29 May Winter is Coming: Five Ways to Battle Perimenopausal Brain Fog
Middle-aged women tend to have many titles. You may feel like you’re trying to unite several kingdoms — just like Daenerys Stormborn from the TV show, Game of Thrones.
Your name could look something like this:
You are the Empress of Everything of the House (Usually) Organized, #Badass Change Agent of the Future, First to Help Out Her Parents, the Can’t Ever Be Burned Out Business Owner, Queen of the Carpool and the Kids’ Sports Teams, Khaleesi of the PTA, Breaker of Glass Ceilings, and Mother of Three.
As you try to rule your kingdoms, you may feel life’s demands are sandwiching you. You’re caught between excelling at work and taking care of your family, parents, and community. So taking time for yourself may seem impossible.
But you’ve persevered and made it to your iron throne of success. But you can barely enjoy it because you’re slumped over in exhaustion.
Just when you need to be at the top of your game, it feels like your body betrays you — especially your brain.
You may have forgotten to pick a child up from school. Or you may have forgotten some key information during a presentation.
Or, you just can’t seem to find your keys — again.
And, as you’re battling a lack of focus, you could also be dealing with increased levels of stress.
All is not well in the realm.
Winter is coming, and the “winter” is the slow decline of estrogen production in your body along with other key hormones that communicate with each other.
The brain fog you’re experiencing is a common symptom of perimenopause.
So how can you remain sharp and keep the peace in your realm as your body is changing?
It involves a “wholistic” approach. There exists a connection of mind, body, spirit, and HORMONES.
By working with your doctor, you can create a personalized hormone replacement treatment. But there are other ways that you can handle this important life transition.
Here are five ways you can remain the Empress of Everything as you experience perimenopausal brain fog.
1. Purposeful Planning Prevents Poor Performance
With the hormonal shifts happening in your body, you need to get reacquainted with your body. Specifically, you need to understand when you’re at your best throughout the day.
One way to start is to look at the research in Daniel Pink’s book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. Based on the study of chronobiology, which examines the natural rhythms of our bodies, Pink lays out three kinds of chronotypes:
- Lark — a morning person
- Owl — a night person
- Third bird — a person in the middle of the lark and owl
In this CNBC interview, Pink describes the best times for each chronotype to get certain tasks accomplished. For example, if you’re an owl, you should make important decisions in the late afternoon or evening. But if you’re a lark, then the early morning is best.
Once you understand when your peak performance times are, you can protect that time. Put it in your schedule when you’ll be doing certain kinds of tasks. If you have an assistant, they can help protect your time as well.
2. Food Be Thy Medicine
Eating healthy will not only help with the brain fog of perimenopause, but it will help with other perimenopausal symptoms such as weight gain, fatigue, decreased sexual libido, poor sleep, and joint stiffness. By eating better, you’ll also start to feel better and reduce your stress levels.
One thing to be mindful of is how much calcium you’re consuming. When estrogen levels start to decline, it makes it harder for your bones to retain calcium. This causes older women to have thinner bones (also known as osteoporosis), making bones much easier to break and to break more severely.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend to increase your calcium intake by 200mg (from 1000mg to 1200mg) at age 50. Prevention has a list of calcium-rich foods which can start eating today, such as tofu, almonds, and broccoli.
Beyond increasing your calcium, you should consider these other ideas:
- Cut back on alcohol. Too much alcohol consumption has shown an increased risk of breast cancer. It is also toxic to the liver (a key detoxification organ) and impacts hormone balance.
- Ease up on junk food. It’s easier for you to retain fat especially with high sugar intake because excess refined sugars are stored as fat. So focus on eating leaner meats and more fruits and veggies. An easy trick is to eliminate one bad food you crave at a time. This could be chips, cookies, starchy breads, or tortillas. Build on that momentum and eliminate something else next.
- Drink more water. Perimenopause can also cause more bloating, but drinking more water can help rid you of water retention and gas. Drink half of your body weight in water ounces daily.
- Intermittent fasting. Fasting your body for 13 hours a day, also known as circadian rhythm fasting, can help regenerate better cell activity, which helps you to live longer. This means you would eat during an 11-hour window. For example, if you have your first meal at 7am, you should not eat after 6pm. You can learn more about intermittent fasting from the Harvard Health Blog.
3. Monitor the Mitochondria
You may remember mitochondria from your high school biology class. Mitochondria are the energy powerhouses of cells. They take the foods we eat and turn them into energy. By keeping our mitochondria in tip-top shape, we’re in better health overall.
But when mitochondria start to malfunction, it can cause many kinds of diseases and disorders such as early aging, dementia, and diabetes.
One way mitochondria can start malfunctioning is through stress. Recent research has examined this link and found several factors which can impact mitochondrial dysfunction.
These factors include one thing we can’t control, which is our genes. But there are some things we can control, which is our diet and behavior. One way is by adding powerful antioxidants to our daily routine. Antioxidants help protect mitochondria and promote better cellular function which means improved hormone balance and production. Examples are Vitamins A, C, and E, Coenzyme Q10, melatonin, and garlic.
4. Move Your Body Out of the Fog
Exercising has several benefits for your changing body. Because you’re slowly losing muscle mass and gaining belly fat, exercise can help keep the weight off.
Keeping a lower weight can also help you from developing diseases such as many kinds of cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease — which is the leading cause of death for American women. Exercise can also strengthen your bones, which can also help to prevent osteoporosis.
Keeping active can help you feel good about yourself, as well as decrease your risk of depression, along with other cognitive impairments.
So how can you keep fit if you’re a busy Empress of Everything? You truly have to make time for it.
The Department of Health and Human Services suggests you should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of strenuous activity every week.
Additionally, you’ll want to add in strength training (e.g., workout on weight machines) twice a week. That will help with keeping your bones and muscles healthy and strong.
For example, after dinner, you can go on a family walk through the neighborhood for thirty minutes. Or, you could meet up with a friend or neighbor and walk in the morning before you head out to work.
If you have a gym membership, it can help to meet up with a gym buddy so you’re more likely to go. Maybe you like to go dancing, play tennis, or swim. If you like having a workout regimen, Women’s Day offers one for perimenopausal women here.
Whatever you choose to do, make sure it also involves some stretching afterward as well as activities that help with your balance. As you grow older, keeping balanced is important to prevent falls and subsequent bone fractures and injuries.
Consult with your physician if you have any questions or concerns before you start an exercise routine.
5. Be Mindful in the Moment
As you are wearing multiple crowns and multitasking, it can be easy to become overwhelmed. If you’re already experiencing brain fog, then you’re already dealing with a lack of concentration and focus. Recent research has shown that a mindfulness practice help ease menopausal symptoms along with stress.
Just like with exercise, you’ll need to schedule time to meditate daily. But mindfulness is also a way of being. It involves being in the present moment, not rushing from task to task, savoring every pleasure, and practicing more self-compassion.
It’s so important to be kind to yourself as your body is going through these changes. You may expect so much out of yourself because many people depend on you. But if you take the time to take care of yourself by following these five steps, you’ll see that the brain fog will start to dissipate and you’re well on your way to hormone balance and restoration.