During perimenopause, when estrogen and progesterone are often out of balance, your adrenal glands, pituitary glands, and hypothalamus release hormones that too can become out of balance. This, added to increased cortisol and other stress hormones such as adrenaline, can turn an already stressful situation into something much worse.
Hormone imbalance is often a self-perpetuating cycle that can create physical, emotional, and psychological stress. Stress feeds the imbalance in your body, and normal day-to-day stressors become bigger than they are. This in turn stresses you out even more, and so the cycle begins. Essentially, stress breeds stress, stress causes hormone imbalance, and hormone imbalance breeds hormone imbalance.
The importance of managing stress
Managing stress is important no matter what stage you are in life, but during perimenopause and menopause, managing stress is crucial in minimising hormonal changes that cause bothersome symptoms such as hot flashes and disrupted sleep.
Chronic stress is not good for your health. According to The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) it may cause increased blood pressure and heart rate, headaches, gastric reflux, depression/anxiety, and increased risk of heart disease. It affects your immune system, making you more susceptible to illness, infections, and cancer. Stress affects your health, your relationships, work performance, general sense of wellbeing, and quality of life.
In fact, between 50 and 60 percent of all medical issues originate from stress or stress-related events. And with that said, here are ten of our best tips on keeping stress to a minimum during menopause.
1. Take charge
The alliance you have with a menopause specialist who is well-versed in symptoms can mean the world to you during “the change”. Menopause and its symptoms shouldn’t take control of your everyday life, so committing to an open and close relationship with a perimenopause and menopause specialist can work wonders. If you’re not speaking to a specialist already, get in touch with us over at the Australian Menopause Centre and see how we can help.
2. Say no
Women are famous for multitasking, and the idea of saying no might not be something you’re used to. But saying no during menopause is a crucial part to keeping down your stress levels. Being a people-pleaser and I-can-do-it-all woman is exhausting, and adds unneeded stress to an already stressed life. Saying yes all the time takes a huge amount of time and cognitive energy, and during menopause, you’ll find you don’t have the same energy as you did in your 20s and 30s.
3. Exercise regularly
Exercise helps reduce stress, improve mood, and boost overall health. Virtually any form of exercise, from aerobics to yoga, can act as a stress reliever during menopause. It helps bump up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters (endorphins), increase self-confidence, promote relaxation, improves sleep, and gives you a sense of command over your body and your life.
4. Stay positive
Maintaining a ‘glass half-full’ attitude during menopause is important, and this means looking for silver linings, such as this US-based study that found women who experience strong menopausal symptoms have a lower risk of breast cancer. Sure, there are many things not to like about menopause, but for all the bad, there’s good too!
5. Get plenty of rest
As many as 61 percent of women report insomnia symptoms during menopause, but that doesn’t mean you have to be one of them. Certain menopausal treatments, such as BHRT (when appropriate) are known to help control healthy sleep, and staying away from caffeine can also help. Set your bedroom temperature to ensure it’s comfortable and low, and make adjustments to your bedroom to make it as inviting as possible.
6. Eat well
Good nutrition and optimising the intake of specific nutrients, together with small lifestyle changes, can offer significant help in maintaining a healthy mind during menopause. Eat little and often to balance blood sugar levels, look for complex carbohydrates such as oats, wholegrain bread, and brown rice, and avoid sugary foods. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, drink plenty of water, and limit stimulants such as alcohol, coffee, and tea. You should also limit your intake of salt, saturated fat, and spicy foods.
7. Find a passion
Having a sense of adventure and trying something new and exciting can help lower stress, and starting a new hobby can be refreshing and uplifting. Take up dancing or drama, join a book club, enjoy more time in the garden, start planning a trip, or explore arts and design.
8. Enjoy nature
Research tells us that nature helps with stress, and according to Michael Posner, professor emeritus at the University of Oregon, “taking in the sights and sounds of nature appears to be especially beneficial for our minds”. Cognitive performance improves in nature, and even taking a moment to look at pictures of nature is known to have positive effects.
Spending time helping others less fortunate is a great way to take your mind off unpleasant menopause symptoms. Volunteering takes the focus off yourself and gives you a feeling of accomplishment, which in turn triggers the release of ‘happy hormones’.
A well-deserved massage or some other blissful treatment can work wonders for relieving stress. Try soaking in a bath with relaxing aromatherapy oils such as lavender, ylang ylang, chamomile, or geranium, take a daydream break, and visit the spa when in need.