As women enter menopause there can be increased feelings of stress anxiety and fear. What causes depression and anxiety during menopause and how can we deal with it naturally?
These feelings can be attributed in part to physical changes such as declining levels of the hormones progesterone and estrogen.
The symptoms that arise from this decline such as hot flashes, night sweats and weight gain may also contribute to not feeling great.
These physical symptoms are what we all know, they are tangible and we have things we can do to deal with them.
The emotional strain that comes at this time of life such as ageing family members, not enjoying the fact that you are getting older and collecting wrinkles as easily as your exercise equipment collects dust, children leaving home and the annoying ability to be able to put on weight just by looking at something sweet can lead to anxiety and low mood.
Feelings of disconnection and frustration may find their way into your emotional makeup.
Am I Anxious, Depressed Or Do I Have Clinical Depression?
The psychological impact of anxiety and depression that occur during menopause can be confusing.
The lack of information on this topic only serves to heighten feelings of isolation.
Do you have depression or are you just having a short burst of feeling down and anxious?
To further confuse things often a hot flush will leave you feeling anxious which can further deepen into a panic attack.
If you have previously been anxiety and depression free and then seemingly out of nowhere you find yourself curled up in the corner of your bedroom crying about the fact that someone forgot to put the dishwasher on AGAIN last night.
Well, believe it or not, that is normal and, I am happy to say, temporary.
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Determine the extent and depth of any increased feelings of depression and anxiety during menopause
Everyone feels down from time to time but if you are waking each morning with feelings of hopelessness and sadness then you may be experiencing depression.
Some of the feelings that go with depression are:
- Feeling isolated
- Not wanting to get out of bed
- Lack of energy
- Not caring about others or yourself
- The inability to concentrate
What can cause depression and anxiety?
Changing hormones during menopause may be the cause of a depressed mood but other factors can also come into play
Factors such as:
- A previous diagnosis of depression
- Low self-esteem
- Worry about getting older
- Financial worries.
- Trouble at work
- Relationship worries
- Increased stress from an event or situation
If you feel like you are struggling it is important to consult with your doctor. Be honest and open. If you are not comfortable talking about this with your current Doctor it may be time to find one who has experience in menopause and that you are comfortable with.
Your doctor will first want to check that there are no physical reasons for your symptoms such as a thyroid imbalance.
My one, wee, tiny word of caution here is to think twice before taking pharmaceuticals before going down the natural route. They may help initially but there may possibly be harmful effects also.
Keep reminding yourself that many women go through the same thing and it will ease.
Some women struggle with the idea of menopause and see it as something to think of negatively. You might feel like the younger you is lost in this older shell. You can no longer rely on feeling the same from day today. There are changes happening within your body and mind that you didn’t expect and it seems that those changes keep turning up without any warning.
Coping with menopause
How you cope with menopause can depend on a few things:
- did menopause arrive as expected for you or early, as a result of surgery, or chemotherapy, or prematurely for no reason?
- your age and your stage of life. Have you had all the children you want?
- your general state of mental health as you go through menopause and in the past
- whether you are content where you currently are in your life. Have you achieved the things you want to achieve?
- how you see your body in menopause and what you feel about the changes
- do you exercise, sleep well, eat well, keep on top of the stress
Hormonal changes during menopause or lifestyle influences - it is difficult to know which is influencing how you go through menopause.
If you have been feeling anxious and suffering mood swings there are many things you can do for yourself to improve how you feel
What to eat to reduce the likelihood of depression or anxiety during menopause
Your diet during menopause should:
Include high-quality protein. Most of this should come from plants, and if you wish a little from meat and fish.
Eliminate as much added sugar and processed carbohydrates as you can.
Keep the metabolic process running smoothly by cutting out saturated animal fats and including plant fats such as olive oil, avocado and coconut.
Include plenty of soluble fibre such as leafy greens, nuts and seeds. These help to keep our gut healthy. Our gut is the epicentre for our health, including our brain health. Healthy gut, healthy brain, good brain function.
Spend some time writing in a journal. Note your thoughts and feelings. This is an excellent way to see patterns of thought. It is amazing what hits the page when you just write without any structure.
Fatigue can make anxiety and moodiness worse. Keep to a good night time routine that helps to get you relaxed and ready for sleep. Stop eating 2 to 3 hours before bed. Going to bed and getting up at the same time each day will help. Keep your room cool, dark and quiet and make sure to keep off blue screens at least an hour before bed.
Exercise does double duty by eliminating stress and anxiety as well as improving your physical health.
Try to do 30 minutes a day at least 5 times a week. Examples of activities you can do are bike riding, walking, running, swimming, even dancing.
Make sure to include a couple of sessions per week of strength training: weights, resistance bands or yoga are good choices.
Relaxation can help reduce stress.
Ideas of nice forms of relaxation are tai chi, yoga, meditation and massage all of which can have the added advantage of possibly helping you to get a good night’s sleep.
Other forms of relaxation might be taking time to read or watch a movie, going for a walk, talking with a friend, colouring, painting. The list is endless.
Human connection boosts our mental and physical wellbeing guarding against anxiety and depression. Remember you are not alone. There are other women out there going through the same things and it is nice to chat about shared experiences. As my Mum always reminded me, “a problem shared is a problem halved”.
Women who smoke are at greater risk of developing depression and anxiety as well as other health issues. If you are a smoker talk to your doctor about tools to help you quit.
Practising mindfulness helps develop your inner voice and intuition. It is shown that a regular meditation practice can reduce stress, improve concentration, control anxiety and develop self-awareness.
This book with 75 different meditations that help to reduce stress, improve mental health, and find peace in the everyday is the perfect place to start on your mindful journey.
Breathing is also a great way to connect with the body which is the essence of being mindful. Try the 4-7-8 method which is my go-to for destressing, getting to sleep, keeping calm, centring myself and just when I feel like an injection of energy.
A Note on Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a hormone produced in the kidneys. It controls blood calcium concentration and impacts the immune system.
The body makes vitamin D when the sunlight hits our skin. Of course in the winter months, there is far less sunlight available so it is crucial, especially in areas that don’t see a lot of sun in the winter, to supplement your Vitamin D.
To be sure the my vitamin D levels stay optimum I take one capsule every day. My doctor, who is used to seeing declining levels in women my age is always impressed that I have managed to keep it at what it was twenty years ago.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium so we can keep our bones strong and healthy.
We need good levels of Vitamin D for strong immunity, to help prevent diseases such as cancer and to reduce the risk of depression and anxiety during menopause as well as to boost our bone strength.
To sum it up
When women go through sudden hormonal changes that cause menopause symptoms such as hot flashes that interfere with their sleep, and mood there is a greater chance that they could develop depression or anxiety during menopause. That chance can be increased by previously existing health and wellness issues. There is, in most cases, much that can be done naturally to improve how you feel.
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