Menopause, which is a natural and transformative phase in a woman’s life, often brings a cascade of physical and emotional changes. Whilst hot flashes, mood swings, and sleep disturbances are some of the more commonly discussed symptoms, the heightened stress levels many women experience during this period often go without mention. Stress during menopause is not just a by-product of hormonal shifts, but also a reaction to the many changes your body and mind are undergoing. Here, we explore six life-changing techniques to manage stress during menopause, providing you with the holistic tools to face this transitional phase with confidence.
The relationship between stress and menopause
During menopause, the body undergoes significant hormonal shifts. Whilst the decline in estrogen is the most pronounced, it’s not the only hormone affected. The body’s response to stress, primarily driven by cortisol, also plays a pivotal role during this time.
Stress and hormonal fluctuations:
- Cortisol Response: Under stress, the body produces cortisol, known as the ‘stress hormone’. Whilst this is a normal reaction, prolonged elevated cortisol levels can impact various bodily functions, from sleep to metabolism.
- Estrogen Decline: Lowered estrogen levels can render the body more susceptible to the effects of stress. This susceptibility, combined with the body’s natural response to stress, can create a feedback loop where stress exacerbates menopausal symptoms, which in turn, can cause more stress.
Impact on menopausal symptoms:
- Aggravated Hot Flashes: Elevated stress levels can increase the frequency and severity of hot flashes.
- Sleep Disturbances: Stress, coupled with other menopausal symptoms, can lead to difficulties falling asleep, night sweats, or disrupted and broken sleep patterns.
- Mood Instabilities: The interplay between cortisol and estrogen can lead to heightened emotional responses, making mood swings more pronounced.
Technique 1: Mindfulness and meditation for stress during menopause
Mindfulness and meditation provide a mental refuge during the hormonal shifts and symptoms of menopause. Mindfulness involves staying present in the moment, engaging fully with our surroundings and activities without being overwhelmed. Regular practice can help reduce anxiety, improve focus, and foster self-connection. Meditation is a structured way to develop mindfulness, helping you manage emotions and mood swings. There are various guided meditation resources available, including apps like Headspace and Smiling Mind.
To integrate mindfulness and meditation into daily routines, it’s essential to be consistent, even with short daily sessions. Find a quiet, comfortable spot in your home, and remain patient if your mind wanders during meditation – just gently refocus on your breath or chosen meditation point. Practice makes progress, so don’t give up!
Technique 2: Physical activity and exercise
Staying active during menopause aids in mental wellbeing, sleep quality, and mood stabilisation. Exercise releases endorphins, helping to lift your mood and reduce pain. It also supports bone density, countering the increased osteoporosis risk during menopause, and maintains cardiovascular health. Try activities like walking, yoga, and swimming, if you’re not sure where to start. If there’s an exercise you already enjoy, stick with that!
Technique 3: Balanced diet and hydration
A balanced diet supports both physical and emotional wellbeing, and with stress during menopause. Proper nutrition can help manage hormonal fluctuations, regulate mood, and maintain your overall physical health. If you’re experiencing stress during menopause, it’s also a good idea to try limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption. Of course, staying hydrated is just as important as eating well, so don’t forget to drink plenty of water.
Technique 4: Sleep hygiene and rest
Sleep disturbances are common during menopause. Creating a sleep-conducive environment involves maintaining a cool room temperature, limiting light exposure, and controlling noise. Sleep hygiene practices that can help you reduce your stress and get a better night’s rest include following a consistent schedule, reducing screen time before bedtime, and practicing mindful relaxation. To manage night sweats, use breathable bedding, wear layered clothing, and stay hydrated. Quality sleep is essential for overall well-being during menopause, providing a strong foundation for the next day and helping you be better prepared to tackle whatever it brings!
Technique 5: Social support and community
Navigating menopause becomes much easier with support and community. Sharing experiences and feelings reduces the feeling of isolation many women face during this time. Support can come from support groups, online communities, close friends and family, and counselling. With a supportive community, navigating menopause becomes more manageable, providing strength, understanding, and camaraderie during a time that’s tricky for every woman going through this stage of life. Above all, it’s about knowing you’re not alone.
Technique 6: Seeking professional support for stress management during menopause
Managing menopause really requires a comprehensive approach that takes into account your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. Seeking support from a counsellor or psychologist with experience in this area can be life-changing, and here’s why:
The value of holistic support:
· Experienced counsellors or psychologists who offer a holistic approach; focusing on the whole person rather than just their symptoms. This can be crucial for addressing the multifaceted challenges of menopause.
· Menopause can bring feelings of sadness, anxiety, or mood disturbances. A therapist provides a safe space, without judgement, to process these emotions and learn helpful coping strategies.
· A professional can offer tailored advice, taking into account your unique experiences and needs during this transitional phase of your life.
· Research, ask questions, and gather information to make empowered decisions about your health. Seek out a professional who takes into consideration the ‘whole you’ and not just your symptoms.
· Consulting regularly with a counsellor or psychologist ensures that new symptoms or emotional challenges are addressed quickly – they might spot something you miss, as they get to know you better.
· Seeking support from a counsellor or psychologist experienced in menopause is not just about managing symptoms – it’s a proactive step towards holistic well-being. Addressing both physical and emotional aspects can offer a more balanced and comprehensive approach to navigating this significant life phase.
Stress and menopause: We’re here for you
Remember: You are not your symptoms. If you’re experiencing stress during this time, that’s totally normal and natural. Don’t put it down to something you just have to ‘deal with’ whilst you’re going through menopause. Here at Integrated Health Specialists, we understand that a holistic approach is crucial when it comes to managing stress during menopause. Find out more about how we can give you the support you not only need, but deserve. Get in touch today.