In this article we’re going to look at taking care of your mental health during menopause.
Menopause can be a really tough time.
Some women sail through with few problems, but many don’t.
I wrote an article talking more about menopause (including nutrition, exercise, lifestyle changes and supplement recommendations) HERE.
This article is specifically for the mental side.
So many women suffer, often in silence, with feelings of anxiety and depression.
I was recently at a talk by the brilliant Tanith Lee aka ‘Mrs Menopause’ – you can find her website HERE) and some of the women who attended described experiences such as ‘dreading the day’, feeling useless, irritable, unable to find joy.
If you feel like this, please know – there’s nothing wrong with you. You are not broken. You won’t feel this way forever.
A good way to see it is as a wake up call from your body and mother nature. They’re telling you:
This is time for you now
You’ve spent decades putting other people first. Now you need to move higher up the priority list.
You can learn how to lift your mood and feel so much better.
But it’s going to have to come from prioritising yourself.
These are the key points we’ll cover in this article to help you do that:
- Cleaning up your thoughts
- Water and Sleep
- Stress management (learning to say no)
- Things that bring you Joy
Are you ready? Let’s go.
Connection – real, true, human connection – is SO key to our long term health and happiness.
We are more connected than ever before through social media…
But that connection can:
- Cause us to compare ourselves unfairly and inaccurately to others
- Make us feel more DISCONNECTED than ever before in real life
As women, we are constantly seeking Acceptance, Care and Connection.
We thrive when we experience quality time with real human beings (including ourselves).
One simple (and very enjoyable) way to connect is to have a 20 second hug.
Holding someone close for this long releases oxytocin – the same hormone new mothers are flooded with when holding their baby.
So, go out there and hug people you know for longer than they are expecting.
They might think you’re weird but hey… chances are you’ll both feel good for it too 🙂
Other ideas to connect more with yourself and others:
- Book time with people you love each week
- Set boundaries to minimise your time on social media
- Reduce your daily phone time (the Moment app monitors your phone usage and can tell you how much time you spend on it each day)
- Start a journal or gratitude journal
- Go for walks in nature – with friends, family or by yourself
- Reach out to one person each day – tell something you love, like or appreciate about them, or thank them for something they’ve done
Cleaning up your thoughts
It’s widely accepted that our BODY needs nourishment and training to get to where we want to be.
But we forget that our BRAIN needs nourishment and training too.
Think of your brain like your garden.
If you want a beautiful garden that makes you happy, you buy beautiful plants, take great care of them, and keep pulling out the weeds, right?
If you neglect your garden, the plants lose some of their radiance, and the garden becomes overgrown with weeds.
It’s the same with your brain. Plant in your mind thoughts that serve you and make you feel good. Nourish and nurture them to make them stronger.
Weeds (i.e. negative unhelpful thoughts) will crop up – they do for everyone.
Pull them out, get back to focusing on what makes you happy, and carry on.
Weeds cleared and vegetables planted (flowers, positive thoughts, and food all make me happy)
Ideas to grow thoughts that make you bloom
- Journal your thoughts each day and question the negative ones
- Ask ‘is this thought true?’ and ‘what’s a better thought I could think?’
- Keep a daily gratitude journal
- Write what you did well today
- Read books on creating a positive mindset
- Listen to mindset-based podcasts – Lewis Howes School of Greatness, Losing 100lbs with Phit n Phat and Thinner Peace in Menopause with Dr Deb Butler are well worth checking out
- Watch inspiring videos on Youtube (Tony Robbins and Jay Shetty have a lot of great ones)
- Unfollow or mute anyone on social media who doesn’t make you feel good
- Spend less time with anyone negative in your life
- Spend more time with positive people
Water and Sleep
Most of us know how important these two are, but it’s easy to let them slip.
Often we think we’re hungry when actually our body is just asking for a drink.
How do you know if you’re dehydrated?
Take a look at your urine. If it’s light straw colour, you’re all good. If it’s darker than that, go get yourself a (non-alcoholic) drink.
How to drink more water:
- carry a bottle with you whenever you go out
- buy an environmentally friendly Chilly bottle (they’re awesome)
- set a reminder on your phone or computer to get up every hour for a drink of water
- if you feel hungry for a snack, drink a glass of water and wait 15 minutes
- add squash to your water if you don’t enjoy it plain
Sleep can become more of a problem in menopause too.
Ever wake up at 3am and struggle to get back to sleep? This is a sign that your body’s stress hormones are out of sync.
