Managing Stress at Menopause Before It Manages You

By: Red Hot Mamas

Published: May 26, 2010

The word menopause refers to the cessation of menstruation and is normal transition in every woman’s life. Physical changes after age 40 may affect a woman in many different ways. Hormonal changes have a great affect on our nervous system and may cause problems like insomnia, mood swings, among other things. Many women also suffer from hot flashes, vaginal dryness and other symptoms of menopause.

The physiological, psychological and social changes that may be experienced are extremely stressful. Stress is simply the body’s reaction to a challenge or threat. And, when you feel stressed, your body is flooded with chemicals called “stress hormones” such as adrenaline or epinephrine that may cause your heart to start beating faster; muscles become tense; and breathing becomes rapid. There may also be an increase in perspiration. Another hormone called cortisol is also increased as a normal coping mechanism by your body to respond to stress. Over an extended period of stress, these stress hormones that are initially protective, can become detrimental, wearing out your body, mind and spirit. There are different coping strategies which may help restore a sense of well-being and reduce stress.

Physiological Stress

  • Keep a journal of your menopausal symptoms and share it with your healthcare provider. Menopause can mimic the symptoms of chronic stress (and of course it is a stress).
  • Communicate with your healthcare provider about menopause, both your physical and emotional concerns. Do not forget to communicate to other specialists that you are becoming menopausal and update these specialists about any new treatment taken.
  • Educate yourself about the effects of hormonal changes in your body.
  • Talk with your partner and family members openly about what is happening to you.
  • Develop a plan to managing the physiological changes you are experiencing.
  • Be pro-active when it comes to hot flashes and night sweats. Dress in layers. Keep the temperature cool in your room when sleeping.
  • Identify foods that commonly trigger hot flashes like alcohol, spicy foods, caffeine, chocolate and foods high in fat.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Take care of your bladder. Drink lots of water. Avoid bladder infections which may occur more frequently after menopause by urinating as soon as you feel the need.
  • Exercise regularly as it will help your mood and sleep. Yoga can improve your balance, alertness, and keep you limber while reducing your stress. Enroll in a class or obtain a book like “A Woman’s Book of Yoga: Embracing our Natural Life Cycles”.
  • Take care and treat chronic ailments: hypertension, arthritis, etc.

Psychological Stress

  • Some women become stressed over the loss of fertility that occurs at menopause. This is often compounded when their older children leave home. Added to this, may be burdensome responsibilities in caring for sick parents. Financial problems may also be present.
  • Physiological changes may affect your sex life. Make more time for your sex life and be creative – lingerie, champagne, experiment with lubricants and moisturizers like Replens.

Social Stress

  • Explore ways in which you can obtain positive self feelings. Develop hobbies and interests, make new friends, and/or return to the workforce.
  • If you are a caretaker, don’t take on the burden alone. Discuss with your partner and family members ways they can help out to reduce your stress.
  • Plan for your retirement. Women live on the average of 7 years longer than men. Early, thoughtful planning can be empowering and make you feel less anxious.

Develop a Stress Reduction Plan

  • Identify why you are feeling stressed. Keep a journal logging in when and why you feel stressed. Read it after several weeks to see what triggers your stress reactions.
  • Try to avoid the stressor by removing yourself from the situation. It’s better to recognize your limitations and walk away or learn to delegate.
  • Modify your behavior. Physical activity helps reduce stress levels.
  • Watch your diet. You can tolerate stress better when you eat right.
  • Meditate and take time out for yourself. Listen to peaceful, quiet music, and/or have a massage to relieve tight muscles, and try relaxation techniques.
  • Communicate with your loved ones.
  • Get professional help.