The Emotional Side of Menopause

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Don’t let the perimenopause take your edge!

I often hear from women saying that they feel anxious, sad, depressed, or that they have lost something deep down inside, something emotional, something almost heart-rending; is it that they have lost themselves? Perhaps they have lost their positive outlook on life, sharp-thinking, memory, focus, sex drive.

Or perhaps they feel they can’t cope as well as they once did, or maybe it’s that inevitable happening of gradually blending into the background and becoming invisible, that has such an impact on their lives.

I’ve been there, I felt it.

Initially I didn’t accept it – that I was going through perimenopause, that it was happening to me too – ‘impossible’ was the word that was imprinted on my brain!

I preferred to put my head in the sand and attempted to power through it as usual, for as long as I could. The perimenopause took my edge away, it threw me into a world I did not recognise.

So how did I conquer it?

I started researching and educating myself on what happens to and within the body during menopause and the significance of hormones during that phase, and the huge impact they have on a women’s emotions and physical health, as they decline.

According to the mainstream media, menopause is all about those hot flushes, otherwise known as flashes, that rise to an all time high just when you don’t want them to. However, it’s also very common for women to feel irritable, anxious, tense and utterly exhausted long before hot flushes take over their body.

If you are in your late 30s, or early 40s or 50s and experiencing any of the following, it’s not you, it’s your hormones! You have an imbalance.

A decline in female hormones during perimenopause greatly affects the way we think, behave and react, and are responsible for changes in mood; whether we are happy, sad or even depressed.

1. Anxious or feeling you can’t cope

Fluctuating hormone levels in perimenopause can often have a negative effect on emotions. We all understand the effect hormonal changes have on our reproductive system, but fluctuating hormones levels also greatly effect our brain.

Quite simply, a change in hormone levels influence much more than just our reproductive system, they affect the production of our mood monitoring chemicals (neurotransmitters) such as serotonin (the feel-good neurotransmitter), GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) and dopamine.

2. Feeling sad and tired

As well as waking up drenched in sweat you might also feel sad and tired. It’s frustrating that most of the lifestyle advice recommended to women today, experiencing these symptoms, is to get more sleep.

Seems easy!

When hormones are fluctuating and therefore imbalanced, it is almost impossible to sleep, when we can’t sleep hormones will never be balanced – it is a vicious cycle.

Chronic insomnia is one of the most debilitating symptoms of perimenopause and puts the body under an extreme amount of stress. The fluctuation of the sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone, at this time, and the significant decline in DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) cause the stress hormone cortisol, to become dominant, which makes if very difficult for you to get a peaceful, uninterrupted sleep, as cortisol is partially in charge of sleep/wake patterns.

3. Temper tantrums

Many perimenopausal women feel they are in a never ending state of PMS (premenstrual syndrome).

Once again, this is because of fluctuating hormone levels. The ovaries produce oestrogens from about the age of twelve, in perimenopause our ovaries are incapable of balancing these two female hormones and maintaining the correct ratios that are so desperately needed.

Wildly fluctuating oestrogens together with low progesterone may lead to more frequent and erratic mood swings and temper tantrums that you truly don’t understand, as well as migraines. If you are having more mood swings and can’t understand why, you may well be entering perimenopause.

4. Everyone walking round you on eggshells?

Feel like nothing makes sense anymore? One minute you are on a high, the next minute you are on a huge low that has you crying for no apparent reason – maybe someone accidentally pushed past you on the street, or said, ‘no’ instead of ‘yes’, and there you go, floods of tears.

“Doesn’t make sense, never used to be like that!” It’s your hormones. Your ratios are out, the two female hormones that tango together become confused. Who is leading whom?

Your ovaries are failing you and your hormones are abandoning you, you are suffering withdrawal symptoms. You do not have to cry any more or expect the people around you to walk on eggshells, perimenopause can be positive event, if you restore your body and balance your hormones.

What can you do?

These emotional changes are an expected part of menopause but are something we no longer have to accept. By understanding hormonal health you can regain control of your life, and make this inevitable passage so much better. Restorative medicine is your answer. To find out more read Jill’s book, The Menopause Cure: Hormonal Health.