Menopause and Mental Health: Can menopause affect your mental health?
Coronavirus, economy, election, plus the common increase in anxiety and depression of perimenopause and menopause — it’s no surprise a record number of women are asking our coaches, physicians, and forums about mental and emotional health.
First, we’d like to make very clear that anyone who is considering suicide or self-harm, anyone who feels their emotional state is putting them or someone around them in danger, needs to contact a mental health professional right away.
The information in this article is meant to help those with mild or moderate symptoms of anxiety and/or depression. It does not replace care from a licensed health care provider.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifelife phone number is 800-273-8255. You can also chat via the web at suicidepreventionlifeling.org/chat/.
We talked with our coaches to see what sorts of questions they were hearing from women, and the resources and advice they were sharing.
Coach Jessica Gingrich told us that yes, there is definitely an uptick in women asking for mental and emotional health resources. Common questions include:
Is this anxiety I am feeling normal?
Most likely, yes! As Jessica says, it’s important to normalize the idea that perimenopause often causes an increase in anxiety. Considering the extra concerns we have in 2020, increases in emotions are totally understandable. It’s also important for people to understand that the use of medications for the short term to support a feeling of an emotional “steady state” is normal, healthy, and safe.
What can I do with my nutrition to support my roller coaster emotions?
To help with this, Jessica suggestions we focus on fueling throughout the day to prevent blood sugar spikes and valleys that can impact mood (if you have kids, you know how being hungry can effect emotions). Also, consider reducing foods that stimulate energy but come with a “crash” afterward, like sugar, refined carbohydrates, or caffeine. And cut back on anything that disrupts sleep, like alcohol or eating too late.
What type of exercise is most important to help with stress?
Jessica loves this question because exercise can be such a potent de-stressor. But, she emphasizes, the type of exercise that is most helpful for stress is the exercise you do and enjoy doing. Restorative exercise like yoga, walking, or stretching can be particularly helpful for calming the mind, while more intense cardio can be helpful for “getting the yayas” out.
Other tips from Jessica
- Try CBD and/or magnesium glycinate for calming, supportive, restorative sleep.
- Listen to the Brené Brown podcast to understand burnout and explore lifestyle strategies.
- Recognize that you may need a “tool box” of many different strategies to help you relax. The idea that “I just need to find that one solution that’ll fix my problem” is probably unrealistic and not very healthy. Have an assortment of stress-relievers to choose from to fit the situation and need.
Coach Katie Linville has also noticed many more women looking for relief from emotional symptoms on their coaching calls. Here are some she’s been hearing:
I feel like my emotions are harder to regulate, and I find myself getting frustrated and angry more easily, along with my increased anxiety. Is this normal?
Not just more emotion, but more difficulty regulating emotion generally is, as Coach Katie says, totally normal, even if it’s exacerbated by the challenges of 2020. One way to try to regain control is by figuring out where the emotional response is coming from: is it hormonal? Is it the stress of having kids at home rather than at school? Is it because you haven’t been able to go to your gym? If you can figure out the trigger, you have a better chance of finding a solution to match. Understand that triggers and coping techniques will vary widely from person to person.
How can I become stronger not just physically but emotionally during menopause?
Katie says often when women ask this question, they’re beating themselves up that they’re “not doing enough.” It’s important to first work through any feelings of guilt and shame they may be burdened with. She also suggests women consider therapy — even if feelings of not being “strong enough” are mild or aren’t apparently interfering with life, therapy can still be really beneficial. Seeking help is a normal, healthy response, and if it helps a woman deal with the challenges of 2020 and/or menopause, why not do it?
Other tips from Katie
- Try a mindfulness practice.
- Seek support from therapy and medication, if recommended by a mental health professional.
- Look for opportunities to reduce stress throughout the day. What are the triggers? Can you avoid them or moderate them?
- Consider journaling. Many women find writing down their thoughts or keeping lists of things to be grateful for can be really positive.
- Light exercise and stretching are great for stress relief and also for getting a better night’s sleep.
Director of Health Coaching Stasi Kasianchuk has also been helping more women than usual handle emotional stress and pain. Even when stress is moderate, it’s constant, and that is wearing people down after months and months of COVID-19 worry.
I feel like no matter where I turn there is always something else I need to deal with.
The unrelenting stress is a common theme among her clients—a moment of Zen might be all they need to get back on track, but enough time to take a deep breath is hard to find. Her advice? “Be kind, gentle, and give yourself some grace. We know we are in unprecedented times, and menopause doesn't make this easier. Remember that all women in menopause currently have never endured menopause AND a pandemic. There is not rule book for this; things WILL feel differently than before. Know that whatever you give each day can be enough, if you let it.”
Other tips from Stasi
If you’re looking for additional help, Stasi has some apps she likes:
- Serenity meditation is great for beginners looking to start practicing meditation. It helps users achieve mindfulness, sleep better, and relax – all of which are so good for your health.
- Insight timer Is another great app for guided meditation. Its library of free guided meditations has more than 65K to choose from, from 9,000 teachers, so you’re sure to find one or many that work for you.
- And for the Type As who really CANNOT relax unless everything is, if not completed, then at least accounted for, the Panda Planner has been recommended by one of Stasi’s Health Fix clients. Being organized can mean having a lot more time in the day to concentrate on you.
When is it time to ask for help?
Finally, it’s important to know when your emotional issues are serious enough to consult with a professional. As Coach Stasi says, “If you are feeling anxiety, depression, and/or emotions that are too extreme, and you have tried many of the strategies listed above without any noticeable improvement, it's time to reach out to a mental health provider. These practitioners are trained to support you, and when it comes to mental health, we all deserve support.”
If you’re struggling with emotions that just feel out of control, or you feel you could use some support, please come join the conversation in our Gennev Community forums. You’re not alone — many of us are feeling overwhelmed and stressed to our limits, and now’s the time to lean on each other and give and get strength from one another.
And remember, if your concerns just feel too heavy to handle, there is no shame in seeking professional help: The National Suicide Prevention Lifelife phone number is 800-273-8255. You can also chat via the web at suicidepreventionlifeling.org/chat/.
Have you taken our Menopause Assessment?
Join over 100,000 women to learn more about your symptoms and where you are in the menopause journey.