The rollercoaster of menopause mood swings! The theme for World Menopause Day 2022 is cognition and mood
Perimenopause causes our hormones to fluctuate and menopause brings a depletion of those hormones, and often of the biggest, and possibly most unexpected range of symptoms we experience at the menopausal transition is the effect on our cognition and mood. Even women who have never experienced any previous mood disorders find themselves at the mercy of some pretty scary emotional symptoms! The theme for World Menopause Day 2022 is cognition and mood and I am no stranger to the emotional roller coaster of severe mood swings in menopause!
In my blog post today I am sharing my experience of menopause mood swings and some tips for how to overcome this time of emotional change.
Outfit details: I am wearing ACAI Outdoorwear trousers and sweatshirt, if you use my refer-a-friend link you can get £20 off if you spend over £50. My boots are by Dubarry.
The good news is that if we can understand what is happening to us and if we can talk to other women, support each other and make sure we start to prioritise ourselves, we can learn to cope with the emotional changes when they come along.
Do any of these common menopause symptoms sound familiar? And did you even know these symptoms could be associated with the hormonal changes that happen at perimenopause?
Difficulty finding the right words
Feeling more forgetful
Not being able to think clearly
Feelings of anxiety
Amanda, a Company Director at Sales Growth Expert told me “I found myself lost for words in a board meeting, or holding back from contributing, because I couldn’t get my point straight in my own head. When I did get it straight, it came out as waffly and unclear. I saw my colleagues looking at me as if they weren’t sure how to respond. I also became anxious about work, and found myself awake at 4 in the morning, worrying about my projects. It wasn’t like me at all”
If I look back to the me 10 years ago, when I was around age 45, I so wish I had known then what I know now!
I'd have understood that my mood changes were to do with my depleting hormone levels and I'd have started hormone replacement therapy a lot lot sooner rather than resorting to antidepressant medication.
I was always an efficient multitasker, known for my ability to organise, I thrived on being busy, I was an efficient PA, set up and ran my husbands business and was confident in sharing my thoughts and ideas with others, but these last few years have left me lacking in confidence, overthinking and worrying I am going mad.
If it isn't written down it doesn't happen I have to remind my family! Don't just tell me something - you need to text me or write a big old-fashioned note on a piece of paper! And my grumpiness can be off the scale! Some days my mood is so low, I can hardly function and I think the world is going to end. Then the next day, I am back on a high and coping with life again.
Cognition in menopause
Difficulty with cognition includes problems remembering words, less ability to concentrate, I know I can no longer multi-task and am much more easily distracted. We can struggle with our confidence and feel like we aren't coping with day to day life. In fact, 1 in 10 women will give up their job during their menopause years That has a huge impact on both self-esteem and on the workforce and is a massive loss to business.
Low mood in menopause
Look out for a tendency to feel more tearful, you may experience depressive symptoms, rage is very common and it is also important to be aware of feeling suicidal ... women aged 45 to 54 have the highest female suicide rate, and there is a strong correlation with severe symptoms of depression during menopause. Please check in on your friends, partners, sisters, mothers and colleagues.
Wendy is an IT Manager from Buckinghamshire she says "There I was 55 without any menopausal symptoms, not even a hot sweat, phew I thought I have got this. How wrong I was, bang almost overnight I found myself waking up at 3 am and not being about to go back to sleep, my irritability levels went through the roof, work was overwhelming and my ability to multitask was gone. I knew I had to do something and started to google the hell out of HRT …. and the rest is history because I more like the happy Wendy".
What can we do to support our mental health during menopause?
Educate - learn more about menopausal mood swings by talking to others, read blog posts and research information provided by some of the best menopause experts, for example from Dr Louise Newson, Liz Earle and Davina McCall. There are so many books, podcasts and factsheets available now and I list my favourites in my menopause resources section.
Talk - don't be afraid to tell someone you are feeling low. From feelings of sadness to major depression, please don't suffer in silence, there is always help available and your family and loved ones will want to support you. Be brave and ask for help.
"I found myself chatting to people I have known for a long time and completely forgetting their name, and then not being present at all to what they were saying, so having to ask them to repeat it. Also being completely over the top angry about the smallest of things. For example people not offering to help me around the house with chores I would usually do happily, or not asking if I was okay often enough. Feeling a little bit like looking in on things from afar and mind wandering off". Sarah runs Sarah Kerr Coaching a life and wellbeing consultancy to support people when they are feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
Monitor your symptoms - print off a symptom checker - I recommend the one on The Menopause Support Network facebook page - and keep a record of how you are feeling in a journal or diary. This makes it so much easier to recognise if there is a pattern and also gives you the basis to start a conversation with your GP.
Self-care - start to take time for you! I love Positive News magazine, my niece bought me a subscription for Christmas and in a recent issue there is an interview with Dr Sharron Blackie, a neuroscientist turned ecofeminist author, she says ...
