Mental wellbeing through the menopause
Mood swings, feelings of depression, and anxiety are all very common symptoms of the menopause. In fact, the incidence of depression in those assigned female at birth is actually twice as high during the menopause.
Understanding why and how the menopause affects many women’s mood and mental health is important as it provides reassurance that the symptoms are normal, and that they’re temporary. Plus, it can help most women identify effective ways to manage and protect their mental wellbeing during this challenging time.
Why does the menopause affect my mood?
During the menopause, most women experience a shift in their level of hormones, and these very often cause temporary mood swings, low mood, and mild feelings of depression.
Most women develop relatively mild mood shifts during perimenopause and menopause. Those who experience more severe mood issues and depression, tend to be people who are susceptible and have experienced mental health conditions in the past*. The menopause may then act as a catalyst, or trigger these symptoms again.
It is very rare that somebody who has never experienced clinical depression or anxiety would suddenly develop severe cases purely due to the menopause. Cheryl Lythgoe, our Society Matron at Benenden Health, gives her insight into this topic. “My rationale is that the menopause is a little bit like puberty in reverse. Plus, for many of us, we’ve already got added stressors of adult life like caring for children, financial issues, ageing parents… which can impact our mood and mental wellbeing too.”
Nevertheless, feeling sudden changes to your mental health can be worrying and distressing – particularly when they feel out of your control.
What can I do about it?
There are many simple steps you can take and treatment that you can consider, to help protect your mental health and stabilise your mood during the menopause…
1. Keep track of your mood
Journaling and keeping a log of when you’re feeling down, stressed, anxious or just different to usual, can help you identify common patterns in your mood, and consider what might have caused or triggered these that day. It might be a lack of sleep, certain foods you’ve eaten, or an emotion-filled event. An understanding of these could help you better manage your mental health and mood going forwards.
2. Improve your sleep quality
Going to bed at a similar time each night, turning your mobile phone or any other screens off an hour before bed, and making sure you have comfortable bedding, are just a few ways you could improve your night’s sleep.
3. Eating a healthy balanced diet
Making sure you are well-fuelled and have enough energy through the day will help avoid irritable and low moods or sudden mood shifts. Minimise anything that might give you a sugar rush or a ‘quick fix’ and consider reducing your alcohol intake if you tend to drink a lot. Alcohol is a depressant after all, and feeling hungover can really increase feelings of low mood or anxiety.
4. Remember, it’s temporary
It’s easy to lose hope when you feel low or flat, and feel like it’s never going to change. But the menopause is a transitionary period in a woman’s life and it doesn’t last forever. Some days might feel more challenging than others, but don’t forget that eventually your hormones will balance out – and you will start to feel better!
5. Reach out to others and seek advice
Whether it’s family members, friends, a partner or a medical professional, it can be healing and comforting to speak openly with others about how you’re feeling. You might prefer to speak to people who are also going through the menopause themselves – there may be a community group in your local area or online, or perhaps you could set one up at work.
It’s a good idea to speak to your GP if you feel you want to explore treatments, medication or therapy options. . The more prepared you are for the conversation with your GP, the more you’re likely to get out of it. Information like what your key symptoms are, how long you’ve had them for, when they are triggered, and how they might be affecting your quality of life, can all help your doctor explore the most appropriate and effective treatment options for you individually.
With Benenden Healthcare, as a member, you can access our 24/7 GP helpline from day one – meaning no matter how busy your day is, you’ve got medical support on hand.
Seeking professional advice around your mental health can provide peace of mind, and could alleviate any anxiety you might be experiencing.
However, speaking to anybody you trust and feel connected to is sometimes enough to feel reassured and supported.
Exercise releases chemicals like endorphins and serotonin, which are scientifically shown to improve your mood and help alleviate feelings of depression and stress. Plus, getting outside or going to a fitness class or club can help you connect with others and minimise and feelings of loneliness or isolation. And remember - exercise doesn’t always have to feel like a chore. It’s a good idea to experiment with different activities and find something you genuinely enjoy doing – this way, you’re much more likely to keep it up and feel better after going!
7. Mental health helplines and counselling support
Speaking to a mental health therapist can be hugely beneficial, particularly if you struggle or feel uncomfortable speaking about your mood and feelings with people close to you. Benenden Health offer a 24/7 mental health helpline to members, which means you can access a professional counsellor at any time of the day, no matter where you are.