Do you feel like your menopause is the ultimate rollercoaster ride, with your symptoms making you feel out of control? You’re not alone. The good news is that there are lifestyle changes you can make that are scientifically proven to help manage symptoms. Good habits such as regular exercise, balanced diet, stress management and better sleep are proven to improve menopause symptoms. But getting these changes to be part of your everyday life is not always easy.
We’ve got some expert tips for you on how to create good habits and ease those menopause symptoms, thanks to Stella’s psychologist and coach manager, Dr Bev Taylor.
What is a habit?
According to Dr Bev, habits are simply the brain’s way of taking shortcuts so that it can get things done. Habits are generally:
- Actions that are performed repeatedly
- Often automatic or subconscious
- Can be healthy or unhealthy
- Are triggered by internal or external events
Why are habits difficult to keep?
For most of us, good habits are easy to do for the first couple of days. It feels novel, you’re full of energy and motivation, your goals are clear, and you wonder why you haven’t done this before.
A week or two later it’s a very different picture. Real life crashes in and pushes your plans off course, your motivation does a runner, and in any case, you can’t see or feel any change. How long will this behaviour change business take anyway?
What’s happened? Why is building habits so challenging and why is it so difficult to keep up the momentum? According to Dr Bev, there are a few reasons you may be struggling:
- Expecting too much too soon
- Lack of accountability and support
- Motivation – understanding why you want to make changes
- Time and other commitments
Eight tips to create long-lasting habits
So how can you change your behaviour for the long term? Here are Dr Bev’s top tips on creating good habits that stick and will improve your menopause symptoms.
1. Focus on bite-sized chunks
She explains, “Our goals are too big. We don’t break things down enough, and changes aren’t immediate so we give up when we can’t see an improvement after a couple of days. We feel like we’re failing before we’ve given ourselves a chance.” To overcome these challenges, Dr Bev advises trying to focus on small steps. It’s easier to make small consistent changes than one massive overhaul. For instance, if you want to exercise for two hours a week, break that down into smaller chunks of 10-15 minute blocks throughout the week. The key is to keep your habits small and easy to fit into your current life.
2. Fall in love with the process chunks
Learn how to enjoy the process of creating good habits rather than the end goal. For example, if you want to get more exercise into your life, focus on the joy of exercising and how it makes you feel, instead of the outcome of a toned body or being able to run a marathon. Similarly, if you want to lose weight, focus on nourishing your body with nutritious foods that will help manage your menopausal symptoms, rather than the scales. In the Stella app, you can find plenty of recipes and meal plans to help with this.
3. Focus on your ‘why’
Another strategy for creating successful habits is to focus on the reason you want to create this habit. Is it because it feels good, or is it because you want to manage your symptoms? Is your current lifestyle making your symptoms worse? By focusing on the reason behind the habit, you’re more likely to stick with it.
4. Plan ahead
Planning ahead is another effective way to create good habits. If you have a set working day, try to schedule in some time for your new habit. For instance, if you want to prioritise a lunchtime walk or swim, mark it in your work calendar so that nobody can schedule a meeting during that time.
5. Use visual reminders
Using visual prompts can help you stay on track with your habits. For example, you could place a reminder, like a post-it note on your fridge or notification on your phone, to remind you of your intentions. If you have planned to exercise, you could put your workout gear next to your bed for the morning, or your running shoes next to the door. Not only are you putting visual reminders in place but you’re also removing any barriers or easy excuses that might prevent you from following through on your intentions.
6. Celebrate wins
Some days doing your new habit will feel easy, and other times it will feel like a huge challenge. To help keep up your motivation, celebrate your wins, however small. If you really didn’t feel like exercising, but you managed just two minutes of push-ups, or a five-minute walk, celebrate it. If you really wanted a takeaway, but chose a healthier option, then celebrate that you chose to stick to the longer term goal by making a different choice. Give yourself praise and acknowledge that even though it’s a tiny win, it’s still a win.
7. Track your habits
If we don’t feel we’re seeing changes quick enough, or there’s no feedback, it can be easy to give up or tell ourselves that our efforts aren’t working. Tracking our habits is one of the best ways to overcome that, giving us a sense of accomplishment as we tick things off the list. You can do this with the Stella app and tailor them to your specific goals.
8. Have an accountability buddy
Accountability can be a powerful motivator. This could be a friend or partner. Tell them what you want to achieve and ask them to check in on you at the end of the week to see if you’ve stuck to your plans. If there’s no one in your life you feel comfortable sharing this with, you could use one of the coaches within the Stella app. Dr Bev says “Tell us about your goals and when you want to do them. We can keep checking in on you and see how you are. You’re much more likely to stick to your habits if you’ve told other people that you’re going to do it and need to report back. We’ll support you and help you with any barriers.”
Why ‘failing’ is normal when making lifestyle changes
Dr Bev’s advice is to recognise that failing and making mistakes is part of learning. Understanding ourselves better – our triggers and motivations – will ultimately help us to improve our health during menopause. She says, “The trick is getting back up after we ‘fail’. Learn how to support yourself when creating those new habits so they’re more likely to last long term.”
- Reinforce your attention to your new behaviour
- Helps us to notice the small change and improvements over time
- Builds resilience and increases self-esteem
- Help us to understand our true limits and capabilities
So there you have it – creating good habits to help manage menopause symptoms doesn’t have to be a daunting task. By taking small steps, finding joy in the process, focusing on your reasons why, planning ahead, using visual reminders, tracking your progress, and having an accountability buddy, you’ll be well on your way to creating habits that will stick. Remember, menopause is a time of change, but it can also be a time of growth and self-discovery. So don’t be afraid to try new things and take care of yourself, one habit at a time. Happy habit-forming!