As noted in the first Skills Application blog, none of the coping skills blogs specifically mention menopause. The most valuable and effective coping skills are those that can be applied across a wide spectrum of life’s issues. You, as a MM reader, are getting in on the ground floor since the skills I offer on the Menopausal Militia website are part of a larger, developing training and book project – Skills Beyond Pills © – the goal of which is to aid people in managing life’s challenges while reducing their reliance on pharmaceutical interventions. 

In this Applications blog we will take a look at the previous four coping skills entries: Primary vs Secondary Emotions, I Statements are the Bomb!, The Five Bad Boys of Stress and Sloooow Down. All of these consist of ‘doing’ coping skills so let’s get to it shall we?

I am pretty proud of and confident in all of the coping skills, both ‘being’ and ‘doing’, that I teach. This is not due to arrogance but to the copious amount of enthusiastic feedback I’ve gotten over the last twenty years from upwards of a thousand private therapy clients.  Take the time to experiment with them all and then put the ones that work for you in your personal coping toolbox.

Primary versus Secondary Emotions is one of the cornerstones of coping in my opinion. And since several hallmarks of menopausal symptoms are hypersensitivity coupled with irritability and / or aggressiveness, this skill set is especially beneficial. It is not your fault that you are plagued with these symptoms and feelings, remember – you are in some stage of the hormone tornado. While we offhandedly refer to the entire life phase as “menopause”, it’s technically ‘perimenopause’ when most of the unpleasant symptoms occur. All of these hormonal changes are leading up to the permanent cessation of your menstrual cycle. Once you’ve had no period for a year you are considered to have “gone through” menopause. In perimenopause estrogen levels can be all over the map while they work their way towards significantly low levels. And as estrogen goes so goeth serotonin. Your mood hormone and your happy-brain chemical are both tanking. Great.

While some might argue with this, I say that whether the cause is chemical or emotional, this technique still works. I hold firm that anger in all its manifestations is always shielding you from experiencing a deeper, more vulnerable emotion. And when you are in the midst of a menopausal meltdown you are even more likely to go straight for anger because who has the time or the energy at that point to be vulnerable and process anything? You are fatigued, your feelings are hurt and you are close to tears -damn right you’re pissed off about it! So use my cheat sheet (list at end of PvSE ) to translate your anger and identify your underlying primary emotions. Chances are high that some of your relationships are a little worse for wear right now and being able to speak from a place of vulnerability rather than a place of rage will go a long way towards a reparative interaction.

I Statements are the Bomb! shows you what to do with the vulnerable emotions you were trying to cover up. I did not invent the I Statement formula. That’s been around since before I started doing this work. I do, however, find it much more effective for the speaker and the listener when the emotion plugged into the “I feel ___________”   line is a direct result of doing the work in Primary versus Secondary Emotions. A fair number of menopausal clients of mine over the years have reported a sense of “being out of control”, “losing my mind”, “acting crazy”; and an even larger number report loved ones telling them they’re behaving that way. Structure and routine go a long way towards addressing these issues. Don’t fight over those characterizations – menopause can be a crazy-making time for some. Instead, work to communicate routinely with those you love and care about, and who love and care about you, using this structured format. If you do the emotional identification work and then use the feeling and needs delivery system above and still get something snarky or hurtful in return then fall back on a ‘broken record’ technique. Don’t go off script.

Perhaps you are not especially plagued by anger issues or feeling like you’re struggling to express yourself emotionally, yet you feel a general sense of overwhelm. You are stressed and need to check out The Five Bad Boys of Stress. Combined with what is already happening in your menopause-driven system this can create quite the biochemical storm. A storm that, until dealt with and reduced, can interfere with your ability to implement any other coping skills. The mini-skills in that blog are more powerful and effective than they seem. There will be times when you are feeling a jumble of emotions very intensely; start to freak out about feeling that way; and then start to freak out about freaking out. Remember Simple and Easy? These mini skills are definitely in that quadrant.

And if all else fails, Sloooooow Down. I have noticed with my menopausal clients that the more they feel thwarted and betrayed by their body, both physically and chemically, the more they attempt to step up their game to counter it all. We have surely bought into the superwoman myth, haven’t we? But alas, this simply does not work. It only leads to an increase in exhaustion, sleep disturbance, anxiety, frustration, irritability and anger, depression, body aches / pains, and spinning in circles accomplishing less and less. The counter-intuitive solution is to slow down. Way down. Slowing down reduces the “five bad boys”; it balances the tendency towards memory issues as it allows you time to think (remind me to write about trying to find my checkbook one day); and it helps you develop the ability to censor yourself before you bite someone’s head off.

Stay tuned as we take this to the next level with Matrix Moment…..until then, stay cool – physically and emotionally!