Happy Birthday to Me! The Gift of Self-Compassion - Ellen Dolgen

Happy Birthday to Me! The Gift of Self-Compassion

Who knew that when you least expected it; you suddenly wouldn’t feel like, well—‘you!’  Your hormones have taken a nosedive and introduced the new normal with its accompanying hot flashes, anxiety and sleepless nights.

As I turn 61 this month, my gift to myself is self-compassion.  Now that I’m actually post-menopausal I am paying more attention to my own needs.  Sound selfish?  It isn’t. While navigating the tricky waters of menopause, it’s important to give yourself a break.

A friend of mine swears that the Miss Deb booklet left on her bed by her mother was the best dollar her mom ever spent!  It was a pamphlet for ‘little girls who would mature soon and pretty much took the onus off her mother having the ‘birds and the bees’ talk.

Perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause are far more difficult to comprehend, and even Miss Deb wouldn’t be able to explain their ins and outs in a small pamphlet. One thing is for sure—charting your own destiny can be extremely liberating providing you first lighten up—on yourself! Have some self-compassion.

Be All You Can Be

This simple slogan used in U.S. Army commercials for 21 years inspired a generation to seek its full potential.

Menopause triggered that same desire in me—to be the best I can be—right now! Meaning, you can either shrink away into nothing or decide that you’re still young enough to remain relevant.  Hmmm…decisions, decisions!

Adversity can only keep you down if you let it or as Henry Ford put it, “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”

Make the decision to live a purposeful life using the tools you own now and not the ones from 30 years ago.  The only constant in life is change.

My own purposeful life led me to a wonderful project called, Notes to Our Sons and Daughters: A Celebration of Wisdom.  In this I shared my own menopausal transition.  I found out above all else, that changing adversity into strength begins within me.

Embrace Who and What You Are

Embracing who you are without fear of judgment or rejection is a beautiful side effect of the change.  One scientific study found women wait until elder years to let go of, “I’ve got to look and be perfect,” self-talk.  Why not start a little sooner?  After all, is how you look in a swimsuit really that critical?  Ease up—especially on yourself.

It’s OK to Be Vulnerable

My best approach to embracing vulnerability was to bring menopause out in the open, and that in turn opened all kinds of doors to new opportunities.  It was the foundation of my own slogan: “Suffering in silence is OUT!  Reaching out is In!”

Bottling up your emotions is dangerous.  Embrace the change through shared experiences, whether with a good friend or even at a dinner party with new acquaintances.  Talking about menopause will surely affect someone in the room and might even change their life.  Now, that’s powerful!

When Things Aren’t OK, You Don’t Have to Hide It

It was incredibly liberating for me to realize that after years of ‘soldiering through,’ caring for kids, aging parents, house and career, that I could actually say out loud, “Everything is not always ok,” without worrying about sounding like I was whining.

Suppressing emotion has a powerful negative effect on your body called oxidative stress.  Free radicals form when you’re anxious or stressed out.  If you combine those free radicals with hormonal deficiencies, then low-density lipoproteins, for which you need anti-oxidants to fight at the cellular level, are diminished.

Some doctors recommend antioxidant supplements such as Vitamins A and C, to increase antioxidant serum enzyme level.  Eating more fruits and vegetables is helpful.  Go local—visit a local farm stand and soak up your Vitamin D for the day!

Caregivers, Not Care Receivers

Try devoting as much time to the woman in the mirror as you do to everybody else.   Studies show that society expects women to do the majority of caregiving–there’s a surprise.  AARP actually did the math and found that collective caregiving is worth more than $450B a year.  So, it stands to reason that if it’s worth that much to society, then so my dear, you are worth the effort, as well!

New research says being kinder to you at the very least helps suppress hot flashes, which might be triggered by stressful situations.  This seems to be a gender-related psychological marker as according to the study, “Women typically have lower self-compassion than men. Our research indicates that midlife women may benefit from including themselves in the circle of compassion.”

Do Well By Doing Good

Maya Angelou once said, “When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”

Giving starts with your reflection in the mirror.  I don’t know about you, but I love –“self-compassion”.  What better place to start than by accepting yourself.  In fact, the best gift I’ll get this birthday won’t be giftwrapped and tied up with a bow!  It’ll be when I look in the mirror and remind myself of my life well lived, thanking the girl who got me here and paying homage to her by living life honestly and joyfully.

It’s a wrap!

Suffering in Silence is Out!  Reaching Out is In!


10 thoughts on “Happy Birthday to Me! The Gift of Self-Compassion”

  1. Hi Ellen,
    It’s funny when I saw you at Angela’s party I just thought I was going through menopause. Well little did I know how bad it would get. Lol. I turned 50 this year and menopause is in full swing, oh joy! I read your book again and looked up info. I may have to have a menopause Monday party soon for a lot of my friends as we are all complaining about the same thing, being hot! Hope you and Dave are doing well. Hope to see you around Coronado soon!
    Hugs, Toni

    1. My father passed away, as well, Sharon. He was 58. I think that stress shorten is life, as well. Very sad for us to loose our fathers so young. They missed so much of our lives and our children’s lives. I am trying to be proactive about dealing with stress. For sure your Dad would be extremely proud of you, my dear!

  2. well, these are all very pretty words. but…..
    I went through early menopause (naturally, not surgery induced), and at 47 I am now officially post-menopause (3 years since my last cycle). I can’t take hormones because of a DVT 2 years ago with a clot the size of a hot dog (doctors words not mine). My mother passed away unexpectedly right in the middle of all this. To be honest, I just want the truth. Pretty words are just that. Some one please tell me that eventually I won’t feel like absolute Sh#^t for the rest of my life. If I didn’t have the anti-anxiety meds, I honestly can’t say I’d still be here. I feel like I am turning into a dude. And I’m pretty sick of reading articles that tell me “this is the best time of your life!” when it absolutely is NOT. Some days, I feel like I am loosing my mind. I’ve lost my zest for all the things that used to make me so happy. I wake up each and every day and think, Oh Lord another day to get through. I was never this way before meno. I was always happy-go-lucky, a force to be reckoned with, always with a smile and a laugh. Menopause changed me on a molecular level. And the best I can find is that this is the “new me”. Really? some new me. I’d take having a period for the rest of my life, if it meant I could feel normal again. and since my meno was a good 10 years earlyier than the average (even my mom was 50 when she went through it), I feel like I got cheated.

    1. Melissa, I am so sorry you have had such a difficult time. Are you going to a Menopause Specialist? I would definitely consider getting another opinion on the options available to you. I have some helpful tips on how to find a good Menopause Specialist in this Dear Ellen. It is good to know that not all HRT is created equal. For example, conjugated equine estrogens carry a higher risk of heart attack, venous thromboembolism, and blood clots than do oral estradiol, according to a new study from the University of Florida College of Medicine-Jacksonville. Many women with severe symptoms take bioidentical HRT which is delivered transdermally. This form of HRT does not cause thromobosis/blood clots. You can read more in this blog: The Doctor is IN Menopause Mondays: Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) – Are You Still Confused? Dr. Josh Trutt Weighs in… LMK if there is any other way I can support you! Good Luck!

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