World Menopause Day – Tuesday 18 October
Menopause and mental health
Menopause is not just about hot flushes and forgetfulness. There are a whole host of physical, and emotional symptoms that come along with this stage of life.
What is menopause?
Menopause itself marks the day one year after your last period. However, symptoms due to the fluctuation and lowering of hormone levels can start many years before menstruation ends, and this is known as peri-menopause. Around 80% of people going through this stage of life report noticeable symptoms, and just under half of those say their symptoms are hard to deal with.
Menopause and mental health
The physical symptoms of this transition time can be hard to deal with, and have an impact on someone’s mental health. Lack of sleep can be a huge issue, lowering resilience and making it hard to manage day to day challenges. Symptoms such as memory loss and brain fog can also impact on mental health – leading to increased anxiety, stress and lowering confidence. Additionally, this time of life can see added stresses such as increased caring responsibilities for older relatives, teenage children, and may also tie in with increased stresses at work too.
If this was not enough, the hormonal fluctuations and depleted levels can also impact directly on someone’s emotional health – leading to panic attacks, higher levels of anxiety, mood swings, crying, and low mood. While many GPs might diagnose depression and prescribe anti-depressants, this does not always get to the root cause.
Many people may be prepared for the physical symptoms of this time of life, but find themselves completely floored by the emotional ones, which can have a huge impact. If you are already experiencing mental ill health, or have done in the past, menopause may well make it worse.
Managing your mental health in peri-menopause and beyond
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You do not have to ‘put up with it’. If you find your symptoms (emotional or physical) are negatively impacting on your life, do go and see a doctor. HRT may help, though it might take time to get the right form or the right dose.
- Believe yourself! If your GP is not willing to consider HRT or doesn’t think menopause is an issue, get a second opinion. At Manchester Mind we have spoken to a lot of women who have had to talk to a few different GPs before being listened to – but they have known in themselves that things ‘aren’t right’ and that menopause is the cause.
- Don’t think you’re too young! While the average age for menopause (when periods stop) is 51, peri-menopause starts a few years before periods stop, and you may start experiencing symptoms much earlier than you expect.
- Make some lifestyle changes. Not everyone can – or wants to – take HRT. Whether you decide to go down the HRT route or not, lifestyle changes can help. Changing your diet – cutting down on alcohol, caffeine, and sugar can be helpful. Exercise can be helpful to lift mood, regulate sleep, and reduce hot flushes. .
- Find a support group. Get a menopause group going at your work, or attend a menopause café if you can find one. Talking to others and being in a group can be really helpful for increasing a sense of connection and improving mood. Participants in Manchester Mind’s Mindfulness for Menopause course tell us that being connected to other women at this time of life has helped them feel less isolated:
“It’s been really great connecting with others and being able to share our lived experiences.”
- Manage your stress. There are good physiological reasons for why stress makes menopause symptoms worse. Yet this time of life can be incredibly stressful for many women. Try and carve some time aside to relax – every day if you can – even if it is only 5 or 10 minutes. This muscle relaxation is a great one to do at the end of the day.
- Learn some calming techniques to help you when rage, frustration or even a hot flush comes over you. Why not try this short belly breathing exercise next time you feel anxious or overwhelmed.
- Try and find the positives to menopause! Research has shown that our attitude towards menopause can actually influence our experience of it. Cultures which value older women, and see this as a second spring don’t report as severe symptoms.
- Be strict with your sleep routine. Sleep can be a huge challenge at this time, so it’s important to stick to good sleep hygiene where you can. Visit our sleep page for more info.
- Try menopause yoga Created specially for women in their 40’s and 50’s, it is a specially adapted yoga practice with specific breathing techniques and meditation to help manage symptoms, including anxiety and low mood.
- Learn to meditate Meditation can help calm the nervous system down, give you some space from your thoughts, lift mood, and lower stress and anxiety. We have found that women who come on our unique Mindfulness for Menopause course report improved wellbeing, and lowered stress levels. They tell us that their symptoms don’t impact them as much as they did before the course, and that they feel better able to manage the symptoms. Read Sophie’s story about her experience of the course.