Health is wealth – every one of us knows that health is the most precious thing. And yet we often focus mainly on the physical aspects of our welfare, somewhat forgetting about our psyche. That is why today we are going to talk about mental health, which is just as important, and which is also put to the test when entering menopause.
No woman going through perimenopause needs convincing about how difficult it can be. Hot flushes, shivers, increased sweating, or hair loss are only a few of the quite long list of potential signs of approaching menopause. The very presence of somatic issues makes it more likely for mood swings to occur during this episode of your life. We also don’t want to alarm you – there are some ladies (lucky ones!), who go through menopause quite smoothly and don’t experience very severe symptoms. However, issues with mental well-being during this period are not uncommon – women often complain about insomnia, problems with concentration, irritability, and even depression.
Changes in the body, changes in life
So how does menopause affect our state of mind? First of all, many things change in our body – the level of oestrogen and progesterone in the body decreases, and this translates into lower production of serotonin, i.e., the hormone of happiness. It is then easier to fall into a mental hole and more difficult to get out of it.
Additionally, our body is also changing, and in the time of the cult of youth, these changes are difficult to accept. Especially since there is still, unbelievably(!), a narrative that menopause is the end of femininity. And on top of that, menopause usually comes at a time of important changes in our lives – the children become independent and the empty nest syndrome appears. When all these factors are combined, it is not difficult to explain why menopause should be a time of concern not only for physical health but also for mental well-being.
So what changes in behaviour and mental state can occur? First of all, mood swings, a tendency to tearfulness, sleep disorders, problems with concentration and memory, or increasing pessimism. Coping with these is not easy, but several methods can help.
- A healthy lifestyle – ok we admit it – sounds like a cliché, but a balanced diet, rich in vegetables and fruits, the intake of supplements that additionally guarantee the right level of vitamins and minerals. You can check our specially formulated vanilla-flavoured food supplement with all the active ingredients you need for optimum health in menopause (e.g. B12, magnesium, zinc). All that combined with regular physical activity can have a big impact on our health – both physical and mental.
- Getting adequate sleep – insomnia affects the functioning of the brain and the entire nervous system. So reach for lavender to help you fall asleep, drink lemon balm teas to soothe your nerves, or take supplements with melatonin, which acts as a regulator of the diurnal cycle and enables uninterrupted sleep.
- .. what you like! – Yes, this also sounds like a cliché, but we all have a hobby that helps us relax and improves our mood. When we are happy, the whole nervous system works better. So whether it’s going for a walk, watching a film, or… having sex, try to find a moment to do something you enjoy!
- Time for (healthy) selfishness – many women during menopause point out that they began to focus more on their needs and desires at this stage. And that’s a good thing! This could be your time – allow yourself to put yourself first more often.
- Hormone replacement therapy – if none of the above methods work, you can turn to HRT. As behavioural and mental changes are partly caused by hormone issues, therapy can help to combat them. This does not mean that HRT erases all the symptoms, but it reduces their intensity and allows you to regain your balance and deal with some of the physical symptoms of menopause as well.
Almost taboo – menopausal depression
Menopause is not a topic that comes up often in discussions – which is also why at MegsMenopause we want to talk about it, because it’s an important part of being a woman. But if you combine the topic of menopause with depression, which is also still an embarrassing subject for many, you get something like a real taboo. Meanwhile, depression can happen at any age, for many reasons or no apparent reason. According to WHO, it is one of the most common diseases in the modern world – as many as 280 million adults worldwide struggle with its symptoms! In the 90s, the myth that menopause causes or is inseparably linked to depression emerged. It is time to debunk it! Scientists have not found any direct link between these issues. However, they have pointed to several factors that make the risk of depression higher during perimenopause. These are the previously mentioned hormonal fluctuations and the major changes in appearance and life that happen during this period.
However, if the feeling of depression is particularly strong, you feel drained or hopeless and the condition persists in intensity for two weeks or more, see a specialist. Hormone replacement therapy is sometimes used as one solution to stabilise mood during menopause. While HRT does not act as an antidepressant, it can help with serotonin production and overall well-being, as well as reduce the physical symptoms associated with menopause.
Remember that depression is an insidious disease, it requires appropriate action. Do not wait until you “get over it” – depression does not work that way. The first step to overcoming it is always to talk – with your loved ones and your doctor. Ladies who are more prone to depressive episodes during menopause are those who have struggled with the condition before and those who are isolated or lonely. So keep in touch with your friends, and talk, if only virtually, with others. And remember to let others help you.
Menopause does not cause mental illness in the strict sense, but it does have an impact on our psyche, and it can also exacerbate the symptoms of a pre-existing illness (e.g. psychosis or bipolar disorder). So don’t ignore any symptoms – don’t let yourself be told that mental issues are something to be ashamed of, that you should “wait it out”. You know yourself like no one else, you sense instinctively when something is wrong. And yet your mind deserves the same attention as your body. And the same care if problems arise.