Perimenopause and menopause may be an emotionally volatile and unstable time for many. Having a set of tools to lean on at vulnerable times is extremely valuable.
According to Murray & Pizzorno, a positive mental attitude forms one of the four cornerstones of good health. In fact, having a positive mental attitude can be so vital when it comes to our health that studies have demonstrated that our immune function may be influenced by whether we are optimistic or pessimistic. It seems that optimists have significantly better immune function than pessimists. (1,3,4)
So what does it mean to be an optimist?
As Winston Churchill once said: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
Explanatory style optimism is based on how a person views and explains good or bad situations. A pessimist assumes blame for a bad event, sees the negative event as permanent – that it will last forever and that it has a pervasive impact; in other words, it affects everything that they do. An optimist on the other hand, does not take responsibility or blame for the negative situations. Some optimists may even take credit for good situations and view the good situations as pervasive and permanent and bad situations as fleeting and minor. (3,4)
Dr Martin Seligman in his ground breaking book ‘Learned Optimism’ not only teaches us what it is to be an optimist or a pessimist but also demonstrates that optimism can in fact be improved upon and learnt. The impact of optimism on our health and general well-being is powerful. (4)
Catastrophic language style and self-talk may also have an impact on how we think, feel and behave. Notice whether you use emotive words like “disaster”, “catastrophe” and “calamity” to describe everyday events in your life. The impact on your stress levels and general wellbeing can be significant. Start to use words like “challenging” or “uncomfortable” to describe these everyday minor mishaps (like waiting in line, missing a bus, sitting in traffic) and notice how you feel about them when you do.
In order to have a good positive mental attitude, Murray & Pizzorno suggest one should
- Become an optimist
- Become aware of self-talk
- Use positive affirmations
- Set positive goals
- Practice positive visualisation
- Laugh long and often (1)
In her book on emotional agility, Susan David teaches us how to get unstuck and become emotionally agile. She reminds us that our emotions are “our body’s immediate physical responses to important signals from the outside world”, our emotions are signposts to tell us what is going on in our lives.
She helps us become more “agile” and not so “rigid” in our reactions. Emotional agility is about “being flexible with your thoughts and feelings, so that you can respond well to everyday situations – it is key to well-being” Emotional agility is a choice – it is about choosing how you will respond. (5)
Here are some practical tools to help you stay calm
- Breathe – use deep breathing like alternate nostril breathing or the box breathing method
- Spend time in nature
- Exercise daily
- Talk to a friend
- Talk to a counsellor
- Practice gratitude
- Ask yourself when you feel emotionally volatile – On a scale of 1-10, is it life threatening?
- Keep a journal – write down all your thoughts daily.
- Develop a sense of humour and learn how to laugh at yourself – don’t take yourself so seriously.
- Count to 20 slowly before reacting.
- Don’t forget the basics: EAT GOOD CLEAN WHOLE FOODS, drink lots of filtered water, sleep well and surround yourself with positive people!
- Forgive yourself! When you forgive you detach – when you detach you put distance between you and your emotions.
Remember that the only thing that we have control over is how we respond to any given situation and as the great Viktor. E. Frankl put it:
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom”
- Murray MT &Pizzorno J, The encyclopedia of natural medicine, third edition, 2012, Atria, NY
- Maruta T, Colligan RC et al, Optimists vs Pessimists: survival rate among medical patients over a 30-year period, Mayo Clinic proceedings 2000; 75:140-143
- Seligman M, How to change your mind and your life – Learned Optimism, copyright 1990, 2011, William Heinemann Australia.
- David S, Emotional Agility – get Unstuck, Embrace change and thrive in Work and Life, 2017, Penguin, Random House UK