Medically reviewed by Catherine Hansen, MD, OBGYN & Menopause specialist
When most people think of menopause, hot flashes and other physical symptoms come to mind, but for many women menopause and perimenopause bring about significant emotional and mental health changes that can be challenging to address and tricky to identify. In this blog post, we will explore effective strategies for support and self-care during this phase of life. Get helpful insights and practical tips to manage menopause and depression and mood changes with care and resilience.
The Menopause-Mental Health Connection
During menopause, the fluctuation and decline of the hormones estrogen and progesterone can affect neurotransmitters in the brain, leading to shifts in mood and emotions. Persistent uncomfortable physical symptoms can also influence mood. Together these physical changes can contribute to anxiety, depression, and mood swings—meaning they have a real impact on how you feel.
Depression is a mental health concern that can arise during menopause. It is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities you previously enjoyed. It’s not just about feeling blue; it’s like a cloud that won’t dissipate. When you’re depressed, your appetite and sleep patterns might change and you may not be motivated by your routines. Women who have been depressed previously are at higher risk for depression during menopause and perimenopause.
You may feel a sense of worry, restlessness, or unease during this time. Things that were previously easy may suddenly feel stressful.
Ever had one of those days when you’re up one moment and down the next? These sudden and intense changes in mood can range from feeling irritable and easily upset to experiencing episodes of sadness or tearfulness that creep up unexpectedly. Even if you’re not experiencing severe mood issues, you might just feel like you’re not yourself. This is common during menopause, and there are ways you can get back to feeling like your usual self.
Self-Care for Mental Health
Taking care of your mental health should always be a priority, especially during menopause. It’s a time of change and transition, and self-care practices can greatly contribute to your overall well-being. Here are some practical tips to help you prioritize self-care and navigate this phase with grace.
Engaging in physical activity not only benefits your physical health but also has a positive impact on your mental well-being. Try incorporating activities like brisk walking, yoga, or swimming into your routine. These exercises can help reduce stress, boost your mood, and improve sleep quality.
Tip: Take a leisurely walk in the park every morning or join a local yoga class to release tension and promote relaxation!
Nourishing your body with a well-balanced diet is essential during menopause. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats in your meals. Avoid excessive caffeine, alcohol, and sugary foods, as they can negatively affect your mood and energy levels.
We encourage you to start your day with a nutritious breakfast like a bowl of oatmeal topped with fresh berries and a sprinkle of nuts for added crunch, protein, healthy oils and nutrients.
Menopause can often disrupt sleep patterns, leading to fatigue and irritability. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine and create a sleep-friendly environment. Avoid electronic devices before bed, keep your bedroom dark and cool, and consider using calming techniques like meditation or deep breathing exercises.
Tip: Try incorporating a warm bath with lavender essential oil into your evening routine to relax and prepare your body for a restful night’s sleep.
Stress Management Techniques
Menopause can bring about increased stress and anxiety. Explore stress-reducing techniques that work for you, such as mindfulness meditation, journaling, or engaging in hobbies that bring you joy. Prioritize activities that help you unwind and recharge.
Remember, self-care is unique to each individual, so it’s important to listen to your body and prioritize activities that bring you joy and peace. By implementing these self-care practices, you can support your mental well-being and navigate the menopausal journey with confidence and resilience.
Tip: Set aside a few minutes each day to practice deep breathing exercises or write down your thoughts and feelings in a journal. This can help release tension and promote a sense of calm.
Emotional Support Systems
During menopause, a strong support network can help you navigate mental health challenges.
Emotional support offers several key benefits, including validation and encouragement. When others validate your experiences and feelings, it provides reassurance and boosts confidence. Additionally, a strong support network can help develop effective coping mechanisms for managing depression and other emotional challenges menopausal women may go through. Learning from the experiences of others equips you with valuable tools to overcome hurdles. Moreover, emotional support systems play a pivotal role in maintaining emotional well-being during menopause. They provide a sense of belonging, reminding you that you are not alone in your journey. This support contributes to a positive mindset and overall mental health. Some avenues where you can seek support: friends & family, support groups and mental health professionals.
Friends and Family
Reach out to trusted friends and family members who can provide a listening ear, understanding, and empathy. Sharing your experiences and emotions with loved ones can provide comfort and reassurance.
Consider joining a menopause support group, either in-person or online. Pandia’s head of menopause, Dr. Catherine Hansen, leads a menopause community that helps many women through this time. These groups offer shared experiences and peer support, a safe space to share struggles and gain insights. Connecting with others who understand the challenges can be incredibly empowering. It helps to know you’re not alone.
Mental Health Professionals
For more serious conditions, like depression, seeking professional help, such as counseling or therapy, can be immensely beneficial for managing mental health during menopause. Mental health professionals and certified menopause practitioners possess the expertise to guide you through this transitional phase, providing coping strategies and personalized support.
