Winter has come early. It’s cold outside; brutally in some cases. Buffalo, New York is buried in snow. Even in Atlanta, it’s time to take out the warm coats and turn on the heat in our homes and offices. (I’m glad my car has a seat-warmer for the frigid early morning commute!) My husband and I already have had a fire in the fireplace.
I guess that with the sudden change in season, it’s fitting that – in my current “change of life” phase – I experienced my first hot flash.
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Hot flashes are right up there with orgasms. If you have one, you’ll know it! You can read about them or have someone tell you how they feel, but you won’t really understand until you have one yourself. And, once you do, there’s no doubt about what you are experiencing.
Of course, if you know me, I had to understand exactly what was happening to me. So, I sought out an explanation from the Mayo Clinic. They explain that: “Hot flashes are sudden feelings of warmth, which are usually most intense over the face, neck and chest. Your skin may redden, as if you’re blushing. Hot flashes can also cause profuse sweating and may leave you chilled.” Ha! While this description may in fact be accurate, it does not come close to capturing what this involuntary bodily reaction actually does to you.
Let me explain. This “sudden feeling of warmth” makes you feel like a one-hundred-degree heat wave enveloped you. You can’t break free of it. You’re like a glowing ember that can flare up at any time. You can shed all of your clothes, but nothing will help. (Except maybe another Ice Bucket Challenge!) A layer of perspiration coats you; you feel yourself becoming dehydrated. Your face turns beet-red and beads of sweat appear above your lip and along your hairline. Then, once your body temperature starts to return to normal, you actually feel chilled. You pray that no one is noticing any of this.
Nights are the worst. Usually a sound seven-hour sleep-through-the-night person, I now wake up a couple of times, heart pounding, and am drenched with sweat; like I just ran a marathon. As a result of all this, I am sleep-deprived and tired all day; wash my hair WAY too often; and can’t sleep under the covers.
So, what does the Mayo Clinic advise women to do to avoid bringing on hot flashes?
- Keep cool. Duh!
- Watch what you eat and drink. It seems that “hot and spicy foods, caffeinated beverages, and alcohol can trigger hot flashes.” Give up Mexican food, my cappuccinos, and Chianti? No way.
- Relax. Sure. Should I quit my job and do yoga all day?
- Don’t smoke. Does anyone but Alon Ben David smoke anymore? Actually, HE could cause me to have a hot flash!
- Lose weight. I knew I should’ve lost ten more pounds before my son’s wedding!
Oh, and watch for triggers. Thanks a lot. Great advice. Now what? From what I’ve read, these hot flashes only will last a year or so. Yippee. I guess I’ll just grin and bare it until they pass…and joke about them of course.