Written for Hastings in Focus by Jane Midwinter
Spring is upon us. Winter – a chilly memory. Signs of hope and rebirth are appearing, whether it’s the snowdrop, the daffodil, or the ‘Roadmap out of Lockdown’.
This month, as we begin this emergence, like butterflies from their chrysalises, I’m focussing on … mental health and wellbeing at menopause.
Six facts about mental health at menopause:
- A woman’s physical and psychological symptoms can affect her mental health.
- Symptoms can lead to a woman feeling less able to cope with day-to-day life.
- Many women may not consider that their mental health issues may be due to their hormonal changes.
- Low mood, irritability, increased anxiety, fatigue, low self-esteem and brain fog are some of the psychological and emotional symptoms at menopause.
- Juggling home and work life can lead to menopausal women feeling exhausted.
- Many women cope better going through menopause if they know what to expect.
I have teenage children and an elderly mother I regularly care for and I’m dealing with menopause. Everyone looks to me for comfort, but now I struggle to just get through the day.
Women at the average menopause age of 51 are often referred to as ‘the sandwich generation’. Juggling work and home life is a challenge in itself but throw ageing parents and young adults into the mix and this can make for a tricky situation. I hear “I wish I could explain how I was feeling”, or “I wish I had explained how I felt”, too often. Women think that the people closest to them should understand, but they often don’t, so it’s important to talk.
- Find the right time to talk and be clear in your mind about what you want to gain from the conversation – greater understanding and compassion, or a little extra support?
- Write down what you want to say. It will help you to stay focussed and calm.
- Tell them how you are managing your symptoms, i.e., talking to your GP, so they know this is important.
- 38% of partners say they feel helpless when it comes to supporting their partner through menopause, so help them to help you.
- Carve out some time in the week to recharge – walk, take a long bath, read – do whatever floats your boat, but remember that you cannot pour from an empty cup!
- Write a letter (even if you don’t send it). It might just help to crystalise your feelings.
- Speak to a professional. There are many strategies and solutions to help with mental health but it’s easier to deal with early on. If you’ve been feeling like this for a while, make an appointment with your GP today. GPs are still there, and you can arrange a telephone appointment with them.
During menopause, the major sex hormones – oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone – fluctuate and decline. Because they have an important role to play in our health and wellbeing, as well as our reproductive cycle, when they are out of balance, everything can be affected!
Testosterone is responsible for libido, muscle and bone strength, urogenital health (urinary and genital health), mood, and cognition (our mental processes). As testosterone decreases, we can often lose confidence.
Speak to your GP about what options are open to you which might help redress this balance. You can ask them about HRT, and alternative treatments and therapies too.
A sudden lack of confidence can also be a result of how women feel about their menopause or how they feel others might perceive them. Reframing how you feel about this time, whether that’s through CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy), meditation, positive affirmations, or yoga breathing, might help. Taking up or restarting a hobby such as painting, or learning a new skill is often calming, confidence-boosting and empowering. Nothing lasts forever, so once you’ve got things under control, it’s very likely your confidence will return.
And finally …
Menopause creates an opportunity to address issues that may have been bubbling beneath the surface for some time. It’s a time when a woman can ‘pause’, take stock and consider how she wants to live the next chapter of her life. After all, life is for living!
This month’s recipe is:
‘Spring Clean Salad’, with beetroot, walnuts and goat’s cheese!
A quick and easy lunchtime salad for a fresh and tasty, nutritious brain boost! This salad is a nutritional powerhouse with beetroot and walnuts supporting cognitive function. Visit Nutrition at Menopause for the full recipe.
For further reading, helpful links and information sources: