The psychological symptoms that many of us experience in our perimenopausal and menopausal years can be some of the most debilitating. These can be hard for us to admit. Sometimes, we are not even aware that we are suffering from psychological symptoms. We often attribute what we are experiencing to the general stresses and strains of life, and getting older, without realising that fluctuating hormone levels may have something to do with it!
Mental health issues, whether due to menopause or not, remain a taboo topic. It’s strange that many of us feel more comfortable talking about our physical symptoms, whereas we tend to keep anything to do with our mental health to ourselves. This can end up making everything ten times harder to cope with.
I should write the next words in capital letters… PSYCHOLOGICAL SYMPTOMS ARE SOME OF THE MOST COMMON SYMPTOMS OF MENOPAUSE! If we were more open and comfortable talking about mental health, we would realise that most of us in our menopausal years are experiencing similar symptoms!
What are the most common symptoms?
- Lack of concentration
- Poor memory
- Low mood swings…very different from clinical depression
- Panic attacks
- Brain fog…red mist…
Always remember, as with any of the symptoms of menopause, there will be other contributory factors which can exacerbate our sysmptoms, such as coping with teenage children, elderly parents, pressure of work and life/work balance. We’re not known as the sandwich generation for nothing!
So how do you treat and cope with these symptoms?
First and foremost, lifestyle choices…
What you eat, drink and how well exercised you are can make significant differences to how effectively you are able cope with these symptoms.
Make sure you incorporate energising foods into your diet! Reduce those carbs, only eat the healthy fats and keep hydrated throughout the day.
Make exercise part of your daily routine. Incorporate a variety of exercise throughout the week! Make sure you get in at least one session of pilates or yoga, if possible. Make it fun, not a chore. Set yourself realistic goals which are sustainable. Nobody is asking you to go and run a marathon… that might float your boat, which is fabulous, but for other women just doing 10 minutes of high intensity exercise can be enough. As with anything, find out what suits you and your lifestyle, and which you know will be sustainable. Just make sure you do something which releases those endorphins!
Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is as effective for some women, if not more so, than any form of medication. One of the main advantages of CBT is you are learning life skills which help you to manage your symptoms. The more you practise them, the more effective they will become, and the easier you will find them to use.
Mindfulness, like CBT, focusses on the present and the positive. It’s a useful life skill to learn, and helpful when coping with the psychological symptoms being thrown at you.
Counselling. Any form of talking therapy can be beneficial, whether that’s sharing your problems with a trusted friend or going to see a therapist. It remains one of the most effective treatments.
Alternative remedies, such as herbs, can be an option for some women, but remember they can have side effects and can interact with other medication you might be taking. It’s better to get advice from a trained medical herbalist rather than self-medicating.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Replacing oestrogen will have a beneficial effect. It will also help treat other symptoms you might be suffering from.
Antidepressants. These definitely have their place in the medical world. However, the NICE guidelines for menopause clearly state that they should not be the first line of treatment. All the other options above should be considered first.
Finally: Rest and Relaxation. A bit of R & R is essential for treating any symptom but particularly for psychological symptoms. Making sure that you get even 10 mins to yourself every day can make a big difference… but ideally try to give yourself a little longer! The more rested and relaxed, and the more exercised and well nourished you are, the better you will cope with any symptom.
'As with any information developed for Fountain Retreats the information in this post is accurate at time of posting and is for information purposes only. It is not intended to replace or substitute the judgement of any medical professional you may come in contact with. You should always seek advice from your health care professional regarding a medical condition’
About the author...
Author, Qualified Nurse
Ruth is a qualified nurse, gaining her registration and working at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
She is passionate about providing women and employers with evidence based information and support, helping women to make informed decisions about how to manage their menopause and so improve their quality of life.
She has been asked to contribute on several occasions on various media platforms including, Radio 4s Woman’s hour, BBC Radio Scotland, Radio Borders, the BBC Insiders Guide to the Menopause documentary with Kirsty Wark and BBC breakfast.
Ruth is married with three children, three dogs and a cat, loves cycling, playing netball and tennis, spending time with family and friends and has a great sense of humour.
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