Menopause and mental health often go hand-in-hand, but it’s not all bad news. I’m going to share how menopause affects mental health, what you can do about it yourself, and how you can get further support if you need it.
What is the menopause?
Menopause is a completely natural biological process where women’s menstrual cycles end. Leading up to this is the perimenopause.
During this time, which can last for years, hormonal changes in the body can affect both physical and mental health.
Women experience the menopause around the age of 50, but it can happen earlier or later in life, and it can also be bought about by medical procedures and treatments.
Are menopause and mental health linked?
In terms of mental health, menopause can cause a range of symptoms that vary widely between different women.
Mood swings – Hormonal fluctuations during menopause and perimenopause can trigger mood swings, leading to feelings of irritability, depression, anxiety, and stress.
Sleep disturbances – During the menopause, you may experience insomnia, night sweats, itchy skin or other sleep disturbances, which can lead to fatigue, mood changes, and difficulty concentrating.
Cognitive changes – Some women have trouble with memory, concentration, brain fog, and other cognitive functions during menopause. Such as remembering a colleague’s name, even though you’ve worked with them for years.
Reduced self-esteem – Menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, weight gain, incontinence, and changes in body shape can affect your self-image and self-esteem.
Increased risk of depression – Women experiencing the menopause have a higher risk of developing depression, which can be attributed to hormonal changes and the impact of menopausal symptoms on mental health.
It is essential to understand that not all women experience the same symptoms or severity of menopausal symptoms BUT it is completely normal if you are experiencing symptoms that are affecting your mental health or making you feel like you’re going crazy!
Lifestyle factors and stress management can help alleviate some of the symptoms. And seeking professional support can help you adjust to this life transition with greater ease.
Protecting your mental health during menopause
Here are six ways you can protect your mental health during menopause and perimenopause:
- Exercise: Regular exercise, especially outdoors, has been shown to help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as alleviate physical symptoms such as hot flushes and insomnia.
- Eat a healthy diet: Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can help support overall health and wellbeing during the menopause.
- Get enough sleep: Getting enough sleep is essential for mental and physical health. If you are experiencing sleep disturbances during menopause, try establishing a regular sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed, and creating a comfortable sleep environment.
- Manage stress: Practicing stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises can help reduce stress and improve mental health.
- Seek support: You may benefit from talking to friends, joining a support group, or having therapy to help you navigate your way through the menopause.
- Speak to your GP about HRT: Hormone replacement therapy is a treatment that can help alleviate some of the symptoms of menopause, including mood swings and hot flushes by replacing lost oestrogen and other vital hormones.
Taking care of yourself is vital at this stage of life.
In her book Menopausing, Davina McCall states that “Menopause is a wake-up call to look after yourself, to put yourself first, to give yourself the time and attention you need and deserve.”
Davina goes on to explain how the menopause can be a time of renewal, of transformation, of growth. It can be a time to shed what no longer serves you and embrace what does.
I must agree, especially if your menopause falls as your children begin to leave home and your role and identity, both at home and in society, starts to shift.
Getting support for your mental health during menopause
Counselling can be a helpful support for women experiencing menopause-related mental health challenges.
You don’t need to suffer in silence or hide away in shame.
According to the charity Wellbeing of Women, it is estimated that there are around 13 million people who are peri-menopausal or menopausal in the UK, which is equivalent to a third of our entire female population. So, you certainly are not alone in this.
I can offer a safe space to share your frustrations, get validation that what you are feeling is normal, and provide tools for you to develop coping skills as you move through this stage of your life.
If you are struggling with your mental health or emotional wellbeing due to the menopause, please get in touch to see if I can help support you.