Is the menopause making you want to scream one minute and sing the next? Well maybe not sing, but at least shout a little quieter? If so then you’re not the only one. Mood swings are one of the less welcome aspects of the menopause, affecting women from all walks of life. So what exactly causes them and what steps can you take to swing them in the other direction and restore harmony?
First of all let’s look at what we mean by mood swings. Surely our mood is constantly changing with the ups and downs of life? Well, yes, but if you’re going through the menopause you’ll know those fluctuations can be particularly turbulent. For some it simply manifests as a low mood that comes and goes, lasting perhaps for a couple of days at a time, with stable stretches in between.
Others however, can experience erratic, out-of-control or uncharacteristic episodes. These range from mild irritability to full-blown anger, with bursts of anxiety or tearfulness not uncommon. They can be triggered rapidly, even when you’ve been feeling fine up to that point. You could be having a perfectly nice day then bam! All of a sudden something ordinarily insignificant can spark fury, or an overwhelming rush of sadness. Mood swings differ from depression, which lasts longer with more continuous symptoms. Nonetheless, for some women they can disrupt the flow of life, with families, relationships and work also taking the brunt.
So why do we become such emotional yoyos? During menopause our production of oestrogen and progesterone decreases, but it doesn’t fall in an even slope. Instead our hormones play a merry dance, with levels rising and dropping erratically. Oestrogen helps our brain make in producing and regulating serotonin, our happy chemical. Therefore as levels rise and drop, serotonin changes how it acts upon our brains, making us susceptible to mood swings. Oestrogen affects cognition too, which is why we can struggle to concentrate or become extra forgetful.
Progesterone also takes some of the blame, as lowered levels can cause migraines, anxiety and poor sleep, all recipes for a bad mood. Sleep is particularly important as too little results in a rise in cortisol levels, which renders us less able to control emotions. Progesterone fluctuations are additionally to blame for the characteristic hot flushes, night sweats and weight gain, which can all impact our self-esteem. So as you can see there’s enough to wind us up without adding in annoying partners, children or colleagues into the mix.
So how can we swing our mood in the other direction, and balance out those ups and downs? Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the most well known treatment offered by doctors for symptoms of the menopause. Antidepressants are also sometimes prescribed for persistent low mood. But whether or not you go down those routes, there are plenty of things you can do yourself to take control, look after yourself and restore your inner tranquillity.
Keeping your energy levels stable is one key to keeping your mood in check. Diet plays a large role in this, with an excess of refined carbs, refined sugars and caffeine leading to energy spikes and dips, which in turn causes mood swings. Complex carbs, natural sugars from fresh or dried fruits and an overall balanced diet on the other hand, leads to balanced energy levels and a stable mood. So simple changes like swapping white bread for wholegrain, sourdough or rye can make a difference, as can swapping white pasta for wholegrain or white rice for brown rice.
Another key to stable energy levels is good sleep. Doing your best to tackle sleep problems will do wonders for your mood, so give yourself the best opportunity for a restful sleep. There are many tips that can help you maintain good sleeping patterns, such as keeping regular bedtimes, avoiding screens before bed and keeping a dark, cool and quiet bedroom. For more tips do some research into sleep hygiene.
If you’re looking for natural ways to raise your serotonin levels, you can’t do much better than exercise. All the better if it’s outdoors, as fresh air can do wonders for lifting your mood. Regular exercise is known to keep stress levels low too, as well as keeping you fit and giving you more energy.
On the subject of stress, there are a few ways to help stave it off and stay in the zen zone. Keep away from stressful situations as much as possible, and learn to say no! If you spend all your energy doing things for other people you’ll have none left for yourself. Healthy practices such as yoga, mindfulness, meditation and tai-chi are also good ways to calm your mind.
Some natural remedies that can help include ginseng, which supports your adrenal gland to respond to stress, magnesium which lifts mood and is often low usual during menopause, and selenium which protects your thyroid gland, helping to stabilise your body’s chemical balance. All of these can be found in Protea Wellness’ Meno Sense supplements, which also contain a range of high-quality vegan ingredients to support your body and mind as you navigate the menopause.