Midlife can affect us in so many ways, not just the physical symptoms and issues that come as part and parcel of hormonal changes that occur in the run-up to and during menopause, but also the impact that these changes can have on our mental health.
Fluctuating hormones can bring feelings of anxiety, depression, irritability and brain fog, while symptoms like hot flushes may bring feelings of embarrassment or social anxiety if they occur when you’re out and about.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to support yourself physically during this time – you can make dietary and lifestyle changes to help ease your symptoms, and you can speak to your GP about hormone replacement therapy (HRT) – but what do you do about your mental health? Looking after your mental wellbeing during this time is just as vital, which is why it’s so important to work on your midlife mindset.
To get you started, here are my top five tips for taking back control of your emotional and mental health during midlife and menopause to really help you change how you think and feel during this time for the better.
Be kind to yourself and practice self-care
Remember that what you are going through is not always easy. Learn to listen to your body and when it is telling you to rest, then do so. You don’t have to overdo it, and you don’t need to be hard on yourself if you can’t achieve everything you set out to do in a day; you are allowed to stay in and rest sometimes. Although this sounds simple in principle, in reality, it can be a lot harder to practice as we have often been conditioned over the years to put the needs of others ahead of our own. However, by showing yourself compassion and putting yourself first, you will be in a far better place to look after others; after all, you can’t pour from an empty cup!
Mindfulness is the ability to slow down and focus on the present. This is tricky and takes real practice, but by focussing on the here and now and not worrying about the past or the future, we can work on our midlife mindset. Midlife is all about change, and practicing mindfulness helps us to connect with how we truly feel about this change, deal with it, adapt to it, and manage our stress levels.
Work on your connections
It is so important to talk to those close to us about what we are going through. It may be that the person you are closest to or living with has no idea what is going on for you. It may be that they will never experience the menopause, so how can we expect them to understand? By taking the time to explain what is happening and how it is making you feel, you give them the chance to provide the support and care that you need, which will ultimately be of benefit to you both.
Take back control
Often, dealing with menopause symptoms can feel like we are on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, and we feel overwhelmed or out of control. Making a conscious decision to take back control is a massive step forward in supporting our mental health. For example, you could focus on a new goal, decide to clean up your diet, attend an exercise class, or take up a new hobby. Learning new things and focussing on your health can give you a real sense of achievement, and over time these things will all naturally begin to have a positive effect on your mental health.
Change the narrative
One of the best pieces of advice I can give you is to change the narrative around midlife and the menopause. So often, perimenopause and menopause are seen as something to fear or be ashamed of, and for women, there’s much stigma associated with ageing. But this should not, and does not, have to be the case. Let’s make midlife a positive experience – while it may bring with it certain difficulties, it can also be the chance to really focus on yourself and embrace the future.
I wish you well on your journey to adjusting your midlife mindset, and I hope that these tips will help you to think of menopause not as an ending, but rather as the beginning of an exciting new chapter.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kirsty Harrison (DipNT mBANT, CNHC) is a registered nutritional therapist who specialises in women’s health. Kirsty works with women of all ages, including those with problematic periods, those trying to conceive, perimenopausal and menopausal women – and everything else in between. She is passionate about helping women better understand their hormones, and enjoys teaching them how their diet can support hormonal health.