Your Brain on Menopause
Hormone surges and dips throughout menopause affect your brain as well as the rest of your body. Here's what happens and why, and how to cope.
Menopausal Mood Swings: What to Do
The very first thing you must realize is that no, you're not losing your
mind. You may be acting crazy, feeling crazy, thinking crazy thoughts -- but
basically, you're OK. And no, you don't have to force yourself to sit on the
"naughty stool" until perimenopause is over.
But there are a few key things you can try that might make a huge
difference. Among the most important: Reduce stress in your life.
How can this help? According to Harvard University stress expert Alice
Domar, PhD, the effect of stress on hormone activity can be so profound that it
is capable of inducing symptoms. Reducing stress can have the opposite
In studies she conducted, Domar reports that women who participated in
organized relaxation saw a 30% decrease in their hot flashes, plus a
significant drop in tension, anxiety, even depression. They also reported fewer
mood swings and more stable emotions overall.
The good news: Reducing even small stresses in your life -- or simply
setting aside some time every day to relax and unwind -- can not only affect
hormone balance but have a dramatic effect on your mood swings.
Another important suggestion: Whenever you do have an emotional upset, such
as feeling very angry, step back, take a deep breath, and let a little time
pass before you act on your dancing emotions. Chances are, when the mood swing
passes -- as it always does -- you might not have the need to lash out at
someone who probably doesn't deserve it.
At the same time, if the mood passes and you still feel the same way, then
by all means do what you must to clear the air. While many problems can
temporarily seem bigger than they are during this time of life, real problems
can also occur. But taking a little time between action and reaction may be all
you need to know the difference.
Sleep Your Way to Happier Menopause
While hormones influence your mood and your temper, what can make everything
seem worse is a lack of sleep. And if getting a good night's rest seems to be
getting harder during this time of life, you're not alone.
A study published in the journal Menopause in 2001 observed that
"insomnia is a frequently reported complaint in menopausal women."
The reason: You may be sleeping - or wanting to sleep -- but your estrogen
levels are still up dancing all night long. And that continual action can
interrupt healthy sleep.
This, in turn, reduces both the quantity and quality of your sleep, and when
that happens hormones can go further off kilter, filling your waking hours with
even more symptoms, particularly emotion-based problems.
But there are ways to induce better midlife sleep and in doing so help
control some menopause symptoms. According to natural health expert Susan Lark,
MD, herb teas of valerian root taken 45 minutes before bedtime might induce a
deeper and more restful sleep. Passionflower or chamomile tea may have a
similar effect, she says.