe it's doing the meal plan or doing some cooking or shopping or handling school logistics and, and things like that. Don't wait to be asked, please? Be proactive and share that load. 

 

Sarah McLachlan  18:13

So what I also want to say is that, as women that our role in that in helping them take the load is to talk about what were our expectations are as well. So no silent treatments, no passive-aggressiveness. I think unexpressed or unwritten expectations are the fuel to the flames of rage in perimenopause. We really need to be clear and express what your expectations are. 

 

Sarah McLachlan  18:41

Brene Brown writes extensively about this in her books, the Gifts of Imperfection and Atlas of the Heart, to really great ones that talk about it. And, you know, when people don't know what our expectations are, it's hard for them to meet them. Once we tell them our expectations, though it is up to them to either do it or not. And that's their choice. And that's okay, we can't control or change them. But we can control and change what we do and how we approach the situation. So consider, you know, taking responsibility for your own needs. Be clear about your needs and your expectation. Like it's a practice that will help you in perimenopause, but it's going to help you in all aspects of life, especially dealing with teens. So, you know, anyone can think about that and do that. 

 

Sarah McLachlan  19:29

I know it's hard for us because as women in our generation, we've been conditioned to not express our needs and we're used to not having them met and it's hard work but it's so worth doing to overcome that there as well. So, yeah, so the mental load and and expressing your expectations or what you would like to do, makes a massive, massive difference there as well. 

 

Sarah McLachlan  19:56

So, really taking personal responsibility there and identifying what needs to be done for those allies if they can do that? Great, it'll be so helpful. 

 

Sarah McLachlan  20:06

Now let's talk about navigating mood swings and changes. Because I think what's important to know here is that you need to be patient. And don't take it personally, you know, if you're, if you're at work bearing the brunt of a mood swing, it's not about you. It's just, there's, you know, these hormone changes, there's fluctuations, things going on, there might be a whole lot of stuff underlying they're contributing to that mood change. If you can use some understanding and empathy, your relationship will really deepen rather than fracture. And I want to say here, like, you can use strategies like humor, but only if it's a joke that you both share, please don't use humor, or at the expense of the person with the mood change that doesn't work. 

 

Sarah McLachlan  20:53

Active listening and empathy really shine here and take a break in a heated moment, you know, it's okay to say I need a break, can we come back to this later, either you or the other person as well. Maybe you might have agree on a statement or, or a key word that you say, when you want to take a break.

 

Sarah McLachlan  21:15

But yeah, definitely don't use humor at the expense of the person. If they're already irritated me, you are gonna regret that for a long time. So something else I want to say is it to be a good support is make sure your perimenopausal person is looked after, get the basics in place, quality food that nourishes the body kept and keeps your blood sugar levels stable, like fluctuating blood sugar levels, when we talk about being hungry, or we joke about it, but seriously, it will mess with your mood, and make you super snappy, can also contribute to insomnia. So there's a lot to be said for making sure that you're eating three meals a day, and they're balanced for the nutrients that you need, like protein and fats and some carbohydrates. 

 

Sarah McLachlan  22:04

Sleep, you know, let's make sure that women around us are getting sleep and not overloaded on with work thinking, you know, waking up thinking and worrying about things. We need sunshine movement, joy, a sense of purpose connection, we can feel like what is you know, what's what am I doing? What's the purpose? What, what do I want from life? As you move through it, you're moving through to menopause? Because it is a big change? Who am I if I'm not, you know, parenting, or only focused on parenting, or what do I want from this next phase of life, really important to encourage that conversation and with the women around you, especially in this phase of life. 

 

Sarah McLachlan  22:47

So many of these can be missing, especially at this stage, because it is, I reckon, the busiest phase of your life of a woman's life without a doubt, most stressful, busiest. So as your hormones are changing, and your stress resilience is decreasing, we've got the busiest phase and often looking after yourself falls by the wayside at this time, because it feels like just another thing to do. But I'm I reckon, let's get the people around us helping us and reminding us how to look after ourselves. And, you know, this can be something that people in your household can really do for you is you know, make you a cup of tea or make you breakfast or, or help out with food and meal prepping, so that there is stuff in the fridge there for you to eat. 

 

Sarah McLachlan  23:36

So let's talk about some more about that in expressing our needs. Because it's really important if you want to encourage people to be a supportive ally, that they need to know how to help you as well or what will work for you because perimenopause is kind of unique to each of us. So, you know, give yourself and others the confidence to express your needs and educate each other. Give yourself the words around it as well. So instead of saying, you know, you never listen to me when I talk about this or my symptoms or how I'm feeling. Maybe you might say something like, I'm feeling overwhelmed by my perimenopause symptoms, and it would you know, I'd really like to sit down and talk about what am I experiencing and get some help on, on changing how I'm feeling? Can we find a time to do that? So it you know, focuses on how you're feeling and rather than putting blame onto someone else, and you know, sharing this podcast might be a great starting point to help someone understand what to do or how they can help you.

Sarah McLachlan  24:39

So I think a good thing that we can do is share some info and insights about perimenopause with at least one other person each week. But, you know, start this week start today. Think about your personal experience and and sharing some of that with someone or how you're feeling so that they can understand a bit about perimenopause and what it means for you how it feels in your body, what your experience is, because it will be different for everyone. What you need and what supports you need will also be different. 

 

Sarah McLachlan  25:11

So let's really, yeah, channel into those and take some responsibility for our input to the issue by speaking up and sharing how we're feeling and what's going on for us, but also asking for what we need there as well. And conversely, those allies and partners in our life, you take responsibility for your input to hear and help making sure that you're the perimenopausal woman in your life who is supported and, and nourished and, you know, really celebrated for what what they've done, you know, they've had a grown humans and how amazing is that, that our bodies can do that, but also, you know, celebrating them for as they move into this next phase and what they can offer and to, to all of us around. 

 

Sarah McLachlan  25:59

So that's all I wanted to talk about today. It's been complex and essential, I think a really essential subject on how to be a great ally or partner in perimenopause and, and maybe for life. But the essentials, we've you know, talked about the essentials for allies to know and understand how to support a perimenopausal woman and how we can help create great allies and reduce our emotional burden by expressing our expectations and needs. I think this is so important. As you know, as so many of us are conditioned to put ourselves last and not speak up we don't want to be difficult, you know, we don't want to be painful. We don't want to rock the boat. So we don't say anything. We don't do anything and you know what? Were the losers out of that. Only us, although our family I suppose to they lose out because they get crabby, grumpy version of mum or partner rather than your best self that you can say. Anyway, I you know me I like to call BS on that. Anyway, let's change the narrative. Let's foster that understanding foster communication, empathy, connection in our relationships. 

 

Sarah McLachlan  27:12

So I really encourage you to share this podcast, this episode. And of course, all the earlier ones that talk to you about what perimenopause is. Share it with the men and women in your life to encourage them to reflect on how they can be a supportive ally and take a step towards that goal today. Thank you so much for joining me today. I look forward to speaking with you next time.

 

Sarah McLachlan  27:44

It's really common for women over 40 to experience the chaos of changing hormones, mood, metabolism and energy. But I hope you know now that common doesn't have to equal normal for you or them. You can help others understand that aren't alone in feeling this way. And that perimenopause doesn't have to be horrific by subscribing, leaving a review and sharing this podcast with other women in their 40s and beyond. Thanks so much for listening and sharing your time with me today in this chaos to calm conversation.

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