It is 3 am, I wake up with a sharp pain on the left side of my chest. The pain is so deep, unlike anything I have experienced before. I switch positions. I breathe-to-relax with no relief. My mind starts racing. An unwanted thought settles in:
Am I having a heart attack ?
I breathe to relax again. I assess my options. We are on a family trip in Munich celebrating my husband’s birthday. The idea of waking up my family to say that I need to go to the emergency room in a foreign country feels more overwhelming than navigating the pain. I continue to practice mindful breathing until finally, I fall asleep.
When I woke up the following morning and realized that I was alive, I felt more gratitude than ever before in my life. Having breakfast with my family was a moment that I will never forget. I was alive, I was with them. I didn’t say anything. I observed quietly. The pain and fear I felt that night were very real, and I needed to celebrate that instant and never take for granted any opportunity to be here in the now.
Although I have never seen deep chest pain associated with perimenopause, it coincided with a separate collection of symptoms related to this stage in life which I had been experiencing for the last couple of years, making me wonder if it was related.
We now know that the experiences of perimenopause (which can last several years) and menopause differ for each woman. Symptoms can vary from person to person, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to managing them. Paying attention to what you are experiencing is extremely important and finding the right support is essential.
After that trip to Munich, I started speaking openly with other women in my age group. I realized everyone had a different story to share about their unique experience. I thought to myself, why are we not talking about this openly? I feel this is a critical conversation that we need to have.
So, for the past few months, I have been reaching out to other health and wellness professionals to get this conversation going. I was pleased when the American Library in Paris recently organized a powerful and empowering talk on “Breaking the Silence on Menopause with Dr. Mary Claire Harver and Kate Muir.” The talk was aligned with everything that I have been thinking about.
It is time to break the silence. It is time to build community and support one another. It is time to learn, share and step into this next stage in our lives feeling strong and filled with possibilities. I feel very passionate about this topic and eager to connect with other women who want to re-frame how we think about perimenopause and menopause.
More than that, it is time to celebrate simply because our heart is beating and we get to be alive today. Let’s make the most out of it!
Here are 9 steps to “CELEBRATE” your perimenopause and menopause experience
C = Connect. Take a moment to pause and connect to your body. Notice if you are having symptoms. I recommend having a journal or a file where you start compiling things. Replace judgment with curiosity. Do your own inner research.
E = Explore. This journey feels (at least to me) like hiking in the jungle. You must be alert, awake and attentive to see how you can best equip yourself with resources to navigate this season of your life.
L = Learn. Find reliable sources that resonate with you and that you trust. There are multiple resources out there. The book I found helpful is by Dr. Louise Newson: The Definite Guide to the Perimenopause and Menopause. Dr. Newson is one of the UK’s leading experts on the subject. Her book was published on March 16, 2023 and contains some of the latest research and is well documented.
E = Excel. Excel at building habits. Exercise, nutrition, mindful living, stress management, and sleep management are all important pieces of the puzzle during perimenopause and menopause. Working in tiny steps to incorporate habits to support your body and mind can be very timely and beneficial in the long run.
B = Breathe. This is a very good time to incorporate breathing practices into your daily routine.
R = Relax. Learning to relax, even if it is just for a couple of minutes, can be helpful to your daytime recovery.
A = Advocate. It is a critical time to advocate for your health and well-being like never before.
T = Trust. Trust your choices. Look forward, not backward.
E = Enjoy. Learn to enjoy, appreciate and celebrate the good moments when they happen. Pay attention. Don’t let them escape without savoring them.