Am I Mental?!

One minute you feel fine like you’re on top of the world. Then sadness, feeling overwhelmed, rage for no apparent reason, loss of confidence, panic attacks or crying comes next. Any of this sound familiar? You notice your moods are changing like the flip of a light switch and often with no warning. This moment-to-moment flip-flop of emotions is often a sign of the hormonal imbalance that comes as we approach menopause.

Menopause is a time of significant hormonal changes, and these changes, typically occurring in women between the ages of 45 and 55, can affect emotional stability just as much as the body's equilibrium. Add in your life stresses and poor sleep quality and it’s a recipe for what has been described as “blue moods”.

Changing the way you think can make this major life transition easier. Do you think of it as a new stage of life, or a stage of loss? We are bombarded with visions of youth, beauty and sexuality so a changing body image can be upsetting. Be aware of black-and-white thinking (“It’s all downhill from here!”) and "should" statements (“I should not be feeling so bitchy!”). Instead, ask yourself: “Am I using a mental filter, focusing only on all of the negative parts while ignoring the positives? Is this phase really as bad as it seems? Does it serve me well to think this way?” Dwelling on too many negative thoughts lead you into the stress response. Instead, try to move your thoughts to appreciation: “What about my day am I thankful for?” Avoid saying “going through menopause is awful”; instead, ask: “What’s in store for me in this next phase of life? What do I want?”

While it is still not completely known how menopause affects our mood swings, the irritability we experience may also be contributed to poor sleep. Hot flashes and night sweats are often common for many women and the disruption in sleep can lead to fatigue and a feeling of general weakness. Let’s face it; this is a time that many women are dealing with more issues at home and in their life in general. It could be financial, or responsibility that comes when balancing life with work, children, aging parents, marriage and more.

So, if all this isn’t enough to scare you or make you want to tear your hair out, what can be done to help reduce the mood swings, irritability, poor sleep, etc.? The following tips have benefit not only for your mood swings but other symptoms of menopause or body temperature problems.

1. Keeping a healthy body can make a woman feel more focused and clear-minded during the day. Light exercise is usually the best. Most doctors will recommend a light exercise program consisting of 20 minutes a day of walking, stretching, biking, swimming, even yoga.

2. Please don’t hate the messenger but most research shows that sugar, caffeine, alcohol and stress will exaggerate any hormonal symptoms that are occurring. Unstable blood sugar and an over-activated stress response – on top of hormone fluctuations – create a perfect storm for emotional outbursts and perimenopausal rage.

If you can curb these dietary triggers, and pay more attention to what you put into your body, then your brain may be better able to cope with the hormone imbalances of perimenopause.

Alcohol may calm your nerves while you’re drinking it, but if you don’t drink in moderation, or if you use it nightly, then you may find it actually feeds your rage the next day!

3. Knowing what causes anxiety and stress along with taking the time to use meditation and other relaxation techniques can help with irritability. Adding in regular exercise can give you a greater sense of control and help to manage the ups and downs of mood swings and give you a greater sense of control.

4. Consider meditating rather than medicating. There are various books that provide easy-to-learn relaxation techniques. Meditation and relaxation can help trigger your body’s inborn ability to calm down. Tapping into that response on a regular basis can also reduce hot flashes, improve sleep, as well as boost your mood.

5. Share your experiences with other women who are going through the same experience, or spend time with your girlfriends. Having ‘girl time’ can bring reassurance to know that other women are feeling what you’re feeling.

6. You may consider being treated with several different types of medication, including hormone therapy, birth control pills, and antidepressants. Hormone therapy may help alleviate depression. Birth control pills help some women because they stabilize erratic hormone levels.

Unfortunately there’s not one simple solution to the rollercoaster we experience emotionally as we age. Hopefully the tips offered here or in some of our other blogs, might help you. As always, please consult your doctor to obtain the best solution for you.

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