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12 (menopausal) tips for Christmas
It can be the most wonderful time of year, but also the most stressful – here’s how to cope with Christmas when you’re also menopausal or perimenopausal
1. Manage expectations
Christmas is steeped in tradition and with that comes expectations – if the whole family usually descend on you each year, there’s probably an assumption that’s going to happen again this year. Or maybe you always wrap your presents with a flourish or are known for your delicious Christmas cake. That doesn’t mean you have to continue to do these things if you don’t want to.
Relate advises that you talk with your family and friends in advance about everyone’s expectations of Christmas. Make them aware if there are any changes you want to make (they might have some of their own, too). It’s not easy to keep everyone happy, and that’s not a role you have to fulfil, so the sooner conversations are had, the easier it will be to find compromises.
2. Organise your meds
Avoid any panic over running out of your HRT or other medications by making sure you have enough. Newson Health pharmacist Hayley Berry recommends re-ordering when you get down to about one month’s supply.
Over Christmas and New Year, pharmacies and general practices will be closed on some days and may be open different, shorter, hours on others, so it can take longer to renew prescriptions. Getting a prescription from your GP then getting it filled at a pharmacy can take between seven and 10 days during busy periods so bear this is mind when placing your repeat prescription order, Hayley advises.
‘Get your prescription in with plenty of time so that if there is any issue, it can be sorted out, and you can have the peace of mind of knowing you won’t run low of HRT over Christmas. HRT can have a significant impact on your wellbeing, so while we often put everyone else first at Christmas, don’t forget the importance of your medication,’ says Hayley.
If you are away from home and forget your HRT, don’t feel you have to go without. Go online at NHS 111 and follow the link for emergency prescriptions, which will link you with a local, open pharmacy.
3. Budget ahead
Money worries can have a huge impact on your mental wellbeing, so Citizen’s Advice suggests to be realistic about what you can afford, and budget accordingly. Work out how much are you going to spend on each person and stick it to avoid a January debt hangover. If you have a large family, consider doing a Secret Santa with a price cap so you each only buy for one person.
The Money Saving Expert website has lots of great advice on saving money this Christmas.
4. Talk about your symptoms
Rebecca Lewis, GP and menopause specialist at Newson Health, says talking about your menopause with your loved ones can help: ‘During the perimenopause, you may feel detached and isolated even among your friends and family. Talk to them about what you are experiencing, and that it is caused by your hormones changing. This can really help people to understand and respond with empathy.’
If you don’t feel comfortable talking with your family, make sure you have one person you can contact during the festive period if you need to let off steam – or create a Whatsapp group with friends purely for that purpose as you’ll not be alone!
5. Delegate jobs
Christmas is full-on at the best of times but it’s common to experience feelings of overwhelm when you are perimenopausal or menopausal. Some women don’t delegate as they prefer to stay in control but asking others for help makes them feel more included and fosters an “all in it together” spirit.
There are no medals awarded for taking everything on yourself so delegate, even if it’s just little jobs – children can lay the table, parents can peel spuds, etc. ‘After all, it is your Christmas as well and you should be able to enjoy it,’ says Dr Lewis.
6. Get outside
Whether you have a house full, or you’re visiting family and tempers are starting to fray, suggest leaving the house for a walk to break things up a little. When everyone is cooped up indoors, it’s natural for tensions or pressure to build up. Going for a walk will give everyone the chance to chat to someone different, and grab some mind-clearing fresh air.
7. Think: good enough!
The notion that Christmas has to be perfect means you can heap extra pressure upon yourself. ‘We can often feel overloaded by this pursuit of Christmas having to be incredible,’ says Dr Lewis. Instead, adopt a new motto “good enough”. So what if your roast potatoes aren’t as crispy as usual – if they’re cooked and edible, count it as a win. It also helps to adopt a sense of humour when things do go wrong – if you can laugh, the whole family will take their cue from you.
8. Consider your diet
If food and alcohol trigger or affect your menopausal symptoms, try to limit these. Aim to be sensible when it comes to alcohol, as Dr Lewis advises: ‘Alcohol often increases tiredness by disrupting sleep, can make hot flushes worse, increase our anxiety and lower mood.’ But if you do have a drink or two, there’s no need to feel guilty or beat yourself up about it.
There is also some evidence that spicy foods and caffeine can exacerbate hot flushes, which is worth bearing in mind if this affects you. Try to strike the right balance at Christmas between having a well-rounded diet with the odd treat thrown in.
9. Stick to your sleep schedule
Sleep boosts your brain power, immunity, heart health and curbs hunger hormones, all of which can help keep you healthy over Christmas. But declining levels of hormones due to the perimenopause or menopause can impact your sleep. Keep to your regular evening routine, even during Christmas, by going to bed and getting up at the same time. Your body will thank you for it.
10. Take me-time
Yes, Christmas is a time for thinking of others but there are 24 hours in a day and you deserve at least 30 minutes during each to do something for yourself that makes you happy. It might be finding a quiet spot in the house to read a book or do something creative, practicing yoga or mindfulness or taking the dog for a walk.
Whatever you choose, spend some of the time thinking about your breathing to help you relax – find breathing exercises in the mental health symptoms section of the balance app.
11. Enjoy safe sex
Perimenopause and menopause can be a time of sexual liberation – if you have children, they may be growing up fast or have flown the nest altogether, so you have more time, or you may have started a new relationship or are enjoying dating.
Sex has many benefits for your physical and mental health and Christmas provides more opportunity to enjoy it. Just remember, it’s still really important to think about safe sex and using contraception to safeguard against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
12. Know there’s support if you need it
Some of us know that Christmas will be a challenging time – in that case, ensure you have some understanding friends or family on stand-by should you need them. But you may be surprised to find yourself struggling or feel you don’t want to burden others at this time.
You’re not going through this alone, help is available. Reach out for support by contacting:
- Samaritans: call 116 123 or email email@example.com
- SHOUT: text on 85258
- National Suicide Prevention Helpline UK: call 0800 689 5652
- Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM): call 0800 58 58 58
Or if you’d like support about perimenopausal and menopausal health, try the balance app where you can read expert articles, track your symptoms and talk to a like-minded community.