Your skin is burning up, you’re sweating profusely, and your heart is racing—you could be having a hot flash. When you’re experiencing menopausal hot flashes, an open window in the dead of winter may not even be enough to bring immediate, cooling relief.
Hot flashes are a common—and very annoying—side effect of menopause. They’re caused by the change in hormone levels and can last years after a woman’s last period. Eighty-five percent of women in the U.S. experience hot flashes as they get closer to menopause; up to half of those women will continue to experience them for several years. Synthetic hormone treatments are always an option, but for women who are looking for more natural alternatives for reducing hot flashes, there’s one drug-free technique that’s been proven to work.
It’s pretty simple actually: just relax. Relaxation therapy has grown in popularity for its ability to treat a wide variety of different medical conditions. The process usually involves breathing techniques to relax muscles and slow heart rate, which appear to reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes.
A study focused on 60 healthy women who were experiencing regular hot flashes a year or more after their last period. Half of the group engaged in relaxation therapy exercises involving controlled breathing while tensing and relaxing various muscles throughout their body. The other half received no treatment. The therapy group started with doing relaxation exercises twice daily, and eventually worked up to 20 times each day. They were also taught to control their breathing and muscle tensioning while the hot flashes were happening.
The results showed that actively relaxing the body reduced the frequency of hot flashes from an average of 10 a day to four. The women in the study also showed improved quality of sleep, fewer body aches, less anxiety, and higher concentration levels.
There’s another natural technique for treating hot flashes that is along the same lines of relaxation therapy. A five-week study on 187 postmenopausal women found that hypnosis could reduce the frequency of hot flashes by up to 80%. The participants received weekly hypnosis sessions with a professional and also used relaxing audio recordings and visual images at home to practice self-hypnosis. By just the fourth session, the frequency of hot flashes was reduced by an average of 70%. By the end of the study, some of the participants even reported that any subsequent hot flashes, if any, were significantly milder.
This hypnosis study used a certified therapist—which may not be a realistic option for many women—in conjunction with activities that anyone can do themselves at home to help with hot flashes. The Internet is an endless treasure chest of relaxing audio and visual images; they can be virtually anything that makes you feel calm. For audio, try nature sounds or light instrumental tracks. For images, try a serene lake or a beach sunset.
The good news is if you’re experiencing menopausal hot flashes, there’s a good chance they’ll diminish over time. But if you’ve got better things to do than deal with irritating and uncomfortable hot flashes, relaxation can make them disappear much faster. So go ahead and put your feet up. Besides, hot flashes or not, everyone could use a little relaxation.
“All About Hot Flashes,” Breastcancer.org web site; https://www.breastcancer.org/tips/menopausal/facing/hot_flashes, last accessed May 29, 2013.“
“Study links relaxation method to reduced hot flashes,” Reuters web site; https://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/03/health-menopause-idUSL4N09D00720121203, last accessed May 29, 2013.