The Intersection of Menopause and Mental Health

DeAndrea Woods, LPC on Mar 20, 2023 in Mood and Feelings

Although menopause is a natural phase of life, many women feel unprepared to handle the emotional response and physical changes. Hot flashes are the most talked about symptoms, but there are other changes that impact the way a woman feels about herself and interacts with the world. This can be a particularly stressful time as it occurs midlife when dealing with other challenges, such as raising teens or caring for elderly parents. Some women breeze through this time without issues, and others have a very difficult time. These are six ways to improve overall outlook and gain a better understanding of how menopause impacts mental health.

Identify anxiety. Anxiety can be described as having racing thoughts, fear, uncontrollable worry, inability to relax, or excessive nervousness. Many women who have never experienced anxiety before find themselves struggling with it during menopause. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for anxiety. CBT helps to understand the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. CBT also uses relaxation and mindfulness techniques such as breathing exercise to help relieve overall stress.

Recognize depression. Hormonal changes and other menopausal symptoms can lead to depression. Symptoms of depression can be different for everyone. Feeling empty, irritable, withdrawn, hopeless, and restless are common. Excessive crying, general discomfort, fatigue, agitation, and loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy are signs of depression as well. CBT can also be effective for depression.

Improve sleep hygiene. Developing a sleep routine can help with managing menopause symptoms. Lack of sleep can contribute to moodiness, poor concentration, and other mental health concerns. Improve sleep by setting a schedule and sticking to a regular bedtime. Limit caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine, as it may impact your ability to fall asleep. Avoid computer, TV, and phone screens or anything that is stimulating. Use your bed only for sleep as this will allow your body to associate your bed with sleep.

Build a network. Talk to friends about what you are experiencing. If your friends are close in age, it is likely that someone else is having similar concerns. Join a support group. Group therapy provides an opportunity to learn new skills, normalize your experience, and build relationships with others.

Celebrate this new phase of life. See this as a time to reinvent yourself! Exploring hobbies and setting new goals can be exciting and help with feelings of loss.

Find a therapist. Maybe you need additional support to adjust to this new phase. A licensed therapist can provide a safe place to process the changes and help you navigate this natural biological process. A therapist can help you realign thinking to focus less on the losses associated with menopause and more on targeting new opportunities.

DeAndrea Woods is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Smyrna, GA.

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