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Why The Menopause is Affecting Your Mood and How to Deal With it

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Why The Menopause is Affecting Your Mood and How to Deal With it

After decades of irritating or troublesome periods, a woman might be within her rights to breathe a sigh of relief at entering her menopause. But so often, this just isn’t the case. Hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, a reduced sex drive and the risk of developing brittle bones aside, the menopause can affect a woman’s mood to the point that it impacts significantly on her life.

The mental health symptoms associated with the menopause include mood swings, low mood, anxiety, poor sleep, irritability, poor memory and difficulty concentrating.

These problems with mood stem from the fact that the menopause, a perfectly natural occurrence that usually affects women between the ages of 45 and 55, is caused by a drop in the levels of a hormone called oestrogen. This drop in oestrogen begins gradually, and can begin many years before a women’s periods stop, which can affect women in their 40s during a time called the perimenopause

Oestrogen helps in the regulation of a woman’s menstrual cycle, but it also helps to regulate other hormones such as serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline. These hormones are all involved in mood – serotonin is a ‘happy hormone’ involved in feel good feelings, dopamine plays a role in motivation and our ability to experience pleasure and noradrenalin helps us feel alert and energised.

When these hormone levels reduce, it has an obvious knock on effect on our mood. Not only that, a fall in oestrogen levels also affects our cognition, which is our ability to think, learn, reason, pay attention, remember and problem solve. For this reason, women going through the menopause often report feeling forgetful, distracted or ‘fuzzy headed’. This can then negatively affect a woman’s mood as she struggles to deal with these changes. 

But there are things we can do to help counteract the mood lowering effects of the menopause (and the perimenopause). 

  • We know that eating a poor diet of fatty, processed and fried foods makes us feel sluggish and demotivated. We might feel good at the time of eating a takeaway, but it’s short lived. Eating a healthy diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, lean protein sources and omega 3 fatty acids with the occasional treat can help improve our mood no end. We feel virtuous and healthy, which can help to combat the effects of the hormonal imbalances we’re experiencing.
  • Exercising during the menopause also helps to significantly improve our mood. Even if we struggle to start (and during), afterwards, those natural feel good chemicals begin to surge, lifting our mood. Exercise also helps to keep the muscles and bones strong, which helps to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Taking steps to reduce stress isn’t always easy, but finding things that relax us can help to improve our mood. Yoga and mindfulness are helpful for relaxation and focus, but we can also spend time doing things that make us feel good, such as reading, sunbathing, spending quality time with good friends or learning a new skill.
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (or CBT) is a type of talking therapy that some women find helpful as they experience their menopause. Speak to your GP about a referral to a specialist if you think this might help you.

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