Over time, we grow to rely on and trust our bodies. But over time they begin to shift and act in new ways. Suddenly our body is not so familiar to us. It can be difficult to feel connected and grounded when a significant shift occurs.
Menopause is one of the major hormonal changes a woman experiences in her life, and it can sometimes feel like a betrayal. But going through the stages of menopause doesn’t have to be negative. It’s just different, and the changes require our body to act in a new and unfamiliar way. It takes time to listen to, understand, and connect to this new body and what it’s trying to tell us.
It is not uncommon to experience a wide range of emotional changes through the three stages of menopause, but it can be difficult.
Emotional changes during menopause
According to some studies, women between the ages of 45 and 64, the age range many women experience menopause, have the lowest emotional well-being of any age group or gender in America.
Studies are unclear on why emotional changes occur during menopause. A combination of a fluctuation in hormone levels, the physical changes associated with menopause, and major life changes that typically occur during this time of life are all likely to play a role. Emotional changes will vary by each woman’s environment and experience.
Women experience both positive and negative emotions during menopause. On the one side, some women feel a sense of relief knowing their period has come to an end, and pregnancy is a thing of the past. They may feel a new sense of freedom and liberation.On the other side, women also note experiencing a range of difficult emotions. Some common emotional symptoms include:
- Mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating
It’s around this time that a woman’s role in society becomes less definitive than it once was. In talking to my mom about her experience with menopause, she shared that for as long as she can remember, her life was defined as a wife, mother, single mother, sister, and daughter. She threw her life into those things. As everyone else grew in their life, her life changed as a result. Now, for the first time, she’s working to put herself first, and it can feel like a mess trying to make sense of what that looks like. While empowering, it can also feel extremely overwhelming and frustrating.
My mom’s story is not uncommon. It’s typical for women to experience big life changes—change in family, loss of a partner, a change in job status, or a combination of all of the above—or face unresolved issues during the same stage of life they move through menopause.
Tips to navigate the emotional changes of menopause
Whether you take medication to help with the different symptoms of menopause or opt to find natural solutions for relief, every woman experiencing changes in her emotions can benefit from new activities and lifestyle choices that can help reduce stress.
Connect with your body
Explore opportunities that can help reduce the impact of stress in your life. Activities such as yoga, mindfulness, journaling, and breathing exercises are all great lifestyle choices to adopt that allow you to manage stress and focus on what your body is telling you.
Consider a class like Yoga for Mood Swings if you need some relief from your mood swings during menopause or start to journal as a way to keep track of your symptoms over time. Paired with mindfulness, this can help identify what is due to menopause symptoms and what is a sign of stress or anxiety or depression from other factors in your life. Find a positive affirmation or two to jot down on the pages of your journal that can serve as words of encouragement.
Find a creative outlet
Take time out for yourself and nurture your mind and body. Identify the things in your life that recharge you and do them regularly—exercising, hiking, gardening, painting, ceramics, dance, improv, photography, knitting, writing, and cooking are just a few ideas.
Don’t be afraid to fail if you try something new. The point is not to be perfect at a new or old skill. The goal is to find something that brings you joy and to allow yourself space and time to do it. Prioritize yourself at the top of your list, not buried under a long to-do list.
Schedule a therapy session
The shift in emotions during menopause can range from mild to very serious. If you are experiencing signs of depression or anxiety and your quality of life and relationships are hurting, find a therapist or qualified mental health professional to seek help as soon as possible.
Those experiencing less severe emotional changes can also benefit from therapy. A good therapist can help you check in with yourself and do an emotional audit. They can help you identify issues that have been troubling you, provide appropriate tools to use, and help make a plan for what you can do and what you can ask of others.
A therapist can also help you improve your communication with your partner and family to allow you to build a support system you can turn to and communicate openly about what you are going through.
Nurture your relationships
Connection to your community and to yourself is essential. Menopause has been a taboo topic to talk about openly in Western culture. It’s time to change that. Don’t be afraid to share what you are experiencing with your partner, your family, and your friends. It may be difficult at first, but as you begin to share insight into what you are going through, you, in turn, help your community better understand and support you. You do not need to go through this alone. It’s important to stay connected with your community to have a positive emotional outlet and to prevent yourself from isolation.
If you feel like you lack the appropriate community, seek out a like-minded community group based on your interests and needs.
Your emotional changes during menopause are not silly or crazy or bad. They are normal. Like many of the symptoms of menopause, this too shall pass. Remember to lean on your community for help and allow yourself time doing things that will enable you to recharge and de-stress. Menopause is another major life shift for women, one that can be difficult and liberating. Take action to help yourself feel more balanced, supported, and in control.