Sometimes, it starts as a whisper.
A tiny voice in the back of your mind says, “Psst…psst…you know, with your family history, you’re gonna need to make some better lifestyle choices.”
Or, it could be a not-so-gentle tap on your shoulder….“Mrs. Jones, you have diabetes.”
Or, your wake-up call may be the 2×4 that smacks you squarely on the head (from the back of an ambulance) as you find yourself on the way to the ED for chest pain.
At last, you pay attention…or you don’t.
We’ve all had wake-up calls. They may happen in the context of our health, our finances, or our relationships. If we are truly paying attention, we will often notice the subtle whispers that let us know something is up. Many of these issues start to pop up during perimenopause as years of bad habits pile up.
Many of us sleepwalk through our days. We’re often NOT paying attention and we ignore the signs that trouble is brewing! If this sounds like you, perimenopause offers the perfect time to reflect and begin making changes that will serve you well into old age.
February is Heart Month. And heart disease is the number one killer of women in menopause. This is because falling estrogen levels take away some of the protection we get from it when we are younger. Cholesterol levels rise, blood vessels stiffen, and blood pressure goes up. All of this is a recipe for heart attacks, strokes, and 2×4 moments.
Are YOU paying attention to your heart health or are you living on cruise control? There are any number of excuses we tell ourselves. Let’s look at some of the big ones.
“I’m not worth the investment.”
We spend a lot of time worrying about our investments and are quick to gauge how things are going by looking at quarterly statements. It’s all dollar signs — bank accounts, 401(k)s, the value of our home. We can easily determine whether or not one of these things is a good investment. The goal is to invest in assets that are healthy and will make us enough money to retire and live comfortably.
But here’s the thing. All the money in the world doesn’t matter if you are dead or debilitated and have no quality of life.
YOU are an asset. Think about that for a minute. If you work for someone else, you are an asset to that company. If you’re married, you are an asset to your spouse. And it goes without saying, but if you have children you are an incredible asset to them. You’re an asset to the community you live in, to your neighbors, and to those you interact with on a daily basis. So why would you NOT invest in yourself?
Think about all the things that you spend money on that are not really meaningful. The daily latte, the 46th pair of shoes, the extended cable package. What if you took all that money and invested it in Y.O.U.? How would this enrich your life? You could learn a new language, take an art course or hire someone to help you create a plan to improve your health and provide the accountability you need to implement it. All of these things could bring you pleasure and create growth opportunities. And a growing you is a happier you!
And on top of this, think about the message you are sending into the world if you are saying you’re not worth investing in. Putting time, energy, and money into yourself says, “I VALUE ME.”
“I have to take care of everyone else first.”
My friend Sandy is a preacher’s wife…and a nurse. I met her at a retreat where she described herself to the group of attendees as “fat, 53, and diabetic.” Ministry is a 24/7 job and the spouse is along for a big part of that 24/7 ride. Add in the caregiving aspects of being a nurse and it’s easy to see why Sandy is last on her list. But it is literally killing her.
This kind of self-neglect is a form of abuse. Exhaustion is not a badge of honor. You can’t give others what you don’t have to give. Fill your own well first.
[bctt tweet=”Exhaustion is not a badge of honor. You can’t give others what you don’t have to give. #menopause #perimenopause #hormones #estrogen #heartdisease #hearthealth #DrAnnaGarrett #AnnaGarrettAsheville” username=”DrAnnaGarrett”]
“I don’t know where to start.”
Sandy wants to lose about 100 lbs and get her diabetes under control. That’s a tall order for even the most motivated folks. It’s easy to see how planning to reach this goal could lead to paralysis before she even gets started. But the truth is she only needs to take one step in the direction she wants to go. Weight loss can only happen one pound at a time no matter how she tackles it…so why try to take 10 steps at a time instead of just ONE? Maybe it’s a small change in food choices or leaving work earlier 2 days a week to take a walk. It doesn’t really matter what she chooses to do as long as there is action! These baby steps will create momentum and set her up to succeed.
“I don’t have time.”
It’s a challenge to fit everything in, and too often, despite our good intentions, self-care (the stuff that fuels us), ends up at the bottom of our priority list. Here’s the thing. We all have the same number of hours in a day. And we choose how to spend it. Try a new mantra. “Me first, busy second.”
Consider how you could create some ongoing structure around your self-care. Schedule walking dates or program your daily gratitude journal time into your phone (so you’re reminded). Create a system that reminds you that you’ve committed to taking better care of yourself.
“It won’t happen to me.”
We all want to believe we’re invincible. But ignoring chronic medical problems and preventive care needs is not a good long-term plan for a healthy future. My friend Sandy didn’t think for a second she’d end up in the ED having a workup for a heart attack despite all the evidence that shows that people with uncontrolled diabetes have a huge risk for this.
So, where are you going?
Where will you be in 5, 10, and 20 years if you continue living your life as it is now? Let perimenopause be a positive wake-up call for change rather than a 2×4 hitting you in the head. Start TODAY and create the path for the health (heart and otherwise) you want. If you need help, let’s talk!
Dr. Anna Garrett is a menopause expert and Doctor of Pharmacy. She helps women who are struggling with symptoms of perimenopause and menopause find natural hormone balancing solutions so they can rock their mojo through midlife and beyond. Dr. Anna is the author of Perimenopause: The Savvy Sister’s Guide to Hormone Harmony. Order your copy at www.perimenopausebook.com.
Dr. Anna is available for 1-1 consultations. Find out more at www.drannagarrett.com/lets-