As noted in the first Skills Application blog, none of the individual 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. Here’s how to apply those skills when in the throes of menopause-specific symptoms.
In this applications blog we’re going to look at ways to apply the ‘doing’ and ‘processing’ skills from Matrix Moment, Brush the Damn Cat, Love Notes and Intentionality.
Matrix Moment – I completely understand that when you are “having a moment” it is very, very hard to “take a moment”. Yet developing this ‘doing’ skill could save a life – possibly yours but more likely someone else’s. A Matrix moment allows you space to regroup. To formulate a more appropriate statement, delivered calmly, such as “Honey, would you like to rephrase what you just said to me?” or “Excuse me for a minute, I’ll be right back”.
In the early stages of peri-menopause you may not yet recognize or understand what’s happening to you. Seemingly out of nowhere you want to tear into someone simply for looking at you sideways. It makes perfect biochemical sense but to the outside person looking in it can seem a little unhinged. The best gift you can give yourself in these moments is time. Time to breathe, time to think, time to give yourself and others a little grace and compassion.
The Matrix Moment skill was created in an anger management group and is definitely one of the best skills to add to your coping toolbox when the hormonal storm is raging and your anger is incongruent with the situation at hand.
Brush the Damn Cat – This is a ‘processing’ skill where you take a long look at why you are choosing certain behaviors over others and what your reasoning, or lack thereof, might be. These decisions and reasons can quickly become circular, muddled and even non-sensical in light of several peri- and menopausal symptom clusters.
When you signed up for the menopausal Militia Newsletter you received the most comprehensive checklist of symptoms available. Under the Mental / Emotional category is the perfect storm of fatigue, brain fog, lack of focus, poor concentration, difficulty learning new things and memory lapses. Not the best recipe for decision making and logical thought processes, is it?
Brush the Damn Cat is a prime example of how a fairly intelligent person’s brain can go completely offline over something simple. I could not extricate myself from the thought loop of self-conscious embarrassment in order to move towards an obvious solution. That is just not like me. I generally have solutions for problems that don’t even exist yet.
Reminder: menopause is not permanent. It is a stage. But a stage where we are sometimes battling our own body and mind and not always coming out victorious. It’s OK. It is not the end of the world. We spent a lot of time on ‘being’ and ‘doing’ skills in the early blogs. ‘Processing’ skills ask more of us in time and thought but the payoff is worth it. Ask yourself, and perhaps journal about whether you are stuck in a behavior loop that doesn’t make as much sense as you thought it did.
Love Notes – Today is Valentines Day and if you are struggling over what to give your sweetheart this might just be the best gift ever. Love Notes is a combination skill of ‘doing’ and ‘processing’. You may be writing to your loved one but you are also processing. Processing how you feel, what happened, how you perceived it, the story you told yourself about your loved one’s intent (which often has nothing to do with what actually happened; we will address that in an upcoming blog), and what you want and need.
Think of this as the lovechild of Matrix Moment and I Statements Are the Bomb! You are implementing the emotional shield of time and space and you are expressing yourself appropriately without shame or blame.
Take a moment to revisit the last communication you had with a loved one that did not go well. Don’t pick apart the content, that’s water under the bridge. Examine it instead for the influence of possible symptoms: a mood swing, anger/irritability, anxiety/panic, depression, stress, fatigue. And I’m going to throw in a few not on the symptom checklist: paranoia/wild imaginings, impatience, score keeping. All of these can also play a part in negative interactions with non-loved ones such as colleagues, the boss, community members, parents of your kids’ friends. And though you won’t be writing love notes to any of them you can go through the process in your head to make future interactions better.
The goal is not to identify the symptom(s) that held sway over you at the moment so that you can say “it’s not me, it’s my menopause”. That’s not helpful. Wasn’t there a comic strip character that said “I has seen the enemy and it is us”? This is not about blame or excuses, it’s about ownership and a willingness to try again to make it right. Do it with patience. And do it with love.
Intentionality – This skill is a ‘doing’ skill if ever there was one. But for some people it challenges the Start with Simple and Easy strategy. It is technically simple but many find it difficult to implement. Building a long term practice will be hard but very beneficial.
If you find that the majority of your menopausal Mental / Emotional struggles are not so much mood related as they are states of being, then this skill is definitely for you. And by that I mean if you are plagued more by lack of focus, poor concentration, lethargy, brain fog, difficulty learning new things, and/or memory issues then establishing a frequent prompt to reset your intentions could be a game changer for you. Remember as always to give yourself some grace as you are fighting a biochemical storm.
Go back to the original blog and choose a prompt that works for you or create one of your own. Do your best to commit to three weeks (21 straight days) of practice before you toss it aside. The irony of this skill is not lost on those who really need it – I am asking those who have difficulty staying on task to create a ‘task’ that they will do multiple times a day in order to bring themselves back on task. Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? Maybe so. But it works.