Mood swings and irritability are all part of the territory that comes with the menopause.
There are some days where just about everything can make you irritable. The driver that just cut you up, the slow cashier at the checkout, the teenage daughter not putting the lid back on the toothpaste.
When viewed in perspective, these minor irritants shouldn’t cause too much of a fuss but when you’re going through the menopause, something that normally wouldn’t bother you can turn into a major issue. When I was at my worst, any small thing would get under my skin and ruin my whole day. I would then take it out on other people or on my family which made me feel worse and created a real atmosphere at home.
What causes Irritability?
Irritability is similar to other menopause symptoms like mood swings, depression, and anxiety. As a mental health symptom, irritability is caused by imbalanced and declining levels of estrogen and progesterone, which can cause emotional imbalance. Painful or uncomfortable physical symptoms, lack of sleep and higher levels of stress caused by the menopause also lead to irritability.
My Top Tips
Stop and rationalise.
Often, irritability comes from an overreaction to a minor incident. Someone saying the wrong thing or giving you a slightly funny look can set you off. While it’s easier said than done, it’s best to try and control these reactions by rationalising the situation. When someone has said the wrong thing, they probably weren’t being malicious. Likely, they had something bothering them as well. And maybe that’s not a dirty look directed at you, maybe that’s just how their face looks! So don’t feed the irritation. Stop yourself from getting worked up over every small thing by trying to understand it in a different light and perspective.
Remove yourself from the situation.
If a particular situation is getting on your nerves (for example, your kids are being too loud or the kitchen is a mess), try to remove yourself from this situation to the best of your ability. Once you’ve relaxed your nerves (see tip #1), come back to the situation if you need to and sort out the problem. It’s best to handle a situation when you’re not about to blow.
Practice deep breathing.
It’s cliché but it can work wonders! Sometimes, you simply can’t rationalise or get out of a super irritating situation (like a baby crying on a plane). In these instances, stop and breathe. Close your eyes, breathe in through your nose for 5 counts, and out through pursed lips for 5 counts. Continue this exercise 3-10 times (or as many as you need).
Don’t be Hangry.
According to Health.com, “when your blood sugar falls, the hormones cortisol and epinephrine are released in an attempt to raise it back to normal. But those hormones also happen to lead to irritability, which explains why you’re so crabby when you skip breakfast. Another hormone, called Neuropeptide Y, plays a role in hanger too, adds Dr. Adimoolam. Neuropeptide Y helps create a hungry feeling when your body needs more food—and it’s also linked to aggression.” Avoid this situation by always having a healthy snack to hand that will help raise your blood sugar when you need to.
Eat a balanced diet.
Nutrients are not just good for the body, but good for the mind as well! Nutrients are key for keeping your serotonin (happy hormones) levels high, and your neurotransmitters (which regulate your mood) functioning smoothly. Bonus: foods that have been shown to increase serotonin levels include spinach, leafy greens, whole grain foods, bananas, and dark chocolate as they’re packed with magnesium.
I simply can’t say it enough: exercise is so important! It’s not about weight loss or muscle building (though that helps). Exercise releases endorphins, a “feel-good” neurotransmitter, which will naturally lift your mood. Plus, many exercises (like pilates and yoga) help you practice your breathing techniques, which is perfect for those more stressful irritating situations.