The Antidote To Stress In Perimenopause
The antidote to stress in perimenopause is resilience.
Stressors vary person to person. What stresses you may not stress me, and vice versa.
What is consistent amongst us is that we all feel some level of stress on a daily basis. Whether we want to acknowledge it consciously or not, our bodies and our subconscious minds keep score.
Midlife brings with it perimenopause. Exactly when that gal comes-a-knockin’ is unknown. We must be prepared as best we can. Building up your resilience skillset is one such way to stack the success deck in your favor.
Perimenopause is definitely one long lesson in resilience building. A lesson akin to an MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) match, further reinforcing the understanding of that phrase muttered by many a midlife woman, “way to kick a Sister while she’s down”. Just as in an MMA match, there are no rules in perimenopause. Peri doesn’t play fair, not one bit.
Resilience allows people to grow, heal, and overcome their situations instead of letting hard times get the best of them, even when it feels like they can’t catch a break.
Without resilience, one can quickly become overwhelmed, frustrated, sad, and tired of their life. In fact, having a low level of resilience is one of the main reasons why people feel overwhelmed by their situations, get burned out at their job, and feel as though they are living a life they don’t want to be living.
With this in mind, resilience is the key to overcoming any difficult situation and living a fulfilling life. So, it is imperative to know the limits of your own resilience and learn new techniques to become more resilient in the future.
During our perimenopause stage of life, the past gets stirred up.
Sometimes it is a gentle rotation of the wrist, like that when we are folding egg whites into a meringue. At other times, the activity is more an agitation mimicking the Gulf of Mexico during a hurricane.
To “same page” it, a stressor is the cause of a resulting stress. Stressors can be short- and long-term situations, people, weather, political unrest, chemical in nature, amongst a whole host of other things. Whereas stress itself is what our body, mind and emotional side do in response to the stressor.
Stress accumulates. So too does resilience.
How To Build Up Your Resilience Reserve
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.
The second best time is now.”
The same can be said about building resilience.
Since now is the second best time to fortify our resilience fortress, let’s get to gettin’. Perimenopause waits for no one. As noted, she does not play fair. Let’s get a leg up on the pending MMA match. You’ve got me in your corner, and I know (almost) all her moves. She’s got some decent tells like your kid does when she’s trying to convince you that she was not the one who ate all the ice cream. (We know your game kid…we invented it!)
By putting in the work now, whether in the thick of this natural transition or in anticipation of it, you can boost your resilience and ultimately overcome any adverse situation that comes your way during perimenopause (anytime really). Implement the simple things I share below to strengthen your resilience mindset so that you can bounce back from any challenge life throws your way.
I can hear you now… “Any challenge?”
Yes. Any challenge.
I am well aware that life certainly has a mean left hook at times. I’ve been on the mat on several occasions.
I know intimately that some challenges seem way too big to overcome.
I promise, if you look hard enough, someone has overcome it. And you can too. You may need to reach out to others, mental health professionals even, but you can overcome what lies before you. I have full faith in your ability.
We call learning how to boost resilience “resilience training”. Much like endurance training or weight training in the gym, resilience training will take time and effort to master. Just like any “training”, you will improve with consistent practice.
Making gains in your physical training is only appreciable over time; it is accomplished by the accumulation of all the small steps along the way. Same for resilience training. This is an excellent place to use the “baby steps” concept.
Resilience can be built in baby steps. Learn to recognize and feel good about yourself when you make a resilience baby step.
Additionally, resilience training is like other training in that it is holistic. In other words, it focuses on all four components of resilience: connection, wellness, growth mindset, and meaning. Some days you may need to emphasize one component over another, but it is important to treat each component as equals.
Training Your Attention
In my opinion, training your attention and awareness are the most important exercises in the realm of resilience training. How so? Being attentive allows you to recognize your feelings, your thoughts, and the world around you. Attention training includes becoming more intentional and mindful in your life.
When we lose this attention and awareness, then catch ourselves “in the act”, we can swiftly refocus our attention and awareness much like an athlete refocuses on the next movement in their sport.
