When I see women struggling through the menopause there are, of course, the physical symptoms that we are all familiar with, but there are also the less talked about emotional symptoms.
Women tell me they don’t feel like themselves, they feel unheard, unseen or dismissed. There is apathy, anger, anxiety, tearfulness, moodiness, lack of motivation, as well as generally feeling more tired and stressed.
So what is going on?
During your fertile years, your ovaries make oestrogen and progesterone. As you move toward the menopause, the ovaries start making less and less and eventually stop making hormones altogether. The adrenal glands take over but are making oestrogen and progesterone in much smaller amounts.
The adrenal glands also make our stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is designed to keep us alive and as such, the body will always prioritise making cortisol over other hormones.
In our modern lives, where stress is all-consuming, the adrenals become depleted and there will be a constant battle to produce enough cortisol, oestrogen and progesterone. The battle will always be won by cortisol.
And if you are thinking I don’t have a lot of stress in my life, stress doesn’t have to be a big life changing event. The stress response is the same whether you move house or see a horrible story on the news, whether you have a car accident or are stuck in a traffic jam, whether you have an argument with a loved one or an alarming thought – the physiological response is always the same.
In addition to this, we need to think about the interaction between progesterone and the neurotransmitter GABA.
GABA is a neurotransmitter which helps us to feel relaxed and calm and plays a big role in stress and anxiety. GABA interacts with the hormone progesterone. Progesterone stimulates the GABA receptors in the brain, which has the net effect of making GABA more potent. So when progesterone decreases, the effect of GABA diminishes, leaving us feeling more anxious, more stressed and more irritable.
When we feel like this, we produce more cortisol, less progesterone and less GABA and so the cycle continues.
My number 1 top tip
The key to surviving the menopause is keeping your stress levels in check. When we can maintain a healthy stress response and optimal adrenal health, the adrenal glands will be capable of producing enough cortisol, oestrogen and progesterone to counter both the emotional and physical symptoms of the menopause.
Menopause is the time where you need to be top of the list and it’s about saying no to the things you don’t want to do. It is the time where self-care absolutely needs to be your top priority. And that does not mean an occasional massage or once a month yoga class, this has to be a part of your daily routine. Time in your day, that is truly dedicated to you and your needs.
What might that look like?
- Hibernate with a good book
- Have a relaxing bath
- Do some exercise
- Cuddle up with a loved one
- Dance to your favourite music
- Take a walk in nature
- Do some yoga
- Enjoy a creative hobby
The important thing to remember is that it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it brings you joy.
We don’t want this to become another thing you have to do, another job on a very long to-do-list as that would create more stress. It’s about choosing something that brings you happiness and that you can fit into your day. Even if it is only 10-minutes a day, you will feel the benefits. Though, it would be great if it were more 😉.
If this post resonates with you and you would like to know more about how I can help you through the menopause, please book a free discovery call.