Approaching middle age can be a major stressor as is. One might worry about the decline in physical health while another might be anxious about losing loved ones as they age.
Add on the changes of menopause, women are more apt to experience changes in mood. This may include an increased risk of depression and anxiety.
Since there is no cure for menopause, as it is a natural part of aging, it is important to recognize these changes. Learn how to manage mood swings during menopause and improve women's health.
What Is Menopause?
Menopause is a natural cause of female aging. "The change" marks the end of a woman's menstrual cycle, in which they are no longer able to conceive.
Declining hormone levels, especially estrogen, is at the core of these changes. Hallmark menopause symptoms include the following:
• Hot flashes
• Night sweats
• Mood swings
• Depression and anxiety
• Vaginal dryness
• Sleep disturbances
• Difficulty concentrating
• Thinning hair
• Dry skin
• Low sexual function and drive
Reduced reproductive hormones also increase the risk of bone loss and fractures, weight gain, heart disease, and urinary incontinence. While these symptoms are mostly tied to physical health, the impact on mental wellbeing should not be discounted.
Menopause Effects on Mental Health
According to the North American Menopause Society, up to 23 percent of peri- and postmenopausal women experience mood changes.
Perimenopause is the term given to the years that lead up to menopause, or essentially the transitional period. The ovary starts to decline in function and an egg is no longer released consistently each month. Without regular egg release, women start experiencing irregular periods.
Women often experience this menopausal age around 50, though it may occur as early as age 40 for others. The average length of perimenopause is 4 years. However, this stage may last only a few months or continue for 10 years for some women. That being said, mood changes can start early for some women.
A study further reports women are at a higher risk than men to develop mood disorders and depression. The increased risk is associated with drastic estrogen fluctuations that occur during the menopausal transition.
Sex hormones can also affect neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine. Low levels of these neurotransmitters are known to alter mood and increase the risk of depression. Drops in estrogen levels have also been linked to stress, anxiety, and irritability.
How to Improve Menopause and Mood Swings
These tips can help break the links between menopause and anxiety, depression, and mood swings.
Consult with a doctor.
First and foremost, consult with a doctor regarding changes during menopause. Talking to your doctor can help individualize a plan personal to you.
They may recommend medications, including antidepressants and hormone therapy, and making lifestyle changes.
Eat a well-balanced diet.
Diet has a large impact on mood. And while reaching for donuts may boost mood in the moment, emotional eating can have long-term consequences on physical and mental health.
Consume a balanced diet rich in fiber, lean protein, and healthy fat. Moderating carb content further stabilizes blood sugars, in turn stabilizing mood.
Ensure a well-balanced meal with these plating tips:
• Load up half the meal plate with a non-starchy veggie, including asparagus, broccoli, and salad greens.
• Designate a quarter of the plate for a lean protein source, such as chicken or sirloin. Plant-based proteins include beans and lentils.
• Use the remaining quarter for a complex carbohydrate. Examples include a serving of brown rice, sweet potato, or sprouted roll.
• Complement with a healthy fat source, including a light drizzle of olive oil or half an avocado.
Turning to a meal delivery serving can also ease the stress of healthy eating during menopause.
Mindfulness encourages individuals to be fully present in each passing moment. It promotes being aware of personal surroundings, emotions, thoughts, and feelings of the body.
And while being mindful is a subjective, personal moment, there is evidence showing practicing mindfulness during menopause is extremely beneficial. Researchers discovered mindfulness mindful could help menopausal women struggling with irritability, anxiety and depression.
A study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine also suggests mindful meditations can ease psychological stress, including anxiety, depression, and pain. Mindfulness has also been shown to reduce blood pressure, eases pain, and improves sleep.
Exercise on a regular basis.
Whether exercising for body health or fighting off a stressful day, getting the body moving can do wonders for mental health.
Besides, in addition to the initial feelings after exercise, there are numerous mental health benefits of exercise. These include relieving anxiety and depression and improving sleep cycles.
A structured workout plan, including cardio and strength training, is often recommended to support healthy aging. However, even small breaks for physical activity prove to be beneficial.
Ways to boost mood and improve overall health throughout the day include:
• Doing jumping jacks while waiting for the coffee to brew
• Taking the dog on a walk in the morning
• Walking on lunch breaks
• Biking to work if possible
• Doing stretches or stationary activity while catching up on favorite shows
Manage stress with positive coping techniques.
Stress can wreak havoc on both physical and mental health, so learning how to manage it is key. It is likewise important to use positive coping techniques rather than turning to unhealthy behaviors, including emotional eating and binge drinking.
Healthy ways to manage stress include practicing yoga and meditation, listening to music, and reading a book. Ultimately, practice stress-relieving techniques that work best for you.
Ensure adequate sleep each night.
A poor night's rest can lead to grogginess, irritability, and fatigue the day after. Lack of sleep can cause weight gain, too.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults sleep seven to nine hours nightly. Individuals aged 65 or older should aim between seven to eight hours.
To ensure adequate sleep each night, maintain a regular sleep schedule. Also limit caffeine, large meals, and screen time leading up to bedtime.
Confide in support from others.
Support is extremely valuable during all facets of life, including when going through menopause. What's more, you do not have to go through this alone!
Whether it be a significant other, close friend, or family member, build supportive team and trust in them during times of need. Online communities can offer support, too.