By Daneen Skube
Q. I'm a 46-year old female manager with high job stress. I'm waking up at night sweating and can't get back to sleep. I also find myself intolerant of situations I formerly put up with and blurting out what I really think. Is stress making me lose my easygoing manner? Help!
A. What you're describing may well be symptoms of perimenopause — the years before menopause — which makes stress much less tolerable.
Since my expertise is limited to doctoring the human heart, I interviewed a renowned expert on women's health, Dr. Christiane Northrup. She writes and speaks extensively on navigating menopause so that the best years of your life can start after 50. Northrup listed the most common perimenopause symptoms as insomnia, night sweats and hot flashes.
Women's hormonal changes result in brain changes, which make us far less tolerant of injustices and far more willing to say what we think.
Northrup chuckled when I asked why it doesn't occur to women that hormones may be contributing to job stress. She observed: "There's this dread women have about aging and clichés about how women should never mention their age. Women may freak out when you tell them they're perimenopausal."
Northrup offered her top tips for working women who want to navigate menopause with power and grace:
• Reduce or stop caffeine, as it makes stress worse.
• If you haven't exercised before 45, you better start or you'll end up in a wheelchair. Plus, exercise burns up stress hormones.
• Limit processed or refined foods. Sugar, white pasta and white flour all raise blood sugar. Excess blood sugar (insulin) turns into stress hormones.
• Get your thyroid checked, especially TSH levels; should be 1.5 or less.
• Good self-test: Put a couple drops on iodine on a light area of your skin, spread it, let it dry and monitor every 30 minutes. If iodine disappears entirely within 8 to 10 hours, you probably need more iodine for your thyroid and breast tissue.
• Consider taking 1 to 2 drops of Iosol iodine in water before you consider taking thyroid medication, as it may be all you need.
• Take 1,000 international units of vitamin D per day, as low levels are epidemic.
• Take 400 to 800 milligrams of magnesium a day, as it helps with frayed nerves.
• Start with any small change you can make. It beats suffering.
Northrup taught me a thing or two about the process of menopause. For instance, I knew that progesterone (one of the female hormones) decreases severely.
I didn't realize progesterone is such a strong calming hormone that it's used to stop seizures. I think this might explain why it's so much harder not to get really cranky.
At the end of the interview, Northrup went beyond tips and into good news: "After menopause, working women can look forward to their bodies being fueled by their soul. You trust yourself, become more intuitive and know who you are. You're aware of your mortality and ready to go after what you want."
So for readers tired from insomnia, sweaty from a hot flash and really irritable, take heart! Try these tips and consider that the best years of your life may be only just beginning.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., is an executive coach, trainer, therapist, speaker and author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). She can be reached at 1420 N.W. Gilman Blvd., No. 2845, Issaquah, WA 98027-7001; by e-mail at email@example.com; or at www.interpersonaledge.com. Sorry, no personal replies. To read other Daneen Skube columns, go to www.seattletimes.com/daneenskube
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