Women's experiences of menopause vary widely, but some report feelings of depression during perimenopause, the years leading up to menopause. During perimenopause, which can last between two and ten years, the body is going through many changes, including hormonal fluctuations. These fluctuations are partly to blame for menopausal depression, and they affect every woman differently, as some women are more sensitive to these fluctuations than others. However, women who experience sudden drops in hormone levels, such as those who have had hysterectomies, are more likely to suffer from menopausal depression.
Relaxation techniques have proven to be beneficial for women whose menopause has caused a dip in mood. They decrease pulse, blood pressure, respiration rate, oxygen consumption, and overall metabolism - all of which reduce stress. Therefore, many women could benefit from finding 15 - 20 minutes at least once a day to do one or more of the following relaxation exercises:
Find a quiet, comfortable place and close your eyes. For the next 15 minutes, repeat a word or phrase of your choice. Gently acknowledge, but don't focus on, thoughts that float in and out of your mind.
Inhale slowly, then exhale, paying attention to how your body naturally relaxes. Make the breaths as deep as possible. Focusing on your body's relaxation will help calm the mind. This can also be combined with meditation.
Progressive muscle relaxation
Take a few deep breaths and then mentally scan your body to work out which areas are tense. To loosen these areas, tense them and then release. Then, rotate your head in a smooth motion a couple of times before rolling your shoulders forward and backwards once or twice. After this, let all your muscles relax and recall a pleasant thought for a few seconds. Take a few more deep breaths. Exhale.
Periods of depression can cause negative thoughts about the self, which intensifies depression even more. To get yourself out of this destructive rut, it is important to practice positive self-talk. The first step is to catch yourself in the act whenever you think a negative thought and counteract each one with a positive statement - say it out loud if the situation permits. Additionally, if you find yourself berating yourself for something, imagine what you would say to a friend in that situation - the chances are, it would be a lot kinder. Allow yourself to be a fallible human. You will gradually find this positive mindset becomes a habit.
With all the hormonal changes and fears about getting older, it is no wonder many women suffer from menopausal depression. For most, this is not a permanent state and should subside eventually, especially when effort is taken to allow the mind and body to relax. However, care should be taken to recognize the signs of clinical depression, and if you feel you are in danger of this, it is important to seek professional help as well as following a healthy lifestyle.
- Love, S. & Lindsey, K. (2003). Dr. Susan Love's Menopause & Hormone Book. New York: Three Rivers Press.
- Thacker, H.L. (2009). The Cleveland Clinic Guide to Menopause. New York: Kaplan Publishing.