Whether you’re in your late 40s and are about to shift from perimenopause into the real deal or you’re a little younger and are thinking ahead, menopause symptoms can sound pretty scary.
The truth is: You’re probably going to experience a few of them—like hot flashes or vaginal dryness—and some are probably going to be unpleasant. If they’re really messing with your life, you can talk to your doctor about things like hormone replacement therapy (which was considered dangerous for a while but is now recommended as safe for many women), other medications, and lubricants (which, hey, can be fun anyway!).
In the meantime, there are plenty of things you can do to get your body in tip-top shape to potentially prevent (or at least reduce the severity of) symptoms later.
Read up on four smart, healthy ways to prep for the “big change,” below.
4 Practices to Reduce Menopause Symptoms
1. Develop a meditation and/or yoga practice
While menopause is not associated with increased risk of developing clinical depression, women with a history of depression may be at risk for recurrences, and many women do experience mood swings, some of which an be severe. Meanwhile, up to 80 percent of women going through menopause experience hot flashes. A yoga and/or meditation practice may help with both issues. Research suggests meditation programs and yoga classes can improve anxiety and depression, especially when deep breathing is involved. In terms of hot flashes, studies show a technique called “paced respiration” can “cut in half the frequency of hot flashes.” It’s a breathing technique you’ll be able to pick up quickly if you already know all of your yogic breathing techniques.
2. Do your kegels
Just like pregnancy, menopause can increase the risk of urinary incontinence. (You know, peeing a little during that jumpy dance cardio sequence?) If you prioritize strengthening your pelvic floor in advance, you can head off the issue. Do your kegels regularly, or engage in Pilates and yoga, which also often include pelvic floor strengthening exercises.
3. Exercise regularly
Having a regular, consistent exercise routine established well in advance of menopause is key. First of all, as you age, it gets harder to keep weight off, and women who are overweight and obese often experience worse symptoms, like more frequent hot flashes. Insomnia is another major symptom of menopause, and exercise is associated with better sleep. Finally, exercise can help ward off the aforementioned mood swings, and it helps maintain bone density (especially resistance exercise, AKA weights!), which is hugely important as you age.
4. Streamline your sleep routine
Speaking of menopause-induced insomnia, in addition to getting into a workout routine that helps you sleep, you should also prioritize other aspects of your sleep routine so you get to a place where you’re sleeping well and enough. Whether that means figuring out a schedule that works for you, sleepifying your bedroom, or knowing which remedies you need to have on hand (like chamomile tea or lavender for sniffing), getting it right before your body starts messing with your hormones will mean you’re ready to deal with the situation when it happens.