Menopause can be an emotional rollercoaster for many women, with hormonal changes impacting mental and physical health. Psychotherapist Noel McDermott advises women to prioritise self-care and offers tips on creating a menopause toolkit.
Medical issues may occur during perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause biological transition. During this time, it’s important to seek medical advice and regular check-ups to ensure you remain well.
Anxiety and depression are common during this process and will need specialised help from a CBT therapist. As is the case with anxiety and depression in general, there are many things you can do to reduce their intensity and longevity of them.
Menopause toolkit and self-help tips
- Look closely at what you eat and how to eat a nutrient-rich diet (such as increasing food sources rich in calcium, magnesium and vitamins D, and K to maintain the integrity of your bones); a healthy balanced diet will not only make you feel good but can also help reduce symptoms.
- Take regular exercise. It will boost your mood, but it will also help prevent weight gain, reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases, and strengthen your bones.
- Stay well-hydrated. During menopause, dryness is often an issue as oestrogen levels decrease; hydration is key in improving a whole raft of menopause symptoms.
- Staying connected to loved ones is also one of the cornerstones of self-care at any time. Talk to people who love you about how you are feeling.
- Sleep issues are common. Try and follow a regular sleep schedule and keep good sleep hygiene (night sweats, etc. permitting) or the ability to rest during the day. Getting good sleep helps boost your mind and mood
- Behavioural activation when you lose motivation through depression (doing activities, hobbies, meals, meeting friends even if you don’t feel like doing them)
- Understand unhelpful thinking patterns and look at the positives in life
- Practising yoga or meditation may help during this time. Both are known to improve physical and mental flexibility, ease symptoms of stress/anxiety and help with weight loss.
When going through the change of menopause or dealing with unusual life circumstances, prioritising your own mental and physical health becomes even more important.
How to support your partner during menopause?
What’s always lost in the medical model of menopause is the role and impact on the non-menopausal partner if they exist. Loneliness in menopause can be a significant complicating factor, and indeed loneliness, in general, is psychologically and physiologically distressing. It’s a major mortality issue in later life.
Experiencing love and compassion from others is crucial to our health, especially when we possibly experience major stressors. It can be difficult for an intimate partner to watch their loved one suffer and behave anti-social ways towards them.
Psychological distress is rarely, if ever, pro-social and pleasant, and if your loved one does experience psychological distress during menopause, it’s important to look to your own needs. Utilising the ‘put the oxygen mask over your face first, advice you get when you fly.
Reach out for psychological support
If you have a history of postnatal depression, previous periods of major depression, anxiety disorder, eating disorder, bipolar, or addiction issues, it’s good to think about your psychological support needs if you are peri-menopausal.
But your body/psyche may go through significant stress, especially if it’s prolonged. Stress can and does cause a relapse of previous problems. Planning for the possibility of a relapse and doing preventive work is always sensible. Waiting until you’re in a hole is never sensible.
Prevention doesn’t mean you won’t have a relapse, but it will always mean that your relapse will be better managed, less intense, and less damaging.
Psychotherapist Noel McDermott comments: ‘Menopause is a major life change and a biological transition for women with a functioning uterus. It’s often presented as a series of symptoms from a very medical point of view. Still, it is subjectively experienced and happens in a wider social, cultural, political, and psychological context.’
Defining a woman by her ability to bear children is increasingly seen as reductionist and biologically, culturally, and politically suspect. The meaning of menopause has in this context shifted quite radically over the past few decades.’
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