"Menopause is a time when all the 'dross' can be shed, all those years of compromising, adapting, pretending to be something we're not, all the veils and masks we wear."
How true! I am wife, mother, daughter, aunt, friend, sister .... sometimes I feel there is very little time left for me. Now that my son is settled in his own home and my daughter is about to move to London for her first job, I am finally going to take time out for me, it is time to make some serious lifestyle changes!
We are entering the second stage of our lives, it is okay to be selfish, we no longer need to accept being invisible and under-valued. Society has changed an awful lot in the last 50 years and Generation X have blazed a trail of independence, we have finally spoken up for menopausal women and our daughters will benefit even more from our determination to bring change.
Let's change our mindset and try to think of menopause as a blessing not a curse!
Listen to your body (and your gut) - if something feels wrong it probably is. I am just back from a retreat in The Wye Valley with Claire Winter who runs The Creatrix Journey - a writing circle where you can discover creative writing by walking in nature, get inspired by your surroundings and reconnect with your creative passion. Claire runs residential retreats, day retreats and online courses.
It has been amazing to be away in stunning countryside surrounded by other women in their 40s and 50s and what I am witnessing is a willingness and enthusiasm to support each other and talk about this phase in our lives. One of our group described her symptoms and the consensus was, if you suspect it is perimenopause then it probably is. The truth being, we know our own bodies, we know when something feels amiss, the sooner you understand the changes you are facing the easier the transition will be. Take care of your emotional health and make it a priority. You can't pour from an empty cup.
“Navigating the perimenopause has been an interesting journey that I’m still on. It feels like a liminal space where focus, concentration and memory change, and what used to come easily is now harder to find. I found when I was writing in front of my desk that I lost my words and train of thought and as a writer that seemed inconceivable to me. Spending time in nature walking and then writing helped me find my words again, which is why I love taking women out walking and getting them to write creatively.” Claire Winter, founder of The Creatrix Journey.
Eat well - now is the time to reduce the sugar, ditch the convenience food, and nourish your body with good nutrition. It is possible to manage hormone changes and reduce the severity of both physical and mood symptoms with some simple dietary changes. Look up Jo at Time to Nourish, she offers some excellent workshops and has just launched her 3 month 'Time to Nourish for LIFE' programme to help you understand just how easy it can be to eat well and feed your feel-good hormones in midlife!
Get outside and take regular exercise - in Japan getting out in nature and taking time away from modern technology and city life is prioritised and forest bathing is prescribed by doctors instead of medication to support physical and mental health and reduce the effects of stress! It has led to a massive increase in people leading healthier lifestyles.
I always feel better when I am in nature, the minute I step outside the door, I feel a sense of peace. And I have been reminded of that this weekend on the retreat - I tried forest bathing myself! I am going to talk more about this on a dedicated blog post but it is proven that experiencing forest bathing even once a month is excellent for anxiety disorders and clinical depression. A walk is enough, if you can do some strength training too then that is fantastic for bone health and muscle maintenance, but for your cognition and mood - get into nature and walk.
Don't give up - there is so much support out there now to help with the emotional symptoms of menopause. I don't always get it right and I have had many ups and downs since perimenopause started (probably around age 45) but there are lots of treatment options, you will find the right one for you.
HRT - As you know I am a big advocate for taking HRT and I am very happy that the modern body-identical HRT is no longer considered taboo and it is much more accepted as the best way to manage both physical symptoms and the mood symptoms of menopause.
Rebecca from Tentshare says “Now I have my medication right, I find that I am much calmer and much less likely to have an emotional outburst. My friends and family are relieved!”
Please don't just accept a prescription for antidepressants from your GP! Whilst they may have a role to play for cognition and mood during menopause, women aged 45 and above should be topping up their lost or depleting hormones first. Replacing oestrogen (and possibly testosterone) as well as taking progesterone for your endometrial health, can be life-changing, don't rule it out if you need help!
Don't miss my £300 giveaway with Elizabeth Rose Boutique - running until 4th November - and remember to subscribe to my email list so you never miss a post from me!
To the amazing women on the retreat with me this weekend, thank you for sharing your personal stories and insights into coping with the emotional rollercoaster of menopause mood swings!
Outfit details: this is the boyfriend hoodie from ACAI Outdoorwear worn with their MAX stretch skinny trousers - use my refer-a-friend link to get £20 off when you spend over £50.
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Hi, I’m Michelle and my blog Fifty & Fab is all about my journey into and through my 50s. I started this blog in 2016 with the purpose of helping other women at this stage of life. I’m delighted that my blog has grown to over 13k visitors per month. Visit my Work with Me page and request my Media Kit for details of product reviews, blogging services and social media content creation.
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