Midlife for a woman includes perimenopause and menopause. Many women have never heard the term "perimenopause" until they begin to research the symptoms they're experiencing. Many midlife women face new depression, insomnia or night waking, fatigue (whether or not she got sleep or not), and a decreased ability to cope well with stress. Others have added aches and pains including headaches.
Because midlife also comes with other changes such as the empty nest or career troubles, the line between the physical symptoms and the mental/emotional symptoms can become blurred. The truth is, if you're experiencing a few of these midlife dilemmas, rest assured they are not “all in your head.” You aren't weak to admit to them or to implement solutions to help you cope with them.
Former approaches to dealing with life stressors may no longer work when going through the change of life. Your body is going through a number of dramatic hormonally-based changes that are mostly beyond your control (although there are dietary changes that may help). The proof that your experiences aren't all in your head is found in your irregular or troublesome menstrual cycles as well as the cessation of periods.
These changes indicate changes to a woman's estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels. Her entire matrix is under transition!
For some, hormone level changes result in a decrease in libido, or at least, vaginal dryness and discomfort. That doesn't help a woman who is already facing challenges in her identity.
Some midlife men also deal with sexual dysfunction. Since sexuality is such a vital part of a couple's life, these challenges can strain a relationship. When or if you become aware of this type of strain, stay open to your spouse. Let each other know what's going on. Don't run away from these challenges. Speak to a doctor or read up on some solutions that might work for you. Keep laughing and bringing fun into your relationship. Start small smoldering fires as often as you can.
Implement Strategies to Serve You
There is usually no quick fix to many of these midlife issues. Just as you went through puberty, you must go through this phase too, facing things a challenge at a time.
You may have a great career, family life, and plans you need the energy to complete. Now may be a time to develop a new strategies to serve you through this time.
Insomnia and Other Sleep Issues
I first noticed insomnia issues in my late 40s. I couldn't shake night time alertness. I might have gone to bed with my husband at 10 or 10:30 and two hours later lay there still awake. My first strategy was to join him at 10 but if I was still awake in 45 minutes to get up and read or journal until true tiredness set in.
When I was experiencing hot flashes around the clock, waking every 45 minutes, I found it helpful to keep ice packs under my pillow and just accept that I would need to sleep late in the morning if I was able to finally get to sleep. I began to set appointments for 1:00 or later. Accepting this change went a long way since up to then I'd put a lot of guilt on myself.
Another change we implemented was related to snoring. My husband occasionally snores and apparently so do I. We often go to bed and then the one that can't stand the snoring moves to the guest room. At first it felt wrong or insulting. The more he needed sleep so he could do his job and the more restless I was a night, the more it made sense to sleep in separate rooms occasionally. We don't always, but often take turns on who gets the good King bed in the master suite and whose turn it is to sleep on the single. We wish it wasn't so, but sleep is important and so is our level of peace over frustration.
If you're going to implement a separate sleeping arrangement, have an understanding about it lest one party feel insulted or hurt. Set some ground rules on what happens when. Check in with each other. Laugh about it too.
Don't forget, physical closeness, skin-to-skin contact, affirmation, complements and intimate conversation can happen any time of day. All are extremely important in a relationship.
So why do I write about this on a Christian blog? Because we all struggle with similar issues regardless of our faith. At each life stage, healthy attitudes toward physical changes and our roles and relationships should be covered with prayerfulness, vulnerability, flexibility, and implementing strategies that serve us.
Cast even these cares on God and listen for his direction.