You may have noticed that your emotions are unpredictable during the menopause transition. The body and brain are directly connected, so the changes in your body have a strong impact on your mentality. When you go through menopause, your sex hormone levels decrease. The lessened estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone interfere with brain chemicals such as serotonin, endorphins, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This can make you feel depressed, irritable, and angry, even if you are not typically so easily set off.
First and foremost, this is a confusing time. Many women can't stand how much they just don't feel like themselves. If they usually feel happy and friendly, the sudden plummet in interpersonal skills can cause a bit of an identity crisis. Beyond that is the general mental fog that you are in. Putting thoughts or sentences together can be more difficult because you are so caught up in your emotions. Tasks at work may suddenly become unclear and you can experience a strong loss of focus and interest in tasks in which you were once engaged.
You may be crying more than you have ever cried in your life. The slightest misunderstandings with loved ones can lower your self-esteem and make you avoid people altogether. Estrogen is linked to serotonin levels in the brain. When serotonin is not released, you will notice that your favorite things won't make you happy, and it will be harder to pull yourself out of despair. Some daily tips for this is to make sure to get 20 minutes of fresh air and sunlight, drink St. John's Wort tea, and do up to 40 minutes of cardio in 10 minute intervals.
You may be caught and imprisoned by obsessive worries about anything and everything. You will feel out of control of your nerves and overwhelmed by things that used to be no problem. What you are eating for dinner, what you have to do at work, who you are seeing over the weekend, and everything else may suddenly give you anxiety. This all occurs due to the decreased levels of endorphins and GABA, which control stress. Levels of cortisol, which is your fear response chemical, also faultily increase, making you feel panicky. To increase GABA, do yoga. For increased relaxation, try meditation.
Increased irritability towards just about everything may cause you to snap. Pent up frustration can suddenly come out in the harshest way possible, and you may be surprised by the things you are saying to people. You can yell, curse, and slam doors beyond your control, without necessarily meaning to. The best trick for this is to limit your caffeine, sugar, and alcohol intake, as the crash can induce rage.
After all that screaming, sobbing, and inability to perform simple tasks, you may be left feeling empty. You will not know how to approach those who have witnessed your mood swings and may feel more isolated. Though staying in your room may feel like a good idea, it is best to stay engaged with others, voice what you are going through, and have fun with family and friends at each opportunity. This increases oxytocin levels, which induce feelings of loyalty and support.
Though mood swings may seem impossible to deal with, they are typically a result of poor diet, lack of exercise, and decreased estrogen. If you make sure to stay active, confide in others, and consume alternative medicines such as phytoestrogenic herbs, you should soon feel balance.
- Office on Women's Health. (2012). Menopause and Menopause Treatment Fact Sheet. Retrieved on February 19, 2014, from http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/stress-your-health.html
- Office on Women's Health. (2012). Stress and your Health Fact Sheet. Retrieved February 19, 2014 from http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/menopause-treatment.html