Alongside dealing with stress in your life in any way you can, these tips can help you get a quality night’s rest.
How to get more sleep
- establish a calming bedtime routine
- get out for a walk in daylight each day (morning light is best but any will do) to help your circadian rhythm
- try supplementing with magnesium citrate
- reduce caffeine and alcohol intake
- try Tulsi or chamomile tea before bed
- go to bed at the same time each night
- make sure your room is cool and as dark as possible
- wear an eye mask (this has been a godsend for me)
- keep a notepad by your bed so you can have a ‘brain dump’ if things are on your mind
- if you struggle to drop off, try listening to a sleep story on the Calm meditation app (you can try it free for 7 days HERE)
If you’re anything like the women I work with…
You do so much for other people. In fact, you do too much, which leaves you stressed and frazzled and feeling like you’re constantly failing.
A question I ask every online client to consider is this:
How can you reduce stress and simplify life?
For many – particularly when weight loss is a goal – a simple and realistic food plan can make a huge difference.
Easy healthy meal options that you can cook up quick, or grab and go. Planning ahead of time protects your willpower and gives you a much better chance of sticking to choices that help you feel at your best.
Some other ideas to reduce stress:
- Start saying ‘No’ more – you don’t have to say yes to everything!
- What can you delegate? Who can you ask for help?
- Don’t compare yourself to anyone on social media – remember it’s people’s highlight reels, not real life
- Spend quality time with friends and family
- Get away from screens and out into nature
- Remember you’re doing better than you think
- Use exercise as a stress buster (ooh conveniently that’s the next point below)
When your body is under stress (physical, mental, or both) your adrenal glands pump out cortisol.
This is our ‘fight or flight’ hormone, providing energy to run away or fight predators from back in our cavewoman days. It primes you to do something – to move.
If you don’t use it or deal with the stress, that cortisol just flows round the body with nowhere to go.
Then we tend to get ill more often and age quicker. Not good. The best way to deal with stress is to do something about the root cause, if that’s possible. The next best way is to exercise.
What’s the best exercise for menopause and mental health?
My first answer to this is: lifting weights is incredible for keeping hold of muscle, protecting bones, making you strong, lean, confident and empowered. That plus daily walking could literally change your life.
My second answer is: anything you enjoy and that makes you feel good.
Walking, dancing, swimming, cycling, badminton, playing with children.
All movement is BRILLIANT.
Ideas for exercise
- book a few sessions with a personal trainer to learn how to lift weights
- try out a new class that looks fun
- invite a friend out for a walk
- go walking somewhere new
- search youtube for some easy home workouts you could try
- search youtube for a yoga video This 10 minute yoga one HERE
- think back to activities you used to love doing. Could you get back into that now?
- try out a martial arts class such as tai chi (I had a 70 year old client with Parkinson’s who started doing this and loved it, it’s brilliant for co-ordination, muscle control and calming the mind)
- try a boxing class – stress busting and a lot of fun!
Often when you’re tired, stressed, or suffering with hormone swings (which can make you lethargic and achy too), exercise is the most tempting activity to drop.
But keep doing whatever you can, whenever you can, focusing on the benefit you’re gaining.
A 45-60 minute work is amazing, but 5 minutes is better than 0 minutes. It all adds up.
Things that bring you joy
If I can leave you with one sentence to sum up taking care of your mental health during menopause, it would be this:
Focus on self-care, making time for you, and whatever brings you joy.
You have one life, and a lot of it left to live.
What do you want to do? What makes you happy?
Joy comes from reaching goals and ticking things off your bucket list…
And also from tiny daily moments with ourselves or others.
Here’s a final list with some ideas for both:
- Plan a trip you’ve always wanted to do
- Pick something that’s been on your bucket list and go do it
- Join a club – sports, card-making, book-group, anything that helps you meet new people and make new friends
- Regular acts of self care for your body – colourful healthy foods, fun activities
- Regular acts of self care to boost your confidence – get your nails done, get your hair done, get a massage, let yourself be pampered
- Look out for the little things that make you happy – for me that’s having flowers in the house, nice smelling hand soap, getting out into the sun (when it appears), and sitting in peace and quiet reading a book
- Get out in nature whenever you can
- Spend time being present with people you love
- Keep a gratitude journal
- Focus on you – and tell yourself daily…
You are enough.
Any questions you have or help you need, please feel free to get in touch with me HERE.