Menopause Diaries: I'm trying to balance 'doing nothing' with having fun

Helen Seymour is in Peri-Menopause, or at least she thinks she is. In her weekly column, we follow her on her journey towards the Menopause, learning as she does all about the big M.


“…Right,” said Tashy. “Assume the position.”

“…What position?” I looked around.

The two of us were sitting on her outdoor terrace, her on one sofa, me on the other, across from her. It was just after breakfast, the sun was shining, the kids had gone to school, and we were having a coffee. Tashy eased deeper into the sofa, coffee in one hand, cigarette in the other.

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“This position,” she said. “Let’s just do nothing.”

She took a long slow drag off her cigarette, closed her eyes and turned her face to the morning sunshine, then let out a deep satisfied breath.

The guilt of doing nothing

Nothing is very hard for some people to do.  There are huge guilt circles around it. I personally find it very easy. Always have. In fact, I am actually remarkably good at it.  Nothing is somewhere I can pretty much instantly go. And this, let me be clear, is a gift. People pay experts huge amounts of money to help them learn how to “zone out”, so I consider myself extremely fortunate to have “nothing” as a natural default setting.

Related: Will your marriage survive your Menopause?

However, sometimes when I lie on my couch for a couple of hours doing nothing, there is a critical voice inside me, that will try to guilt me out for resting. And even though I’m good at swatting away that voice, a quote that I read recently, helps a lot.

“When I’m resting because my body is weak, I need to remember that I’m not wasting the day doing nothing. I am doing exactly what I need to do. I’m recovering.”

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I push myself a lot. I work long hours, with considerable commutes, and I’m working two jobs. I teach Pilates and I write. Both take different types of physical, mental and psychological exertion. So if my body tells me to lie down and rest, I listen to it. And I find, that even a short rest on the couch, renews my energy, and restores my brain power, I’m more alert, and immediately more productive. I view simple naps on the sofa, or wherever it may be, as an essential part of my health and wellbeing.

Menopause and fatigue

Fatigue is something most women in Menopause experience. If you’re feeling tired, lie down. Did you know the heart sends more messages to the brain than the brain sends to the heart? Listen to your heart. Listen to your body. If you’re feeling tired, lie down and take a nap.

“Relaxation and fun are as vital to our health as nutrition and exercise.”

We are conditioned in this modern world to “go-go-go.”  I put lots of thought into my work, my weekly shop, my healthy eating programme, my food supplements, and I am constantly planning my calendar of exercise, but I put zero thought or planning into holidays or breaks. I also put very little thought into “fun for me”. If fun happens, I’ll happily go along, but I don’t actively plan it.

Related: Sleep deprivation and menopause
go hand in hand, here are tips to help you sleep

Some people are very good at this balance. I have friends who know in advance what their holidays for the year will be. What their big holiday will be (sometimes two big holidays) and what all the mini-breaks in between will be.  In fact to me, they seem to permanently be on some sort of holiday. And they’re right. They have their balance right. But while I am great at naps on the couch, I’m definitely weak when it comes to this.

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A challenge – for me and you

So here’s a challenge. That I’m giving myself as much as you. Write down your ideal year in terms of holidays and mini breaks. List your fantasy two week holidays, list city mini-breaks, list weekends in the country.

On a separate page, list fun things you’ve always wanted to try. Sky-diving, a cake-icing course, belly-dancing, whatever tickles your fantasy. These should be new things.

Finally, list the things you currently enjoy but don’t do enough of. Facials, massages, dinners with friends, whatever it may be.

Related: Walk away from dinosaur GPs.
This is your life. This is your health.

Now take your three lists, and plan a year that involves a healthy mix of all of them. Put as much thought and planning into this as you do into your weekly shops, and your workout programme and make it happen. Your nervous system comes under huge pressure in Menopause. “Relaxation and fun are as vital to our health as nutrition and exercise.” Get your balance right.

And in between, be like Tashy.  Assume the position. Sit in the morning sunshine, listen to nature, take a deep breath in, and experience the joy… of nothing.

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Photo: Getty


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