Every woman is aware how much the female body and mind can be affected by them. But ask any woman about their experiences and they will all give you a different answer. The extent to which hormones affect us, is a very personal and unique experience. Each woman’s journey through the menopausal transition is equally personal and individual.
Our hormones do many jobs, with cells present everywhere throughout our bodies responding to these hormones. It should be no surprise then, during our menopause phase, when our hormones, particularly oestrogen, are fluctuating or declining, that we can have all manner of physical, emotional, and psychological symptoms.
There are a multitude of symptoms women can suffer with at this time of life, but that doesn’t mean you will have them all. There are some commons ones though and these are the ones most often talked about and highlighted in the media. Many of those highlighted are the physical symptoms, with hot flushes and night sweats headlining the discussion, because it is estimated that around 80% of women will experience these unpleasant symptoms at some point during their menopause transition. Obviously, there are changes to the menstrual cycle, but added into the mix can be joint pain, muscle tension, weight gain, migraines, and a myriad of gynaecological symptoms, to name but a few. It is no wonder then, that some women can start to feel tired, low, and confused, as their body, which they had got to know over the years, starts to become unpredictable and unfamiliar. But, as we now know, our hormones can also have a direct impact on brain function, so our hormonal changes during perimenopause, menopause, and beyond can have a severe impact on women’s mental health.
For some women, it can seem like out of nowhere, they start suffering with high levels of anxiety, that perhaps they have never suffered from before. Or perhaps smaller worries or previous anxiety-related issues and symptoms, that seemed manageable before, can now feel completely overwhelming. Sleep problems can develop, along with mood swings, foggy brain, verbal slips, feelings of sadness, loss of confidence, and low self-esteem.
Impact on daily life
Quite often these symptoms can also coincide with the ongoing challenges of family life; caring for children, supporting teenagers transitioning into adult life, and dealing with concerns of ageing parents. All whilst trying to maintain personal relationships and manage work commitments.
It’s a sad fact that many women stoically soldier on, suffering in silence until they run out of steam, often resulting in leaving work, not joining in with social activities, and seeing friends less. They can be left feeling unhappy, alone and exhausted.
Growing awareness and support
There have been some good campaigns recently to help raise menopause awareness and make the offer of HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) treatments more accessible, but there is still much more to be done to support women, particularly around the mental health aspects of menopause.
Perimenopause and Menopause anxiety is common and can be very debilitating. I often hear women say they suffer most with their anxiety first thing in the morning. Broadly speaking, our stress hormone, cortisol is higher in the morning to encourage us to rouse from sleep and get up. Oestrogen helps to control this cortisol spike, so lower or declining levels of oestrogen in perimenopause can mean that there is more cortisol affecting your nervous system in the morning. Which explains why some women may feel more anxious as soon as they wake up. Another job of our hormones is to stimulate neurotransmitters in the brain, like serotonin and dopamine; these are our feel-good, happy chemicals. So again, with declining hormones, women may have a decline in their serotonin levels and can suffer with a range of symptoms associated with this, such as a lack of motivation, lack of energy and simply a lack of joy. For some women the symptoms can be extremely severe, they can feel worthless and suffer with issues of depression. A recent study by a research team at the ‘Menopause Experts Group’ found that the highest rates of suicide in women is for those aged 45-54 (the average age of women experiencing menopause transition). Although HRT may relieve some symptoms, by helping to balance our hormones, it isn’t a magic fix for all and some women simply cannot or do not wish to take HRT.
Managing menopause holistically
Managing menopause needs to have a holistic approach, that reflects our individual health needs, symptoms, circumstances, and personal journey through this phase. Whether or not women are using HRT treatments, we can help reduce our levels of cortisol and improve our levels of serotonin and other feel-good transmitters by making some small changes to our daily lives. We need to think about nutrition, what and when we are eating, and taking appropriate exercise that suits us and most importantly that we actually enjoy!
Equally important, we need to consider ways to include adequate rest and relaxation into our lives. The NHS (the UK’s National Health Service) recommends reducing stress levels and doing relaxing activities as a way to help with mood changes, low mood, anxiety, hot flushes, and sweats.
If they are lucky, half the population of the world will go through the changes of menopause, that’s for certain, but what isn’t certain is what that will look like for you as an individual. It certainly doesn’t mean it has to be a journey of suffering in silence. There is support and treatments available to help manage this transition forwards in a more positive way.
Solution focused approach in menopause
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy (SFH) can help women to find ways to make those small holistic and practical changes in their lives. In my practice, I find that women suffering with menopause-related anxiety symptoms, quickly find some of their symptoms reduce as they learn to change their perspective and gain a better understanding of why they are suffering in the way they are. I work together with women to help them reconnect with their wealth of skills and resources that they have amassed and drawn on so far in their life. We work together to find small achievable changes, consolidating the work with the use of guided hypnosis relaxations. Relaxation audios are also made available for my clients to use at home, as part of their toolbox for self-care and relaxation time to help destress and calm the mind.
If you think you would benefit from working with me and want to learn some new skills to help reduce your symptoms of menopause-related anxiety, please get in touch. Together we can help you move forwards into the next phase of your amazing life, with more confidence, calm and joy.