- Your mom isn’t doing well and needs more support, probably from (who else?) you!
- You’ve unmistakably entered “the change” and your ability to roll with the punches isn’t rolling anymore.
- Instead of becoming more independent, your teenaged children have only become more mobile, not necessarily more trustworthy; they are also acutely aware of what goes on behind closed doors. Your closed door, in particular. Plus, they stay up until all hours, while you are practically going to bed with the sun.
- Or (alternate scenario) your 20-something was just sucked into the economic downdraft and lost his job. He’s moving back until he finds another.
- Neither you nor your partner is getting any younger, to which your rickety knees, complaining back, and unsteady blood pressure can attest.
Sex? Can you spell that?
According to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), fatigue, stress, and lack of privacy are three common bogeymen of midlife sex. Maybe you once thought you’d have everything figured out by now. As it turns out, the reality on the ground looks much different.
You belong to the sandwich generation, remember? You care for aging parents and your own growing children—who stay up late and are acutely aware of sexual innuendo. The boomerang kid lands at your doorstep. And just when your own career is at its most demanding, you’re tossing at night from insomnia and hot flashes and don’t perform well at the morning meeting with (choose one) the partners, the customer, the staff.
While you can’t magically fix everything at once—stress and fatigue won’t dissipate overnight, and you won’t be able to leap passionately into bed tonight with a rose clamped between your teeth—yet, you might keep in mind the airline attendant’s advice: Put the oxygen mask on yourself first. Because if you can’t breathe, what earthly good are you to anyone else?
You can’t do anything about your teenagers’ sensitivity or your parents’ fragility or your menopausal discomforts, but you can pay attention to your physical and psychological health and to the partner who, God willing, will still be around when the other demands have eased.
Try these stress-busters:
- Eat healthfully. You’ve heard this before, but the wisdom of the ages bears repeating. Your body simply won’t keep up with all the physical demands if you’re overeating or consuming the bad stuff. Think fruits and veggies, not fries and burgers. Think whole grains, not white rice and Wonder bread. Avoid refined sugars, fats, and processed foods. Avoid alcohol. Cut back on caffeine, which, according to NAMS, elevates levels of cortisol, the “stress hormone.”
- Meditate. Guided imagery or mindfulness meditations are simple and surprisingly effective techniques to help you relax and check in with yourself emotionally. They’re refreshing to the spirit and the closest thing to magic at relieving stress. For a superb two-fer—a stress-relieving meditation and a gentle workout, try yoga.
- Exercise. If you don’t stay active, your body simply won’t work well. Exercise is the third leg of the stool to lowering stress, improving your mood, and keeping joints, organs, and muscles functional. It doesn’t have to be strenuous, but it does need to be regular—30 minute sessions four to five times a week. If you can get outside, all the better.
- Relax and do something nice for yourself. Take a bath. Get a massage. Get a makeover. Go out with friends.
- Laugh. It makes you prettier and it relieves stress. All the experts say so.
- Create a boudoir. If your kids are going to smirk and giggle anyway, give them something to be really embarrassed about. Make your bedroom a sexy little place just for you and your partner. Your kids will never again enter without knocking.
- Play with toys. Sex will take longer and may require some props as you both grow older. But according to several studies, you’ll enjoy it more. So what are you waiting for? Check out our website, both to educate yourself and for our selection of sex enhancing toys.
- Take your time. Maybe you’ve noticed that most of these suggestions require time, which may seem as scarce as snow in Tahiti. But that’s just the point, isn’t it? You have more demands than ever on your time and energy. But if you don’t fill the gas tank, you’ll be running on empty.
Dr. Barb DePree, M.D., has been a gynecologist and women’s health provider for almost 30 years and a menopause care specialist for the past ten.