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Creative Ways to Cope With Menopause


Duke Health News 919-660-1306

DURHAM, N. C. -- You wake up at 3 a.m. with a hot flash and start thinking: "I'll never get back to sleep. Look, it's already 3:15. Now it's 3:20. I can't relax. Now I'll only have four hours' sleep. I'll be a mess tomorrow."

It doesn't have to be this way, says Anita McLeod, a registered nurse and work-site health promoter at Duke. Nor do all women require hormone replacement therapy to manage the symptoms of menopause, she says.

The women in McLeod's Healthy Menopause groups learn creative ways to cope with troublesome symptoms. One woman simply moves the clock to another room. Another treats her wakefulness as private, quiet time: she makes a cup of tea and curls up with a good book for awhile. Another focuses on daytime activities, such as exercise programs, that will enhance her sleep.

Studies show that women who use relaxation, deep breathing and other cognitive, stress-reducing strategies can shorten the length, frequency and intensity of their hot flashes, night and day. "Unfortunately, women have been taught not to trust themselves," McLeod said.

"Women in our culture have been taught to view the body as a problem, and that we disintegrate at menopause. If we buy into that, we get away from our natural healing ability. A lot of the physical changes we go through carry messages from the body, mind and from our spirit. If we pay attention, we can learn a lot."

McLeod's groups help women deal with the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of what she calls "a powerful time of transition." Participants learn to apply the skills they have learned from other life transitions -- job changes, moving, child bearing, divorce -- to the experience of menopause.

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