The rollercoaster of changes that affect our personalities can be the most challenging symptom of menopause. If you’re experiencing them you are not alone. Here are some tips for coping…
By Diane Trembath
Sadness and depression, frequent and sudden tears, anger, irritability, anxiety, mood swings, unpredictability, forgetfulness . . . Do these sound familiar?
If so, you‘re probably one of the many women approaching or going through menopause. Of all the symptoms associated with menopause, the rollercoaster of changes that affect our personalities can be the most challenging.
Not every menopausal woman experiences all or even any of these changes. You probably know someone who sailed through menopause. But unpredictable emotions are distressing and exhausting. They affect your life at home and at work and drain the pleasure from activities you normally enjoy. To make matters worse, you may be struggling to understand what is happening and finding it difficult to discuss with anyone.
You can, however, take steps to ease unwanted emotional symptoms and help you to get back in touch with the real you. It’s a question of taking a first step, then exploring the options to see what works best for you.
Finding time, making time
That first step is finding time. This is the step that so many of us find the hardest. We live in a time-poor world, although it’s often of our own making. However, you need to carve out a little time for yourself each day so that you can switch off.
You can do this at home; try escaping to the bedroom 15 minutes earlier than usual. No distractions, no radio, no television, no phone. Take a short walk during your lunch break at work and, if you have a nearby park, even better. Find a seat, switch off your phone, sit quietly for a few minutes and just breathe.
Make a habit of finding time.
One of the best things to help ease you through difficult, disruptive feelings, from anger to anxiety, is simply to breathe in – and out again. If you practise yoga, you’ll be familiar with this. Take a deep breath through your nose right down into your diaphragm, count to four, then gently breathe out through your mouth for four. And repeat.
Try just a few rounds to start and then build gradually, to a few minutes. That’s it. It’s very calming and strengthening and helps you to focus. If you’re in a hurry or a tight spot, or are grappling with a sudden mood swing, even a few rounds can do the trick.
Learning to breathe in this way is the first step to mindfulness, an ages-old discipline, now practised by people around the world, and can be highly effective in banishing negative thoughts and feelings. If you can breathe, you can be mindful!
Bodies are designed to move so, even if you’re convinced that you haven’t got time to exercise or that you’re not an exercise or sporty type, find a way to keep your body active. Walking is great exercise and it’s something that you can do daily. Try walking a little more briskly and a little further each day – a fitness tracker is a great help; it’s always encouraging to see the progress you are making.
If you’re ready to explore different types of exercise, try yoga or Pilates, both will make you stronger and more flexible. They’re not competitive, so no need to worry about what the person next to you is doing. Yoga, particularly its oldest form, hatha yoga, is also very calming and uses breathing techniques that can be helpful for other menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes.
Eating wisely and well helps to keep our bodies healthy – and our minds and hormones too. Given the changes that your body goes through during menopause, it’s a good idea to look at what and how you eat. Food affects your moods, so include plenty of mood-enhancing foods, such as oily fish, lentils, brazil nuts, turkey or spinach in your diet. Whatever type of eater you are – carnivore, vegetarian or vegan, for example – there are foods to suit you. Keep your body well hydrated: drink plenty of water throughout the day.
Look out for menopause diet and cookery books that will give you more information, advice, guidelines and recipes.
Soothing and sleeping
Sleep is often called nature’s best medicine but if can’t switch off mentally and emotionally, you won’t get the sleep you need. Try an all-absorbing but calming activity before bedtime, such as an adult colouring book. No expensive equipment needed, just your book and some coloured pens or pencils.
The deep breathing technique can be a great help, as can a warm bath, with a calming aromatherapy oil added. Try using an essential oil such as lavender in a diffuser in the bedroom or add to a massage oil to use just before bedtime.
If you can, switch off everything else: keep phones (unless absolutely essential) and television out of the bedroom and, if you’re brave enough to switch off the wifi, do that too. The world won’t come to an end and you will feel so much better in the morning!