Issues and Challenges

Menopause & Mental Health

Menopause is a different experience for everyone who goes through it. The termination of the menstrual cycle leads to a number of biological, social, and psychological changes for a woman. Body chemicals called hormones undergo a transition phase. These hormones influence mood, behaviour and have other physiological impacts on people. A crucial hormone called estrogen starts dropping as a woman moves towards the menopausal stage, resulting in frequent headaches, hot flashes, sweating, irregular menstrual cycles, night sweats, fatigue, and sleep issues. Accompanying these physical symptoms, irritability, anger outbursts, mood swings, crying spells, low mood, and anxiety also become quite frequent. Women going through menopause may experience memory problems and difficulty to focus. Menopause also makes people going through it more vulnerable to developing mental health issues like depression and anxiety. In view of the above-mentioned changes females are likely to experience during perimenopause, it is imperative to be well aware of these changes to be prepared for their better management. 
While we need to be mindful of the biological changes that are part and parcel of menopause, there are also some significant social changes and stressors that may make the women going through it more vulnerable to developing mental health issues. 
As a woman moves towards the later phase of her life, children grow up and become more independent. This may lead to a change in the dynamics of their relationship, which requires effort for acceptance. This phase of life may result in loneliness, where children are becoming adults with less dependence on mothers and spending relatively less time with them. This coupled with menopause is a recipe for depression.
Moreover, menopause is a harbinger of the setting sun of ones youth. Getting older in itself can be stressful for a person. It may bring on anxiety along with reflection on life decisions and choices. Getting older means that the woman’s parents will be getting even older than her. Fear of losing them or worrying about their health may also add to the stressors of a woman going through this period. And the hormonal changes affecting mood are not a help at all.
Menopause brings biological changes in a woman’s body. These changes can be weight gain, a higher risk of developing heart diseases, frequent urinary tract infections and osteoporosis. When other such comorbidities start to set in, they have an obvious impact on mental health and the quality of life. 
Moving towards a mature age also brings one closer to the retirement age and financial concerns as a steady income may be coming towards an end. On the contrary, a woman who is a full-time mother and a homemaker, might have to redefine her role with her children all grown-up. All of this is accentuated because of the physiological changes that a woman is going through and one feels mentally exhausted and frustrated as a result.
You can adopt various strategies to take care of your mental health during menopause, to save yourself from its draining impact.
Be Aware 
Awareness is the key to management; being aware of the changes that come with menopause is crucial. It helps you to foresee these changes and save you from the confusion that people with little to no awareness may experience. Awareness also helps with acceptance of the inevitable and may lead to a change in attitude and deal with it all in a more refined way.  
Take a Balanced Diet
Taking a balanced diet is very important to keep your body and mind healthy. It would also help with keeping hormones in check. Taking unhealthy foods before, during, or after menopause may lead to weight gain and further hormonal disturbance as well as one’s perception of their appearance. It may also result in other health-related ailments and low quality of life, consequently impacting mental health. Try to avoid oily and processed foods. Include a good amount of protein and healthy carbs to your diet to stay fit and active.
Stay Physically Active
Research strongly suggests that physical activity helps elevate the mood and reduce hot flashes, which are quite bothersome for women going through menopause. The activity also keeps your mind busy, which may also help with generating positivity. You can add exercise to your daily routine by delegating a time block for brisk walk, jogging, gardening, or running every day. You can take it further and engage in yoga, tai chi and other such exercises, which would help calm your mind.
Seek Social Support
Social support is the cornerstone of a better transition into a new phase of life. Research suggests that social support from a partner accounts for improvement in wellbeing and quality of life for women going through menopause. Sharing how you feel can be a healing experience in itself for individuals going through it. Another way of seeking social support can be forming or joining a support group to help you feel less lonely by connecting you with women also going through it. An additional benefit of becoming a part of support groups is that you get to learn from the experience of other people and how they steer through stressful times. 


BRITISH MENOPAUSE SOCIETY FACT SHEET

A woman's relationship with the menopause is complicated...
Three quarters of women' in the United Kingdom say that the menopause has caused them to change their life and more than half say it has had a negative impact on their lives.


Take Care of Your Thoughts
It is very important to be mindful of the thoughts that you entertain and spend your time and energy on. Talking about menopause, you can experience a lot of distressful thoughts, these thoughts may circle around your self-worth, the meaning and purpose of your life, body image, etc. You may start feeling down all the time. These unhelpful thoughts, which might lead you to be unkind to yourself can sabotage your mood. It is important to remind yourself of all the useful and good things that you are doing right now. Acknowledgment of your contributions and celebrating yourself is definitely going to help you counter the negative thoughts. 
Practice Mindfulness
It is easy to swing between worries and regrets when one is feeling upset. Developing a sense of ‘here and now’ with practice can be helpful in getting rid of this vicious cycle. Remind yourself where you are right now, what you are doing, and pay attention to the details of the moment at hand because now is all you have. Mindfulness may seem like an abstract idea, however, it is just a constant practice of bringing your attention back to your present. For instance, if you are having a hard time and experiencing unpleasant emotions, bring your attention to those emotions, ask yourself how you feel in that moment. Similarly, if you are overwhelmed with the menopausal symptoms and you feel anxious, just take a deep breath; notice your anxiety like you would notice something from a distance. It will help you ground yourself and feel relaxed. 
Try Something New 
Entering into a new phase of life might lead you to question the purpose of your life. Here, you need to remind yourself that you can create the meaning of your life, whenever you feel ready. When age progresses and children grow up, you may have all the time on your hands. Rather than perceiving it as a hurdle, you may consider it as an opportunity to do all the things you wanted to do but did not get the time to. You may also try something new and adventurous such as rafting, hiking, making new friends, or entering a volunteer service. 
Develop Good Coping Strategies 
When stress hits you hard, good coping strategies can prove helpful to make you feel better. People cope through stress in multiple ways, however, a good coping strategy does not only make you feel better in the moment, but is beneficial in the longer run as well. For instance, if you eat excessively as a coping behaviour in response to stress or the unpleasant emotions, it might make you feel better in the moment, but in the longer run it may lead to obesity and other health problems. On the other hand, if you are feeling distressed and you choose to reflect upon it through writing or talking to a friend, it would prove to be a more effective way of dealing with stress. HH


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