Your children are driving you crazy, and a good night’s sleep feels like a distant dream. You’re happy one moment, and teary the next. What on earth is going on?
Whether you’ve been through treatment for cancer, or undergone preventative oophorectomy, the symptoms of what you may be experiencing could be the result of surgical or treatment-related menopause.
Hot flashes may get the most airtime, but other symptoms you don’t hear so often can include mood swings, bouts of anger and other emotions you mightn’t know how to describe, and all are exacerbated by the lack of sleep that also arrives with menopause.
While there are some things you can do to manage your symptoms, depending upon the type of cancer you’ve had, things like Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) are best discussed with your medical practitioner to ensure the best option is selected on a case-by-case basis.
Not widely spoken about, like other times throughout your premenstrual cycle, hormonal shifts can also affect your frame of mind. With menopause creating a shift in estrogen and progesterone, serotonin and other neurotransmitters that are linked to mood can be directly affected, causing your emotions to go awry.
It’s important to know you’re not alone! Studies have indicated that about 20% of women feel depressed at some time during menopause. Signs can include bouts of crying, dark thoughts, feelings of worthlessness, difficulty making decisions, a loss of hope and ongoing low energy levels.
It’s really important to manage these feelings by leaning into your support network of friends, family and medical professionals. Remembering that it’s OK not to be OK, speaking to your GP about a mental healthcare plan and the possible use of medications is the best thing you can do to ensure you start to see the sunshine again as quickly as possible. We’ll cover the use of antidepressants shortly.
Like depression, feelings of anxiety can develop as a symptom of menopause. Symptoms of anxiety can include finding it difficult to relax, a sense of being in danger, moodiness, restlessness and a nagging sense of worry.
Ways To Manage The Emotional Symptoms Of Menopause
Antidepressants: If you’re experiencing ongoing depressive feelings, your doctor may wish to prescribe a standard antidepressant. Whilst they can take a few weeks to work effectively, it is important to work closely with your doctor to determine the best option for you, whilst considering the side effects against the benefits.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Some studies suggest that taking HRT can help to ease mild depression as well as boost the effects of antidepressants. As with all medications there are risks and benefits, so it’s important to work closely with your medical team to make sure this is an effective and useful option for you. Please note however that if you have had a cancer that is hormone positive it is likely that HRT will not be an option that is available to you and it is best to speak directly to your healthcare team to determine what other options are available to assist in managing the symptoms of menopause.
Counsellor or Psychologist: One of the greatest releases of emotions is to connect with a counsellor or psychologist whom you trust. Together you can deal with your emotions in a healthy and supported environment, especially if your menopause is related to a cancer diagnosis, or the subsequent result of preventative surgeries. You will learn valuable strategies to help you navigate the more difficult moments.
Lifestyle Changes: Of course, some of the easiest changes we can make start with our own daily habits. Eating a well-balanced diet with lots of fruits, vegetables and grains can help to support healthy body function, whilst limiting the alcohol, caffeine and spicy foods which tend to make symptoms worse is also advised.
Becoming creative, tapping into a former activity or hobby that brings you joy can give you a sense of accomplishment and help to shift those negative thoughts. Whilst studies have also shown that practicing yoga can help with the psychological and physical symptoms of menopause.
Finally, staying connected with your friends and community always helps to boost your mood and feelings of being supported. Joining our Pink Hope Online Support Groups is an easy way to connect with others who are experiencing the same things as you.
Be Honest With Yourself: Allowing yourself to accept and reflect on your feelings is a perfectly healthy way to address what is going on and to better understand why you are feeling how you are.
By allowing those feelings to surface, you can then challenge the inner voice that brings you down. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a useful tool to help you to practice exchanging negative thoughts with positive ones.
Physical & Mental Symptoms That Can Affect Your Emotions
Insomnia: As we touched on before, lack of sleep is one symptom of menopause that can create both a cause-and-effect program. Symptoms of anxiety and depression can lead to sleep problems, which subsequently darken your mood.
A combination of lifestyle and self-care techniques can help tame symptoms that are keeping you up at night. These can include:
- Watching what you drink and when, especially caffeine and alcohol which can interrupt a good night’s rest
- Exercise, but keep it to daytime timing, as too much evening activity can keep your body stimulated and awake into the evening
- Check out some mindfulness apps that will help you focus on the present, relax and lessen the feelings of anxiety and overwhelm.
Memory & Focus: It’s entirely normal to find it difficult to concentrate and remember things that have happened once you are menopausal. Whilst doctors can’t seem to pinpoint exactly why this happens, symptoms of depression and anxiety can include memory and focus problems, but regardless there are a few techniques that can assist in keeping the mind sharp including a daily puzzle or maths problem to give the brain a workout. When speaking to your doctor for support asking for additional techniques to hone your memory can also prove useful.
Body Image: For some women, one of the most difficult things to accept is the change in body shape, as metabolism dips, you may experience a resulting increase in unexpected weight, whilst menopause can also shift where your body stores fat.
Even though it’s completely normal, the upset of weight gain can leave you feeling baffled and frustrated, so working to build a healthy outlook is incredibly important to helping you overcome any negative emotions you experience as a result.
- Shift the focus away from your flaws, and instead think about what you do like about yourself. When negative thoughts occur, a good practise is to jot them down and reflect on positive self-compliments to combat the negativity.
- Find an exercise or training program that you enjoy! If slogging it out in the gym isn’t cutting it anymore, perhaps gentle beach walks are the way for you, for now. A solid exercise routine can boost your body image as well as your health and outlook, even if you don’t lose weight.