Menopause, like many other stages of life, is a normal part of female aging. While it is a natural process, it involves major changes in women’s bodies and can have adverse effects on their mental health.
Symptoms of Menopause
Menopause happens when a woman’s ovaries stop releasing eggs and producing estrogen and progesterone hormones. As a result, a woman’s menstrual cycle no longer occurs, which officially ends her childbearing years. Menopause can also happen surgically when both ovaries are removed during a hysterectomy or after treating breast cancer with chemotherapy or hormone therapy.
Menopause brings about a lot of mental, emotional, and physical changes for women. Each woman experiences menopause differently. The following are some examples of symptoms women going through menopause might experience:
- Hormone changes
- Change in menstrual cycle
- Poor sleep quality
- Vaginal dryness
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Fatigue or exhaustion
- Weight gain
- Mood swings
- Depression or anxiety
The physical symptoms of menopause can usually be explained and treated. What’s more difficult to explain, rationalize, and treat are the emotional symptoms caused by menopause.
Mental Health and Menopause
Menopause can have a significant impact on a woman’s mental health. Depression, anxiety, and mood changes often occur alongside the previously mentioned physical symptoms. Some of these physical symptoms contribute adversely to your emotional state while some of the emotional symptoms occur without a physical explanation. And an increased emotional sensitivity can intensify when physical symptoms manifest and disrupt daily life.
For example, your sleep might be constantly disrupted due to hot flashes or night sweats, leading to panic or anxiety during the night. A lack of the amount of quality of sleep can lead to exhaustion and fatigue during the daytime hours, which affects your mood, how you interact with others, and how you feel about yourself.
Whether it’s a mental fog, forgetting important appointments or details, or feeling not in control of your emotions, going through menopause can be a challenging and trying time for your mental health. However, medical and mental health experts have been able to help women cope during this transitional time of their lives.
Ways to Cope
All the changes at once can be overwhelming for your physical and emotional well-being. Performing self-care rituals or seeking the help of medical professionals—such as a doctor, nurse, psychologist, or other caregiver—can help you with this life transition.
- Sleep: Although the symptoms of menopause disrupt the normal sleep schedule, it is beneficial to commit to or establish a bedtime routine that helps prepare your body for sleep. This can include no electronics after a certain time, meditation or prayer, diffusing calming essential oils, stretching, or deep breathing. Find a routine and pre-bedtime activities that work best for you.
- Exercise: Aim to get at least 30 minutes of some sort of physical activity every day. Exercise in any form increases cardiovascular capacity, helps you maintain or lose weight, staves off disease like diabetes or cancer, and more. Exercise can also help clear your mind and reduce stress.
- Eat Well: Eating foods rich in vitamins and minerals is essential to feeling good and adjusting your body to all the changes it is experiencing. Nutrient-dense foods support your body mentally and physically, help you maintain or lose weight, and keep your body strong and stable.
- Keep a Journal: When you are feeling anxious or depressed or your moods are all over the place, you might benefit from keeping a journal. Writing down your feelings and daily experiences may help you cope with this life transition and connect physical symptoms with your mental and emotional state.
- Talk Therapy: Sometimes writing it down or chatting with friends isn’t enough to help you feel better. Speaking with an experienced and objective professional, such as a social worker, counselor, pastor, or psychologist, can help you come up with strategies to manage your depression, anxiety, or other emotions associated with menopause.
- Medications and Alternative Therapies: You can also speak with a medical professional about how the symptoms are affecting your daily life. Your doctor might be able to prescribe anti-depressants or hormone replacements to help alleviate the symptoms.
It is important to remember that it’s okay to ask for help and reach out to those who can help you best care for yourself. Menopause can be a very difficult time in a woman’s life, but building a support system can help ease the transition.