Menopausal women are feeling more stressed than ever before. This may be because of the physical and emotional changes their bodies are experiencing, but also the way the world is now, just one generation on.
One thing’s for sure, we have more on our plates and less support these days.
When women think of menopause, flushes and night sweats spring to mind. But, there are many more very common symptoms, such as depression, tiredness as well as a lack of joy.
Why it’s important to manage stress if you are going though menopause
Naturopath Sarah McLauchlan navigated her way through menopause and now supports other women in their 40s as they find their way through the perils of menopause.
“It’s really important to manage stress for your long-term health, but also it will help you deal with menopause,” she says.
“Modern mummying is stressful! We don’t have the same support network as previous generations, we work and juggle more things in this day and age. And when stressed, we look for ways to cope and that often involve comfort food and drink like chips, chocolates and alcohol. But these things could make you feel more stressed, not less!”
Stress sabotages your health and happiness and during menopause so it’s important we take care of ourselves because our body is changing. The hormones that once helped us, like progesterone (in effect the body’s own version of Valium) helping you feel calm and soothed – begin to drop during menopause.
Sarah says, often women don’t even realise they are stressed!
“Remember our body and brain are primal. We used to perceive danger as a sabre-toothed tiger but now stress is more insidious or low key,” she says. “Lots of little stressors add up throughout the day,” she says.
“It’s no longer the sabre-toothed tiger, it’s the traffic jam or work-related pressures, tip toeing around toddlers or teenagers, thinking about a household budget, the news and so many more things! Even drinking too much coffee or alcohol is stressful for the body.”
How stress impacts our bodies
When our body is stressed, it makes adrenaline, our heart rate goes up, we breathe faster and shallower. We produce more cortisol, the stress hormone, which helps us fight or flee. However, our primal selves used to sleep off the danger after a sabre-toothed tiger attack. But we aren’t sleeping off the stress anymore.
“Stress is always with us. Our phones may go off and it’s our boss – we are dealing with the stress of kids without our tribe,” says Sarah. “It’s nutrient demanding on our body. To produce the stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, we need fuel to produce them, and this is then depleting the rest of the body of those vitamins and minerals.”
Anxiety can steal your joy, make you feel depressed, irritated all the time, overwhelmed and not able to deal with life’s problems. Stress isn’t anything new during menopause, but the difference is, our feel-good hormone progesterone helped us deal with it up until this point.
As this hormone begins to decline, this is when we begin to feel most reactive to stress. Therefore, women who are going through menopause might blow their fuse on a regular basis, when they felt they had it under-control before.
What’s more, progesterone helps us go to sleep and stay asleep – without sleep, our stress resilience is down the drain. So, this also might explain why women going through menopause wake up more frequently, and why they feel extra irritated or impatient.
So, what can done about it? (Besides quitting our jobs and giving our kids up for adoption!)
Take a break and try to switch off whenever you can
“The long-term solution is to reduce some of these stressors. The house doesn’t have to be cleaned. Take a break wherever you can,” suggests Sarah. “Lie down flat for 20 minutes without a phone or a book, take deep breaths and let your body reset. Recalibration is amazing if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
“If you are stuck in flight or fight mode constantly, it’s important you rest afterwards. Tune into breath, do meditation and switch into rest and digest mode.
“Another thing you can do is make sure you are eating three meals day full of good fats, protein and complex carbs. If you are hungry, you’re not thinking clearly. Eat nourishing meals, and try leafy grains as they have magnesium, which relaxing mineral that will help you sleep better, as well as almonds, sunflower deeds and olive oil.”
Often, a high-sugar diet exacerbates those stressful feelings, and it can lead to depression, exhaustion, weight gain, insomnia and a foggy brain.
You don’t need to feel uptight during menopause, by taking care of yourself, and focusing on your health and inner harmony, you will find a way to navigate through the new territory that is menopause and make it through to the other side.
Here’s a quick recap on everything how menopause can be linked to stress:
- Progesterone levels, which make us feel calm, drop during menopause. Therefore, we might feel more reactive to stressors than ever before.
- Reduce the stressors in your life. You don’t have to clean the house. Make sure you take time to digest and reset. Lie down for 20 minutes without your phone.
- Eat nourishing foods full of magnesium, healthy fats, protein and complex carbs.
- Reduce high-sugar diet
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