If you’re like me and you have a night terror (first time in decades) or you start having night headaches (throbbing, stabbing around 2 am) which you are certain are related to your path towards menopause, you look at Dr. Google to see what information is out there and if there is anything you should know. Even though you know it’s not wise and you may come across things that are unnecessarily worrisome, you look, because, there may be one or two tidbits that help you with your current concern.
More often than not, the advice given is “make sure you eat regularly, stay hydrated and manage stress”. Gee, thanks. While this is good general advice for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, it’s pretty vague. I eat regularly. I’ve never been one to forget to eat. It has just never happened. I wake and know that after my workout I’ll have Bob Mill’s Muesli heated with frozen fruit and topped with flax and yogurt. If it’s the weekend, I know I’ll probably make buckwheat pancakes or eggs and turkey bacon and hash browns. Every day, meal to meal, I consider what to have for the next meal. If I feel hungry I consider what I might need at the moment. Same with hydration. I hydrate. I see other runners without hydration belts, but I find it impossible to go for a run or a workout and not drink a lot of water. I refill my water bottle throughout the day, in between coffee. I don’t think I can consider drinking more water before bedtime, because I already get up 1 to 4 times a night to pee. Getting up more isn’t going to help my stress levels. In terms of stress, exercise helps. I am currently unemployed, and so, I do not have work-related stress. Perhaps, “OK, it’s time to move on to the next job and I hope that happens soon” stress. There is always stress in life. Navigating aging parents’ concerns at the same time I am noticing significant changes in my own stage of life, has a level of stress. I find myself thinking of our mortality a lot. A friend recommended a book which I am looking forward to reading on this topic – Pema Chodron’s “How We Live Is How We Die”. It claims to be about “learning to live with ease, joy, and compassion through uncertainty, embracing new beginnings, and ultimately preparing for death with curiosity and openness rather than fear.” and that sounds just grand to me at the moment.
When I was a kid and I would wake up screaming with night terrors, my Mom would come and calm me down and (based on their recollections) my family would be jarred and have trouble falling asleep. As is the case with night terrors, I would have a vague memory of my heart racing, but I wouldn’t have trouble going back to sleep. I didn’t wake the next day and do research (at the library because Dr. Google didn’t exist) about the causes of my night terrors.
When it happened a couple weeks ago, I felt compelled to look for potential causes to, perhaps, prevent them. When I started noticing an increase in the mid-sleep headaches, I again felt the need to find potential causes and solutions. The advice I found to “make sure you eat regularly, stay hydrated and manage stress” didn’t provide the answer I was looking for. The causes suggested in both cases were vague. Unsurprisingly, particularly in relation to the perimenopausal headaches, there’s not a lot of research. That’s not just my opinion. Writing on the matter says so. There isn’t enough incentive (money) for studies on perimenopause and menopause even thought its effects – affect – more than half of the population.
I probably shouldn’t be looking for answers anyway. Part of me knows that I’m already doing what I can do. Seeking stress relief through fitness, rest, being a hedonist of simple things, eating foods that work for me, oh yeah, and drinking all the water. Perhaps, lessons learned from reading Chodron’s book and observing other similar wisdom available, even through talking to friends (my book club had a lively discussion about meditative practices last week), by learning to live with ease…through uncertainty, etc., I’ll stop feeling the need to look for answers and just go with the flow (there’s a pun in there I will refrain from).