Fatigue and the menopause are two things that go hand in hand.
For me, it was one of the most difficult symptoms as it affected all aspects of my life. Before the menopause, I would jump out of bed at 5am, go to my one-hour training session at 6am and be back home by 7am in time to drink a freshly-made green juice and walk my dogs. Fatigue was not part of my vocabulary. Everyone who knows me knows that I have (or at least, I had) very high energy levels; in fact, many of my friends used to jokingly ask me to calm down! That’s what made what happened next so frightening for me.
I woke up one day feeling completely drained and depleted of all my energy. Gone was the dynamic Meg with drive and desire for life and instead of her, there lay a lifeless shadow that could barely get up and walk to the bathroom. Days passed by and I seemed to be getting worse. Sunday came and my usually relaxing walk on Hampstead Heath with my dogs became like a mountain trek that took every last bit of strength out of me.
I woke up one day feeling completely drained and depleted of all my energy.
One question circled my mind: why was this happening to me? Why was life suddenly so exhausting and difficult and joyless? I racked my brain in a desperate attempt to find an answer. I thought it might have been the result of poor diet choices, or maybe it was something simple like sleeping with my phone next to my pillow or could it have been something more long-term like chronic fatigue/M.E? I visited my GP and talked about how I was feeling. 10 minutes later, I left the surgery practically sobbing into a prescription for anti-depressants.
Months passed by and the fatigue had well and truly set in. I was stuck in what can only be described as a feedback loop of exhaustion and anxiety. By this time, people close to me were starting to notice that there was something wrong. I was turning down a lot of invitations to dinners and get-togethers with friends. The more invitations that I turned down the more worried messages and calls I started receiving. So, by way of an excuse, I started telling everyone that I had glandular fever. I thought it was believable as I had had glandular fever once before after my daughter Anaïs was born. Funnily enough, the doctors initially thought that it was post-natal depression but later found that it was glandular fever.
It wasn’t until I looked online and saw an article linking the menopause to anxiety and tiredness that I realised that there was much more to my symptoms.
My Top Tips
Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally by the body and is instrumental in determining your body’s sleep/wake cycle. As our hormone levels are in a constant state of flux, hormone-replacement therapy (HRT) is a very effective way of balancing us out and helping to normalise the level of hormones such as melatonin. You have to decide what will be best for you based on your body, family history and lifestyle. HRT may be the right thing for you but equally, it may not be. Research different treatments and when you visit your GP, be honest and open about your symptoms and make sure you get the help and treatment that is right for you.
Increase your vitamin and mineral intake
Iron deficiency can be linked to tiredness and fatigue. Replenish your system with some much-needed vitamins by taking a supplement or eating foods rich in iron such as nuts and seeds, dried prunes, whole grains, dark-green leafy vegetables and pulses and beans. I would also recommend taking a vitamin supplement to replenish your system with vital minerals.
The last thing you want to do when you’re feeling exhausted after a hard day’s work is exercise. Even the thought of it can be enough to make you feel tired! But a little bit of exercise each day has been proven to increase overall wellbeing and reduce tiredness. It also stimulates the brain’s production of serotonin that can improve your mood. Try going for a short walk or downloading an exercise app and doing some stretches at home to get your blood pumping. Something small is usually always better than nothing.
Be kind to yourself
Ladies, the reality is that some days are just not going to be that great. The best thing you can do on those days is to go with the flow. If you need to have a duvet day, have a duvet day! Take some time out for yourself and try not to feel guilty about it. We all have responsibilities and many of us have families and work to juggle and so I know that sounds easier said than done. But self-care is very important and without it, we will burn out. It’s important to communicate that to our families and explain what is happening so that they understand and can support us.