There is so much in the news about menopause and its impact on women. Emma, our guest contributor, a qualified fitness trainer, and founder of The Joyful Menopause, investigates the correlation between menopause and mental wellbeing.
Emma helps us to understand why it is vital that women are informed and prepared for this life event and, importantly, how they can protect their mental wellbeing.
What is menopause?
According to the NHS, menopause happens between the ages of 45 and 55 and is when periods stop due to lower hormone levels. You officially reach menopause when you have not had a period for 12 months.
The age of when you are in menopause varies and can happen earlier for medical or genetic reasons. The phase before menopause is called perimenopause; during this phase, women start to experience symptoms of perimenopause and menopause.
What is the correlation between mental wellbeing and perimenopause and menopause?
Depression and anxiety are common symptoms of menopause, with around 70% of women’s mental health being affected to varying degrees.
Alarmingly, the suicide rate in women is at its highest between the ages of 45-49 years and second highest between the ages of 50-54 years, which correlates with the hormonal fluctuations of perimenopause and menopause.
The Independent Newspaper reported on research by a women’s health app called Heath & Her that three-quarters of women had never experienced mental health issues before going through perimenopause.
Researchers who polled 2,000 women in the UK aged between 46 and 60 identified that over a third of women have not sought help for their symptoms and that, even more worryingly, 80% of women polled do not discuss mental health issues with their partner or spouse.
Why does our mood change?
Our mood changes primarily due to the changes in hormones. Our brain has numerous oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone receptors, and the hormones help to facilitate several functions, such as:
- One of oestrogen’s functions is to work with serotonin, a neurotransmitter that impacts our mood. Therefore, as our oestrogen levels fluctuate throughout perimenopause and menopause, this directly affects our serotonin levels and mood.
- Progesterone has a calming effect, and when levels start to decline, it can lead to anxiety, low mood, and poor sleep.
- Testosterone plays a powerful role in the brain’s cognitive function, and when levels start to decline, women start to experience trouble concentrating and brain fog.
In addition to the hormonal changes that are taking place, women often have a variety of external stressors around menopause, such as young or teenage children, elderly parents to care for, and a demanding job —all these impact stress, energy levels, and, ultimately, our mental wellbeing.
How do we manage our mental wellbeing?
Thankfully we can help to reduce symptoms of perimenopause and menopause and improve our mental wellbeing using some of the following:
- Get informed about this phase of your life – so much information and support are available. See the links below as a starter.
- Listen to your body, track your feelings, and identify your emotions and symptoms. Many women find it helpful to track these in line with their cycle.
- Block out time for self-care – take up a new hobby or return to an old hobby, as this will help you regulate any stress or anxiety you are experiencing.
- Talk to your partner and or a trusted friend who can support you.
- Exercise regularly and try to incorporate stretches and strength training. This prevents weight gain, strengthens bones, boosts mood, and reduces risks of other diseases, bone fractures, and osteoporosis.
- Eat a healthy balanced diet; research has shown the Mediterranean diet to be the most beneficial and trying to manage our stress as best we can.
- Consider hormone replacement therapy (HRT). In consultation with your doctor, investigate whether replacing your declining hormones with HRT can be life-changing for some women in terms of improving their mental health and ability to find joy again.
- Complementary therapy treatments – consider exploring complementary therapies such as acupuncture and reflexology.
- Speak to your doctor – it is essential that you speak to your doctor if you have any concerns.
In summary, women must take ownership of their health and get informed about this phase of their life. This will help them look after the physical and emotional changes and their mental wellbeing.
With special thanks
My Mind News would like to thank Emma at The Joyful Menopause for her help and contribution to this article.
Emma offers awareness and wellbeing training for organizations and a six-week interactive course for individuals to help you navigate this significant life phase. The course is designed to create a supportive environment for groups of women to encourage each other while learning about menopause and how to make it more joyful.
Emma’s contact details are here if you have any questions or want to enroll in one of her courses.
Other resources that offer support and advice
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) – Management of Menopause
NHS – Menopause
NHS Hormone Replacement Therapy Guidelines
Mental Health Foundation – Menopause and links for resources
Telegraph – The one thing we wish we’d known about menopause
Dr. Louise Newson’s website – https://www.balance-menopause.com