Training your attention requires you to draw attention to your feelings and thoughts so you can interpret how you feel, strategize solutions, and connect meaning to the world around you. In addition to boosting resilience, training your focus decreases stress, decreases anxiety, and boosts your quality of life.
Training your attention (AKA mindfulness) requires you to utilize mental, emotional, and physical resilience even when you are undergoing a minimal amount of perceived stress. Here is how attention training relates to the three main types of resilience:
- Mental Resilience: Training your attention requires mental resilience because it requires you to focus your mind so that way it does not wander aimlessly. As you train your attention, you also train your mental resilience. Another check in the mindfulness column.
- Emotional Resilience: A key aspect of training your attention is being able to discern between thoughts and emotions that support us, and those that detract and distract us. Improve upon your attention and you’ll improve your emotional resilience. They are intricately related.
- Physical Resilience: Whenever you train your attention, you force yourself and your body to remain still or focused on the task at hand. This improves your physical resilience because it makes you become more in command of your physical body.
Here are some ways to train your attention:
- Break Tasks Into Manageable Chunks: One of the easiest ways to train your attention is to break up tasks, a project, or the day into manageable chunks. Many studies have shown that it is easier to focus your attention if your attention has a set timeframe.
DeskTime, a computer use tracking app, published some pretty specific results upon evaluating 5.5 million daily records. The highest-performing 10 percent worked head-down for 52 consecutive minutes followed by a 17-minute break. Give it the ol’ college try!
During work hours, set breaks every 52 minutes. If 52 minutes sounds like a lot for you, start with 20 minutes, and work your way up. Take a proportionate break. (No “one for you, one for me” on the clock game for you!) This will train your mental and physical resilience.
During your 17 minutes, step away from the computer. Make a cup of tea, water a few plants, pet the cat, chat up an in-person coworker or a neighbor if you head out on a walk. Point is, do something other than the task at hand. When the 17 minute break buzzer goes off, get back on task for another 52 minutes.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
- Be Mindful: Another way to train your attention is to be mindful. Mindfulness is basically having a moment where you focus on the exact moment at hand. Nothing before, nothing after. An easy way to practice mindfulness is with daily meditation.
A collaborative study between the University of Arizona and University of Washington showed that just 10 to 20 minutes of mindfulness can improve your focus today and in the future. Mindfulness improves all aspects of resilience.
Mindfulness, like most things that benefit us humans, has a cumulative effect. Don’t give it one “try” and expect a miracle. Make a consistent effort. You’ll be amazed by just how powerful your mind is when you put your mind to it. (I couldn’t resist!)
- Practice Attentive Listening: Attentive listening is when you listen to another person without interrupting, recapping, or using connection words. It also means not “listening to respond”. Attentive listening requires you to stay engaged in your listening abilities. Attentive listening trains all three forms of personal resilience: mental, emotional and physical.
- Journaling At Night: Another way to train your attention is to journal at night. Journaling at night will give you the chance to focus purely on your thoughts and feelings at that moment. Try to stay in the moment as intently as possible.
If (when) you make this into a habit, journaling will also turn into a healthy coping mechanism that will make you more mentally and emotionally resilient. It is a great way to unload from the day and free your mind up to focus on its most critical next step, getting a good night’s sleep.
By practicing some of these techniques every day, you will boost your mental dexterity and resilience. Don’t wait for down days to do them, dial up the effectiveness by flexing your attention and awareness muscles on days when things are going great too.
B.Y.O.B. (Build Your Own Bridge)
Perimenopause is the bridge from our other self to our true self.
It takes a lot to continuously interrupt your go-to patterns. Believe you, me.
And it’s a B.Y.O.B.-type of scenario. In this instance, the B.Y.O.B. stands for Build Your Own Bridge. This is what resilience training provides.
Which Tip Will You Implement First?
Which resilience training tip (nightly journaling, being more mindful, listening actively, or breaking up the task at hand) will you implement first?