Before we get started, I should probably make this clear. I’m not a doctor. I’m not a nurse. (I’ve had lunch with a nurse, but that doesn’t count.) I don’t work in the healthcare field or industry. I’m the “thing that reads a lot,” a woman with an obsessive yearning for knowledge. I may not have all the answers, but I can spend hours and hours reading stuff written by those who seem to know what they’re talking about. I’m not going to pretend that I’m an expert in anything. I will share what’s worked for me.
I’ve only had a title to go along with my varying and progressively confusing symptoms for a short time. I knew there was something wrong. I knew that I didn’t feel like I did in the past, both mentally and physically. I knew I needed to do something to “fix” me, but I was grasping at straws, trying to figure out why my emotions seemed to be in the driver’s seat. I’ve fought depression on and off most of my life, but lately I’ve been all over the place. I’m happy. I’m sad. I’m angry. I’m sleepy. I’m an entire fleet of ineffectual, melancholy dwarves. And while I’m pale enough to be Snow White, and see nothing wrong with intelligent conversations with animals, I’m not ready to embrace the Dysfunctional Princess lifestyle. Not yet!
I’m perimenopausal. This means I haven’t hit menopause, but my body is going haywire while prepares to shut down the dairy sections of my body. No more eggs. No more milk. We’re turning out the light. Bub-bye! From my understanding, I’ve got another 2-10 years before the shut down is complete. That’s a lot of warning time, when you think about it. So, I suppose I should be grateful? Thanks??? In the meantime, my brain has felt like I’d popped it in the blender. Puréed synapses, anyone? I’ve got chunks of time missing. Conversations have vanished from my memories. Poof! Gone. I’m been more achy than usual. I’m retaining fluid in my legs. Gaining weight. Experiencing hot flashes. Yeah…I’m a mess!
Or…I was a mess.
I’m feeling so much better than before. I can’t even explain the differences properly. It’s like trying to function on 3 hours sleep. EVERY DAY. You might be able to plow through your first day, but it’s not pretty, and the more sleep deprived you are, the worst it gets.
Now that I know what’s going on, I can make different choices. I can help my body through its changes. I feel like I’m in control again. I have my life back.
So, what have I been doing to help myself?
We’ve all heard this before. It’s not mind-blowing. Get outside and walk! A half hour of walking everyday would be ideal. So far, I can only manage to go out walking every-other day. Seven days of walking is too hard on my “bad knee.” (Plus, the weather isn’t especially cooperative in Michigan.) I can mange 3-4 days of walking per week fairly well.
I started walking a few months back, before I owned the title: Perimenopausal. I figured since I didn’t know what else to do, or how to fix my symptoms, I should start with the basics. Drink water, exercise…blah, blah, blah.
Perfectionist Juli does NOT like to exercise because she tends to make everything harder than it has to be. Perfectionist Juli would insist that we can’t exercise because…we don’t belong to a gym. We don’t own a pedometer. We don’t own the latest gadget. We don’t have time. We’re too busy.
I’m going to make this easy. If you have a sidewalk or street in front of your house, you can probably go out walking.
I live in a small town. I feel comfortable in my neighborhood. I don’t have a legitimate excuse for regularly avoiding exercise. Your situation might be different from mine. I don’t know. I’m sharing what’s worked for me. I’m not giving you orders.
This is what I did when I first started my walking routine:
- I took my cellphone with me and set the alarm to go off in 15 minutes.
- I picked a direction and started walking.
- When the alarm went off, I turned around and walked home.
That’s it! Pretty simple. I didn’t worry about steps or speed. I figured, as I improved, I’d go farther and faster.
I try not to get on the scale too often. I can’t control the scale. I can only control my own actions. If I lose weight, great. If not, oh well. My weight isn’t the most important thing.
Have I seen any benefits from walking?
While my weight hasn’t really changed, my jeans are fitting better. My sleep pattern seems to have imprived, probably because I walk in the morning. I have more energy. (Vitamin D, perhaps?) My “bad knee” isn’t quite as bad as it once was. Go figure!
On a side note, I really enjoy getting out of the house. I didn’t expect that! I don’t know why, but writers often wax poetically about the silence of the great outdoors. They couldn’t be more wrong! It’s NOISY outside, especially if you live close to nature. Birds, frogs, insects, squirrels, things crashing around through the trees and scrub…sometimes, you can hardly hear yourself think! I spend too much time in my head, so it’s nice to have all the commotion going on around me. I love the beauty of nature, but my brain needs the break walking seems to provide.
If you’re able to go walking, great. I’d suggest you wear a supportive pair of shoes. Bring a cell phone with you, just in case. Use a timer. Pick different paths, so you don’t get stuck in the same routine, and for safety. And don’t push yourself too hard. Walking shouldn’t feel like work. If it feels like work, you won’t want to do it long-term.
Sometimes, I like to bring my camera with me. It’s mounted to a monopod that doubles as my walking stick. Here are a few photos from my walk this foggy October morning:
If I could change only one thing, I would have started walking outdoors sooner. In the past I usually exercised indoors, if at all. However, I saw immediate mental and physical benefits once I started walking outdoors.
Take care and more posts to come…