Manage the Highs and Lows of Menopausal (and Perimenopausal) Mood Swings
Treatments for the annoying, uncomfortable symptoms of menopause, such as mood swings, include hormonal and medical interventions, as well as lifestyle changes. Many women are used to hormonal mood fluctuations related to menstruation and pregnancy. The new stage of life brought on by menopause (which usually occurs between the early 40s and late 50s) brings on a new set of hormonal challenges.
Feeling overwhelmed, emotional, sad or generally just a little out of control is one of the most common symptoms of perimenopause, the first stage of menopause before periods stop. Estrogen and progesterone are hormones related to the production of serotonin, a chemical that regulates mood. During perimenopause, the production of these hormones fluctuates, before stabilizing postmenopause. If you're perimenopausal and struggling with mood swings, it may be cold comfort to hear that things will likely get better later. You want relief in the meantime. Here's how you can manage the highs and lows of mood swings.
Weight gain and slower metabolism is common in older age and during menopause, so generally reassessing your diet is important around menopause. Eating a balanced diet is always a good idea, and some research shows that eating plant estrogen (found in soy and soy-derived foods) can help reduce the severity of the symptoms of menopause. Avoiding foods that can exacerbate hot flashes and sweating can improve sleep and therefore have a direct influence on mood. Caffeine, spicy food and alcohol can all negatively impact sleep quality.
This may be easier said than done during menopause, with hot flashes and night sweats being common symptoms, but improving your sleep quality and length can improve your mood, too; mood swings during menopause are often directly related to sleep quality. As well as making the dietary changes suggested above, try to sleep in a cool room (use a fan if you need to) and wear loose clothing made from breathable fabrics. Ban phone and electronic use in the bedroom. Good sleep hygiene can have a huge impact on many aspects of life.
Get regular exercise
Exercising regularly has many positive knock-on effects, including helping you sleep, which can improve your mood. Endorphins, a hormone that can help you feel good, are released during exercise, which is good news because menopausal women may also produce less of this hormone than menstruating women. Running, dancing and other exercises that elevate the heart rate is especially good for boosting mood and positive feelings. Exercise that includes a meditative or mindfulness component, such as yoga, can also help calm the mind and relieve anxiety.
Therapists can help you regulate your emotional responses to challenges you face. While hormonal treatments and lifestyle changes can treat the root cause of your mood disorder, a therapist can help you regain perspective and develop emotional tools for coping. Look into support groups, in person or online, to connect with other women who know exactly what you're going through.
If lifestyle changes aren't enough to improve your quality of life and mind, consider hormone therapy. Estrogen may be given with or without progestin, a synthetic form of progesterone. This can help with severe mood swings, as well as other symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes and sleep problems. Hormone therapy is not suitable for everyone, but if your doctor thinks it could work for you, a low dose of hormones for a short period is often enough to regulate mood swings.
Menopause and perimenopause are life-changing and difficult periods of life, but they don't last forever, and there are ways to alleviate the symptoms in the meantime. Talk to your doctor about the right treatment for you.