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How I’m Managing Menopause During COVID-19

By Michell Merritt

As the pandemic continues, I’ve had to adjust to social distancing, like everyone else, but I’ve also had to adjust how I seek relief for my menopause symptoms. Sleepless nights accompany hot flashes as part of my nightly routine­—and, let’s just be honest, my levels of stress and anxiety have significantly increased, making me a hormonal mess. I’ve compensated by eating lots of foods that are both good and bad for me. Eggs for breakfast and lots of ice cream for dessert.

Before COVID-19, my hot flashes were subtle. I would feel a little warm, but it was easy to find ways to cool down. This usually meant putting on cooler clothing or simply adjusting the temperature in my home. As time progressed, however, these subtle symptoms have become more persistent and intense. Simply being warm has escalated to feeling as though my entire head has been placed inside an oven. The heat is so extreme that I usually break out into a sweat, regardless of what I’m wearing. I’ve noticed that my hair is thinning, the usual fullness around my hairline has slowly started to disappear. Seeing strands of hair in the sink and in the shower has become an unfortunate norm—I’ve had to become creative when styling my hair. I’m convinced my hormones are trying to ruin my life.

Perhaps this wouldn’t be such a horrifying experience if it were discussed more openly. Menopause is a journey that most women will experience and we’re collectively struggling with symptoms—yearning for comfort for what’s happening to our bodies. Monthly periods will come to an end as we stop producing estrogen and our ovaries stop releasing eggs. While I’m embracing this journey, I’ve had symptoms that have wreaked havoc on my body: hot flashes, restlessness, hair loss, mood changes, weight gain, and a slowed metabolism. I’ve had to begin managing my menopause instead of continuing to allow my menopause to manage me. As it’s escalated through COVID-19, I’ve come to adjust and rely on these self-care actions to bring peace to my body and relief to my symptoms.

Not your average menopause journey... 

Since being inside has become the new normal, it’s become paramount for me to get my body moving as much as possible. The idea of motivating myself to make time for exercise was daunting. Slowly, I’ve begun to incorporate walking into my daily routine. The first few weeks were challenging, and I could only walk one mile a day. As time has progressed, I’m walking almost four miles a day—and I feel great. The fresh air and, to be honest, minimal interaction with people has helped me to forget about my symptoms. I actually look forward to being outdoors.

On days where the weather prevents me from getting out, I work out with a weighted hula hoop, which I’ve been enjoying immensely. It brings me back to childhood, and it’s actually pretty easy. I’m learning that regardless of what it is, finding ways to just move helps me feel in control of my body again.

Staying healthy while staying sane

With all of the hormonal adjustments occurring, I now understand that my nutritional needs have also changed. Previously my diet consisted of lots of starches and fat. I was unable to resist potato chips, cookies, and the occasional full breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, and cheesy grits. I thrived off carbs, but I’ve come to realize they are now slowing me down. Over quarantine, I’ve reacquainted myself with my kitchen. I’ve taken up a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and I include lean sources of protein (poultry, lean meats, and fish) to balance it out. Trips to the local farmers market have allowed me to select the freshest items—and also get me out of the house. I’ve gotten creative when preparing my meals, and long gone are the days where I rely on just a simple smoothie for breakfast. A meal I’ve been preparing lately is zucchini squash, sauteed with onions, ground chicken, or turkey. I top it off with fresh parmesan cheese or even jazz it up with sun-dried tomatoes and have a meal that is ready within thirty minutes.

I also try to nourish my body with water. Dehydration makes it harder for your body to perform, which can lead to fatigue and difficulty concentrating. I try to drink a minimum of 80 ounces of water daily to keep me hydrated. There’s a running joke in my house about how many water bottles I’ll take to bed with me, but let’s be real, this isn’t an easy feat. In fact, some days I struggle. I focus on drinking two water bottles before 12 p.m. and two more in the afternoon. I’m usually able to finish them in the evening or while I’m sleeping.

Sleep is as essential as essential oils

Of course, restful and plentiful sleep is important at all times—for everyone—but with menopause, I’ve found waking up with hot flashes has become my nemesis. I've combatted daytime tiredness by setting up a sleep pattern which entails going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends. The consistency allows me to unwind and rest peacefully. And we all know lavender remedies anxiety, eases stress, and creates calmness in the body, so nightly, I sprinkle a few drops on my pillowcase. These simple, consistent routines provide relief to an otherwise restless night.

Menopause can be overwhelming; the journey is full of many twists and turns; ups and downs. Staying safe and healthy has become a priority for everyone. But while we are social distancing, it’s important to remain focused on ourselves, take care of our bodies, and relax our minds. And just like COVID-19, this too will come to an end.