Communication and Education
Open communication around menopause-related mental health concerns is also important. It’s crucial to have honest conversations with loved ones and healthcare providers about what you’re going through so that they can support you.
Educating yourself and those around you can be empowering. At Pandia Health, we advocate for you to become educated about your health so you can make knowledgeable decisions. It’s our goal to be your partner in care, so you’re informed and able to tackle any challenges that come your way during this time. By gaining knowledge and understanding, you can better navigate your own experiences and seek the support that’s right for you.
Together, we can make a difference in promoting mental well-being during menopause.
Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques
Managing stress, anxiety, and mood swings during menopause can be challenging, but incorporating mindfulness and relaxation techniques into your daily routine can make a world of difference. These simple yet effective practices can help you find balance and restore a sense of calm. Here are a few examples to get you started:
- Deep Breathing: Take a moment to focus on your breath. Inhale deeply through your nose, counting to four, and then exhale slowly through your mouth, counting to six. Repeat this a few times, allowing your body to relax with each breath.
- Body Scan Meditation: Find a comfortable position and close your eyes. Start by bringing your attention to your toes and gradually move your awareness up through your body, paying attention to any sensations or areas of tension. As you scan each body part, consciously release any tension you may be holding.
- Guided Imagery: Transport yourself to a peaceful place in your mind. Close your eyes and visualize a serene beach, a lush forest, or any other calming environment. Engage your senses by imagining the sound of waves, the scent of flowers, or the warmth of the sun on your skin.
Remember, these techniques are meant to be customized to your preferences and needs. Feel free to explore different practices and find what works best for you. For more resources and guided exercises, check out reputable meditation apps such as Calm or Insight or websites like Headspace.
Many women incorporate mindfulness and relaxation techniques into daily routines by taking a few moments each day to prioritize your well-being and embrace the power of these practices.
Professional Mental Health Support
Seeking professional help, such as therapy or counseling, can be incredibly beneficial when suffering menopausal mental health symptoms. In this section, we will explore the advantages of professional mental health support and address common concerns or stigmas associated with it.
Some doctors will recommend hormone replacement therapy, like the kind prescribed by Pandia Health’s doctors, in addition to counseling or support groups. This is because mood changes during menopause may be caused or worsened by hormonal fluctuations, as was discussed at the beginning of this article. HRT can help provide a foundation for feeling better emotionally.
Benefits of Professional Help
Imagine having a space where you can just be you, where your feelings and concerns are met with understanding and validation. That’s exactly what professional mental health support offers, especially tailored for women going through menopause. Through therapy or counseling, individuals can develop coping mechanisms and acquire valuable skills to navigate the emotional challenges of this phase. These skills empower you to better manage stress, anxiety, and mood swings. Seeking professional support during menopause is an act of self-care and empowerment, demonstrating a commitment to your own well-being and sending a powerful message about valuing yourself and your mental health.
Addressing Concerns and Stigmas
While there are still stigmas around seeking mental health support among some people, remember that your mental health is tied to your physical health. It is crucial to remember that seeking support is a sign of strength and self-awareness. It takes courage to prioritize mental health and well-being. Professional mental health support is a valuable resource, providing the tools and guidance needed to navigate the challenges of menopause with resilience and grace.
Lastly, lifestyle factors can have a significant impact on mental health. By making positive adjustments to your lifestyle choices, you can support your mental well-being and improve your overall quality of life. Some useful examples to consider are:
- Alcohol Consumption: Limiting alcohol intake can help regulate hormonal fluctuations and reduce the risk of mood swings and sleep disturbances. Enjoying alcohol in moderation or opting for healthier alternatives can make a positive difference.
- Smoking/Vaping: Quitting smoking/vaping or reducing your tobacco and/or nicotine intake not only benefits your physical health but also improves mental well-being. Nicotine can intensify menopause symptoms and increase the risk of anxiety and depression. Seek support and explore cessation strategies to successfully quit smoking/vaping.
- Caffeine Intake: While caffeine can provide a temporary energy boost, excessive consumption can contribute to feelings of anxiety and disrupt sleep patterns. Consider gradually reducing your caffeine intake and exploring decaffeinated alternatives or herbal teas that promote relaxation.
You’re not alone—not even close! There’s a whole community out there, ready to walk this journey with you. Friends, family, and support groups – they’re like your own personal squad, each with their own stories and insights to share.
Your mental well-being deserves just as much attention as the physical stuff, it’s all connected, after all. Embrace self-compassion, practice stress-management techniques, and prioritize activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Together, we can navigate the menopause journey with understanding and resilience.
Disclaimer: This article is for general informational purposes and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider before starting or changing any treatment.