Menopause – the Emotional Journey
The physical signs of menopause are clearly visible, but there are other effects that are less obvious.
You may be prepared to experience the physical signs of menopause, such as hot flushes, brain fog or vaginal dryness, but often not really prepared for some of the emotional changes that can occur as well.
What to look out for
Of course all women are different, so you may experience some, none, or all of these in varying degrees of intensity, but they can include:
- Feelings of sadness
- Lack of motivation
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mood changes
- Increased stress levels
So many of these symptoms could be related to Menopause, but frankly life itself, whatever your age, or the stage of life you are in, can also mean you could manifest the same things.
Although depression isn’t caused by menopause, studies show that about 20% of women have symptoms of depression during this time and it’s more likely if you’ve previously experienced it.
How to cope with these changes
If you are also suffering from the most common physical symptoms, such as hot, flushes, night sweats, brain fog, and lack of sleep then that is definitely going to impact your emotional state too.
By tackling the physical symptoms, you will then be in a much stronger position to deal with the more emotional aspects of this transition. Hormone balance is key here so know whether or not you have signs of hormone lack or excess such as symptoms of oestrogen dominance or night sweats or some physical symptoms that you are simply not managing well or coping with.
These symptoms are related to the declining levels of progesterone and oestrogen, and if you are not sure which hormone you need see the helpful information section in this article.
Often your emotions can be managed through lifestyle changes such as learning ways to relax and reduce stress. None of this is rocket science, nor is it likely to be new to you, but it is worth repeating it so you can tick off your personal checklist to ensure you are taking the best possible care of yourself.
These are what can make it easier for you to handle your fluctuating emotions:
- Exercise in a pleasurable way: walk, dance, swim, garden are all options
- Check your diet is right: the Mediterranean one is great for heart health, mood and weight loss
- Find what makes you relax: yoga, meditation, rhythmic breathing, massage are all good
- Look for a creative outlet or hobby that gives you a sense of achievement
- Stay connected with your friends, family and community as that boosts mood
Try to maintain a positive attitude and focus on what you like about yourself, and replace your negative thoughts with positive ones that reinforce you.
There are now a number of Menopause cafés around the country, either in person or online, where you can get help and support from other women who are in exactly the same situation you are. Sharing those thoughts and feelings with others is a good way to get a handle on how to deal with them.
These are what to avoid
When we are in an emotional state, it is natural to turn to the things we hope will help to boost and make us feel better.
Unfortunately the most common ones such as tranquillisers, alcohol and comfort eating may give you a temporary lift, but long-term are no help at all. If you are using tranquillisers, never stop them without discussing this with your doctor, as you could have withdrawal effects.
Always limit your intake of alcohol and the comfort foods, as you’re going to feel even worse when you put on weight because both these things will have that effect.
Another cause of low mood at menopause is the fact that we are ageing, and although this is a natural process, it’s not always one that we are able to embrace happily. Fortunately, we live at a time when it is so much easier to take small steps to improve how we look and take better care of ourselves and in particular our skin.
It is absolutely essential that you create some rituals that nourish you, whether that’s adding hydrating oils to your bath or treating yourself to a new skincare routine because, to quote an oft used advertising slogan, “you are worth it.”
When you feel better about yourself you are able to feel and act more positively and other people feel better around you too.
Another issue that can hit hard is the realisation that you are at the end of your childbearing years and whether that means that you are not able to add to your family, or it’s not possible now to have a baby, this can be a really hard emotional issue to deal with.
You may also be dealing with the “empty nest syndrome” and again this requires a period of adjustment and a looking at how you can change the structure of your life to see these changes in a more positive way.
Talking all of this through with your partner, or with a counsellor, can certainly be helpful but what is important is that you do not try and deal with it on your own, because help is available.
The symptoms that affect all others
In my experience, there are two things that definitely make any emotional state worse and those are insomnia and stress.
Poor sleep can be a cause-and-effect problem during menopause because symptoms like hot flushes/night sweats can disrupt your sleep, making anxiety and depression worse.
Meanwhile, mood problems themselves can cause sleep problems so tackle your sleep issues with relaxation before bedtime. Progesterone and herbal supplements can help with this and avoid caffeine and alcohol as they can make it worse.
All the things that I’ve just said about put a sleep can be applied to stress as well because we know that stress makes all hormonal symptoms worse. If you are stressed because you are having a hot flush, that hot flush is likely to be more intense, and worrying about having another one will also have just the same impact on your body.
Again, do everything you can to reduce the known stresses in your life that you have control over, and remind yourself that “this too will pass”, because no flush lasts forever and today’s stress may seem meaningless tomorrow. Try to take a deep breath and reassure yourself you are doing the best you can and that will help
It really does not seem fair that while you’re trying to cope with all the hormonal changes of menopause, and the debilitating symptoms that go with it, that you should also have to be dealing with the emotional fallout as well.
I can’t emphasise enough that self-care is so important here so check your hormone levels and your diet and look every day for something that you can be grateful for that can lighten the load as well.
If you are not sure whether your hormones are in balance, or which hormone you need to supplement, then this article will be helpful: