By: Guest Author
Published: April 13, 2022
Written By Stephen Bitsoli- Guest Contributor
Approaching midlife can feel bittersweet. You’ve achieved a lot professionally, your children are grown and leaving the nest, and you’re shaping up to enjoy your freedom. But life has dealt you cards with the dreaded “M” — menopause.
Menopause and the period leading up to it (perimenopause) can be among the most stressful times for many women. That’s because of “hot flashes” and other uncomfortable symptoms experienced largely due to hormonal changes. Luckily, there are ways to keep calm and carry on through anything menopause can throw at us.
Menopause and Stress
The average woman reaches menopause by age 55. It’s a gradual transition that starts as early as in your 40s and ends in your 50s. Perhaps the most significant fact is that it marks the end of your childbearing years. While you may welcome it for many reasons, such as no longer having to deal with painful periods, chances are you’re dreading how the symptoms may disrupt your life.
Eighty-five percent of postmenopausal women experience symptoms of menopause. The type and severity of the symptoms vary from one woman to the other. Hot flashes, night sweats, chronic fatigue, mood changes, and sleep disturbances are prominent features during the transition. Other symptoms include:
● Aches and pain
● Irritability or anxiety
● Brain fog or forgetfulness
● Frequent urination
● Reduced sex drive (libido)
● Pain during sexual intercourse due to vaginal dryness
Stress and Your Health During Menopause
The effects of lower estrogen levels during menopause can add additional stress factors that can have a detrimental impact on everyday life. Increased stress can come from weight gain, lowered self-esteem, reduced bone health (osteoporosis), and imminent risks to heart health.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) after menopause is a leading cause of death in women who have an increased risk of CVD. Managing stress and diet can help lower the risk of related conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Anxiety and depression are other stress-related conditions women face dealing with menopause transition (MT).
Unhealthy Ways to Deal with Menopause-Induced Stress
Feel like pulling your hair out over maddening menopausal symptoms? You’re not alone. Thousands, perhaps millions, of women feel this way.
It’s important to avoid unhealthy ways of coping. Behaviors such as emotional eating, drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, misusing prescription drugs, and substance abuse are types of negative coping strategies. Alcohol or drug addiction can result from chronic substance use to cope with stress.
Lashing out in anger toward your spouse or children, avoidance, and isolation are also unhealthy ways of coping. You may also develop anxiety and depression if coping is mishandled.
6 Ways to Beat Stress During Menopause
There are ways to relax and enjoy the ride through this period of transition. It doesn’t mean you will no longer experience the frustrating symptoms, but you can minimize their effects on your body and mind.
Embrace the Change
The more you fight the horrible feelings brought on by hormonal changes in your body, the more stress you may experience. Remain calm and embrace menopause as a natural and inevitable life stage. There’s relief when you move from a place of worry to a place of acceptance. Acceptance is recognized as a healthy coping strategy and one that promotes emotional regulation.
As you embrace this new chapter, resist entertaining the thought of feeling old. Eating healthy, exercising, and taking care of your mental health help you stay looking and feeling younger.
Reclaim Your Sex Life
Loss of interest in sex brought on by low estrogen production can interfere with time between the sheets. It’s a well-established fact that sex is a great stress buster. The hormones dopamine and oxytocin are released during an orgasm, leaving you feeling relaxed, happy, and ready for sleep. And while loss of estrogen can cause vaginal dryness, there are plenty of lubricants available to help with that. So don’t let menopause put an early end to your sex life.
Exercise also releases feel-good hormones called endorphins. It’s known to play a significant role in the management of stress. A good workout helps beat stress, manage weight, keep you feeling focused and energized, and promotes better sleep. The levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline drop during physical activity. About 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise can calm your nerves, improve mood, and enhance your overall sense of well-being. Daily exercise also has a positive impact on heart health, which is a major concern for menopausal women.
Make Sleep Your New BFF
Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep at night to function properly the next day. Due to estrogen decline, women in MT often struggle with insomnia. Chronic stress, hot flashes, mood changes, and depression can contribute to poor sleep. Sleep loss can have detrimental effects on heart health, mental health, and cognitive functions. If you regularly wake feeling tired from sleep loss, you may feel stressed, fatigued, cranky, moody, or unable to focus.
You can increase sleep hours and quality sleep by having a set sleep-wake routine. Making your room cool, dark and comfortable and avoiding caffeine are other useful tips for a good night’s rest.
Laugh a Lot
Finding humor in life can be an easy way to regulate stress and relieve anxiety. It’s a natural way to improve your mood. There’s evidence that laughing reduces cortisol in your body and increases endorphin levels in your brain. When you laugh, more oxygen enters your lungs, increasing circulation, which can help with high blood pressure.
Choose any activity that tickles you. It can be a comedy show, funny videos, a comic book, or reading funny memes. Another option is connecting with fun friends or family members. Go ahead and laugh your way through menopause.
Don’t Put Your Life on Pause for Menopause
Menopause represents a challenging time in our lives. By taking charge of the experience and using various stress-relieving strategies, you can comfortably ease your way through the transition.
Stephen Bitsoli received his degree in English from Wayne State University in Detroit. The Michigan native is a professional writer and guest blogger and was a journalist for more than 20 years. Since 2016, he’s used that experience and passion in writing well-organized, comprehensive, and comprehensible articles on the complex and changing world of substance abuse and treatment. He’s won awards for his newspaper articles and was the top-ranked blogger at an international website in 2018. A lifelong reader, he enjoys learning and sharing what he’s learned.
- nia.nih.gov – What Is Menopause?
- ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – Prevalence of Menopausal Symptoms among Mid-Life Women: Findings from Electronic Medical Records
- ahajournals.org – Menopause Transition and Cardiovascular Disease Risk: Implications for Timing of Early Prevention
- sunshinebehavioralhealth.com – Alcohol Rehab Huntington Beach, CA
- frontiersin.org – Acceptance as an Emotion Regulation Strategy in Experimental Psychological Research: What We Know and How We Can Improve That Knowledge
- sciencealert.com – Here’s What Happens to Your Body And Brain When You Orgasm
- journals.lww.com – Stress Relief: The Role of Exercise in Stress Management
- sleepfoundation.org– How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?
- nia.nih.gov – Sleep Problems and Menopause: What Can I Do?
- usa.edu/blog – 10+ Scientifically Proven Ways Laughter Can Relieve Stress
The views expressed herein this article, written by a guest contributor, do not necessarily represent those of the Red Hot Mamas organization. The content is for informational purposes and should not substitute the advice of your doctor.