So many women we speak so say that one of the toughest things about menopause is the impact that it has on their mood.
From feeling very low to being extremely angry for no apparent reason, from depression and anxiety to a sense of being emotionally distanced from those around you - it's tough and it can be disconcerting, but you're not alone.
As with all things menopause, the reason for the fluctuations in mood is hormones - namely, the drop in oestrogen. Here we wanted to look a little more at that cause and see what can be done to help ease and manage menopausal mood changes.
What causes menopausal mood changes?
The reason the changes in oestrogen levels affects our mood during menopause is because it's linked to the production of serotonin, which helps to regulate our moods. Along with fluctuating progesterone levels, this disruption to serotonin leads to mood swings alongside the other unwanted side effects of menopause.
How do menopausal mood changes manifest?
Emotional changes during menopause tend to manifest on a spectrum between depression and anger. This can be made worse by other factors such as a lack of sleep and heightened levels of anxiety. Those feelings tend to fluctuate in terms of frequency and intensity over a four or five year period. Of course, it's not a question of feeling like that all of the time, it's just that your mood can change a fair amount with seemingly little external cause.
What can you do to help emotional changes during menopause?
Different people find that different things help with menopausal mood swings and emotional changes. We find that the best way forward is a combination of things that treat the cause, treat the symptom and help you to coexist to some degree with what's happening. Here are some ideas:
Connect with loved ones
It can be really tough to communicate with family and close friends when you're going through menopause. Many women feel isolated and misunderstood, but when we talk to loved ones, they just want to understand. Try to make a proactive effort to communicate how you're feeling - talk to your partner, children or friends and explain how you're feeling, even if it doesn't make total sense. They aren't mind readers, and they want to help.
Exercise is recommended for so many things, but there are two key reasons it can help with mood swings. In the first instance, it is responsible for releasing endorphins which help to impact your mood positively. Secondly, it's a good way to physically tire yourself out to give you a greater chance at undisturbed sleep, which will help to maintain greater emotional equilibrium. It also helps you to generally feel good about yourself.
Having a greater sense of awareness in the moment doesn't necessarily stop the emotional rollercoaster, but it does help us to manage it better, sitting outside of the emotion more and observing it rather than being totally overtaken by it. Mindfulness takes practice, but even the self-imposed peace and quiet can be restorative in itself.
Reduce your alcohol intake
Alcohol is a known depressant, and while it may temporarily alleviate feelings of depression, by dampening your stress response, overall it simply makes it worse. It also makes it much harder to obtain any sense of perspective - broadly doing the opposite of mindfulness. Similarly, a poor diet will make low moods worse - try to avoid excess sugar and caffeine, and eat foods that will help you maintain steady blood sugar levels.
Explore plant hormones
Your oestrogen levels might be depleting but there are natural ways to support your body's hormone levels through diet and skincare. When they enter the body, its receptors treat them as if they were oestrogen. They are not as effective as oestrogen produced by the body itself, but it can help. Plant hormones (phytoestrogens), can be found in foods and plant-based skincare ingredients. In food, you can find them in vegetables, fruit, and some grains. They are also included in the MPlus skincare collection of products.
Get out in the garden
Flower power doesn't only come from plant hormones. Studies have shown that the bacteria in plant soil triggers the release of serotonin, which lifts mood and reduces anxiety. So get gardening and get those hands rummaging about in the soil.
Don't rule out HRT
We talk a lot about alternatives to HRT at MPlus, and that's because women are generally not given any transparency when it comes to different ways of approaching menopause. However, for some, HRT, or HRT in combination with other things, is a very effective way of managing symptoms. It isn't for everyone, but unless there's a medical reason you shouldn't take it, we would always recommend getting the facts from your doctor or a specialist before you make your decision about the right path for you.
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