For many women, menopause comes with a wide range of symptoms, from hot flashes and weight gain to vaginal dryness and difficulty sleeping at night. In perimenopause, which is the years leading up to the actual “end” of menstruation, women often talk about feeling like they’re losing their minds, like they’ve got the “crazies.” What’s more maddening is that some women waltz through the menopausal years like nothing’s happening at all. Their periods stop early, they have a night sweat or two, and they come out on the other side of this monumental physiological change and wonder what the big fuss is. That’s just genetics and individual wiring.
But some women experience mood changes and menopause differently.
Menopausal mood swings vs. depression
During perimenopause, you start to experience irregular periods due to fluctuating estrogen and progesterone levels. Women often experience extremely heavy periods for the first time in their lives, which can be frustrating itself and can certainly affect mood. All this while fluctuating estrogen levels are in the background affecting mood-boosting hormones such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.
Estrogen also affects brain function so women in perimenopause often complain of “brain fog,” another frustration that can affect work, family life, and general enjoyment of life.
Menopausal mood swings may swing a bit further for women with a history of depression or those dealing with high levels of stress or who are dealing with recent trauma in their lives. This could include physical trauma or a family event or even caregiving, which is common for women reaching the menopausal years. Women are often the primary caregivers for aging parents, which puts additional strain on physical, emotional, psychological, and financial resources.
When mood becomes so low or seems to last for two weeks or longer, it may be time to talk to a mental health therapist who can support you during this time. You don’t have to go through menopause mood changes alone. Your primary care provider is often a good place to start the conversation.
Menopausal mood changes and self-care
For many women, the perimenopausal years are when the kids are a little bit older or even leaving the nest. It may be a time when the marital relationship needs some attention, or you may be dealing with a breakup and associated grief and loss, and it’s time to focus on you. If you’re single, maybe you deserve to start looking for a partner again.
Wherever you are in your journey, this is the time to start putting yourself first—no matter what.
Menopausal mood changes are going to happen, and you need to give yourself time each day that is dedicated just for you. It might be hard to put yourself first if you’re used to doing everything for people around you. You might feel like you don’t have time to give to yourself because of work or family obligations.
You need to figure it out—and fast. Put yourself FIRST.
To help work through the challenges of menopause, putting yourself first is the best thing you can do. This means:
Setting aside quiet time each day.
Read, meditate, lie in bed for 10 extra minutes in the morning. Listen to a podcast. Drink your coffee or tea and listen to music, uninterrupted.
Taking a walk or a yoga or Pilates class.
Do something that honors your body and mind and spirit. Do it just for you, not because you need to lose weight or because you “should.”
Keeping your doctor’s appointments.
Schedule your mammograms, your colonoscopies, your primary care doctor appointments, your OB/GYNs, even your dentist—and keep up with them. Also stay on track with medications and supplements. Up your health game because you’re putting yourself first.
Some women find one of the greatest things about menopause is putting themselves first, which often means not doing things they don’t want to do! Start doing more of what you love and less of what you don’t. This might include saying no to immediate family expectations and obligations that no longer serve you.
Reach out to your girlfriends more than ever. Now is the time to pick up where you all left off before kids and families and after-school activities and the whirlwind of the last decade took over. Go out and have more fun with friends. They’re all going through the same thing. Share, commiserate, and get ideas for ways to work through mood changes and menopause.
Want to talk to a medical professional about menopause?
We’re here for you at (941) 303-5713. We serve the Venice, Florida, area and beyond.