How Does Menopause Affect Your Emotions?
Mood swings, sudden tears or even anger are not unusual at menopause. So what can you do about it?
It can be very disconcerting at menopause to find yourself at the mercy of moods you thought had disappeared once you had got rid of PMS. Unfortunately if you find yourself suddenly boiling over waiting at the checkout, or crying tears of frustration because you missed your train or bus, then you are certainly not alone.
If only you could get a decent night’s sleep, but that is often another casualty and that impacts your moods to great extent too.
Generally women between 45 and 55 at menopause the majority of women will experience some symptoms relating the hormonal changes, some physical but others not so much so.
Hot flushes are the one symptom everybody knows about, but you might have other symptoms you didn’t anticipate. These can include mood swings, bursts of anger, tearfulness and usually go through times of sleeplessness too.
The good news is these symptoms will pass, and you can usually manage them to some degree, but these are the ones most women commonly experience.
Depression: You probably know about premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and other times when hormonal shifts can affect your frame of mind. This happens with menopause, too as oestrogen and progesterone affect serotonin and other hormones that are key to staying in balance.
Studies show that about 20% of women feel depressed at some time during menopause. You’re more likely to have depression now if you’ve had it at other times in your life. You might notice signs like:
- Crying outbursts
- Dark thoughts
- Feeling worthless
- Loss of hope
- Low energy
- Not enjoying what you used to
- Trouble making decisions
Anxiety: Depression and anxiety symptoms can overlap. One often will trigger the other. You may have anxiety if you:
- Find it hard to relax
- Feel fearful, panicky, or sense you’re in danger
- Are moody or testy
- Get impatient
- Have nagging worry
- Get restless
Anger: Look out for warning signs as anger can cause a rush of adrenaline through your body, so before you recognise the emotion you’re feeling you might notice:
- your heart is beating faster
- your breathing is quicker
- your body is becoming tense
- your feet are tapping
- you’re clenching your jaw or fists
How to Treat Emotional Symptoms
If these are due to hormonal imbalance then look at whether you are low in progesterone as that is a natural mood enhancer, or you may need a combination of both progesterone and oestrogen depending on your symptoms and their severity.
Anger, you need to look at the signs listed above and learn to recognise them. This gives you the chance to think about how you want to react to a situation before doing anything.
This can be difficult in the heat of the moment, but the earlier you notice how you’re feeling, the easier it can be to choose how to manage your anger. Try counting to 10 before you react and take a few deep breaths.
Try to work off your anger through exercise as that can be really helpful for releasing pent up energy.
Use up your energy safely in other ways – for example, you could try tearing up a newspaper, hitting a pillow or smashing ice cubes in a sink.
Anxiety responds well to simple breathing techniques, talking to a friend or specific counselling and relaxation techniques.
Breathe slowly – try to breathe out for longer than you breathe in and focus on each breath as you take it. Relax your body – if you can feel your body getting tense, try focusing on each part of your body in turn to tense and then relax your muscles. Meditation and mindfulness techniques are also effective in reducing stress and anxiety.
Try distracting yourself by doing something creative like colouring or drawing or writing in a journal. Journaling has been shown to help you de-stress, eat healthier, boost self-confidence, and help you solve your own problems.
Depression can be harder to deal with, but research has shown that diet and lifestyles can play a large part in helping. Avoid foods that can trigger this and whenever possible go outside, being in the open or with friends definitely helps many people, but avoid simply staying alone.
Movement is also effective, whether a simple walk or putting on some music and dancing or singing along to something on a record, the radio or YouTube. doing something creative like colouring or l
Always ask for help and build yourself a supportive regime that works for you. Daily journalling has been shown to help relieve depression so try to ‘write out’ your feelings.
Journaling is a vehicle of emotional exploration, a way to channel difficult feelings into healthy and creative outcomes. It is a form of free self-expression that leads to exploration and personal growth. By writing down your thoughts and feelings, you are forced to slow down and pay attention to everything that is going on in your life. You have to listen rather than run away from your feelings.
Generally you simply write whatever comes into your head – even if that is ‘I have nothing to write about’ you just keep writing and see what comes up. Best to go for a ten minute slot or a couple of A4 pages.