Friday, May 23, 2008

Emotional Turbulence and Menopause

More than the night sweats and hot flashes, what really changed for me at menopause is my emotional landscape.

I'm not sure what the cause is, but I am becoming hyper-sensitive. I cry easily at movies, can't stand to watch car crashes or violence on screen, flinch or jump at loud noises, and am generally more anxious than I remember being, especially while driving.

I would never have related this to hormone imbalance or menopause, if I hadn't read the following on the http://www.womentowomen.com website.

Here's an excerpt from what I found there:

"Let’s start by looking at the root cause of anxiety — the destructive effect of stress on hormone balance.

It now seems the norm for women to be “maxed out” in all directions. Most of us work, and the workplace has gotten more demanding. Most of us raise children and help care for aging parents. We often have relationship issues that create stress too. And we are conditioned to put ourselves in last place on the list of priorities.

The type of stress is just as important as the amount. So much of the stress we experience is constant — it never goes away. The human body simply isn’t designed for constant stress. When that occurs, our ability to cope with stress can be overwhelmed. If you inventory the stress in your life you may realize that much of it is unremitting. This can give rise to a serious condition known as adrenal fatigue. It is also a cause of chronic anxiety that is often diagnosed as an anxiety disorder.

The estrogen dominance common to perimenopause probably adds to this “anxiety response.” In a normal menstrual cycle, estrogen dominates at the beginning of the cycle, and progesterone rises in the second half. The progesterone has a calming, relaxing effect. But in perimenopause we have more cycles in which we don’t ovulate, so the progesterone level stays low. (Also see our article on irregular periods.) For some women, anxiety attacks are their major symptom of perimenopause."

Add to all this the bad habits we have of jumpstarting our bodies with caffeine and eating poorly when stressed, and you have the recipe for higher levels of anxiety.

I know many women in the same boat, with aging parents and teen-agers, full-time or part-time jobs, or sick family members that need care-taking, and very little time to care for themselves, let alone eat a healthy meal and get to bed early every night.

So don't be surprised if you feel a little raw, or as if your nerves are exposed. Susun Weed, in her book The Menopausal years The Wise Woman Way says this is also because of neglect.

"You may think your feelings are out of proportion, too sharp, quite irrational, possibly insane. But, I assure you, they are only raw from neglect. Receive them without judgment, nourish them, and your 'uncontrollable' feelings during the menopausal years will lead you to the deepest heart of your own secrets.

If you cannot tolerate those about you, leave. Go to the sheltering space of your cave. Claim your Crone's Year Away."

Something else you can do: write about your feelings in your journal, get in touch with your buried feelings (anger, grief, loss); Sing the blues or dance it out with some salsa music. Get more sunshine - not too hard in spring and summer. Move your body out into nature and take a long, healing walk. Get a massage - you'll be surprised what emotions well up sometimes while you are lying on a massage table. If tears come, let them. Find a homeopath to help you find a remedy. There are several for emotional upset, overwhelm, feelings of depression or wanting to be left alone.

And finally, go on a retreat - you may not be able to take a year off (!) from your life, but you can certainly take one or two days. Find a woman's retreat by googling it, or look in your local health food store or yoga centre.

Nameste,
musemother

2 comments:

Haralee said...

I think you also need to mention getting a good night sleep. We all know if you are not well rested, that can play havoc on emotions.

Jennifer Boire said...

Dear Haralee,
so true, sleep is a big part of the picture. See under 'labels', two articles on need for sleep, and inability to sleep.
best
jenn

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