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As the most widely endured of menopausal symptoms, the words ‘menopause’ and ‘mood swings’ go firmly hand in hand. But just because a symptom is commonplace, doesn’t mean it should be downplayed. Smart, focused, forceful women suddenly being reduced to puddles of emotion isn’t something we should be accepting of. If you’ve ever described yourself as feeling low, erratic, or vastly overreacting, you’ll know just how disorientating menopause can be. The common thread is women saying that they don’t feel like themselves anymore and they don't understand why. Many feel as if they’re going crazy and others have lost all joy and excitement. When you lose motivation and that get-up-and-go factor, everything feels like hard work. Life becomes a performance we put on for the world and that can be exhausting.
The reduction of progesterone disrupts sleep and causes physical discomfort such as hot flushes and aches, which are enough to make anyone cranky. Descending oestrogen then brings serotonin levels down with it, so we’re chemically less able to be happy and outgoing. But is there such a thing as a smooth, happy, harmonious menopause?
“Yes, absolutely there is,” says Functional Medicine Nutritionist, Dana James. “Perimenopause should be a smooth transition into menopause, not an upheaval or phase of complete disorientation. The key is to get your body to listen more effectively.”
This starts with rewriting the negative dialogue around hormones and stopping being such hormone haters. After all, hormones are the heroes here, not the villains. An integral part of our ancient biology, hormones are the chemical messengers that make up our entire internal hardwiring. It’s their complex interplay that keep our organs functioning and our bodies developing. Just as menstruation and conception, menopause is an essential stage in our reproductive life and all are engineered by hormones. Mood swings, night sweats, joint aches and fatigue are all negative side-effects of hormones functioning exactly how they’re designed to.
This is your window to be an effective communicator and inspire others. Oestrogen makes us sociable and able to connect with others. It’s also when you’re at your most creative, so this is when you should trust in your ideas, make decisions and form future plans.
This is Mother Nature pressing the pause button, so go with it. Use this time to seek solitude, take stock and be introspective. Make lists, create calmness, stretch your body instead of working out, maximise on nutrition and nourish yourself emotionally.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing. When you’re feeling less accommodating, you let go of all those people pleasing impulses, your filters drop, barriers come down and you end up speaking your mind. This is the time to have calm, honest conversations about what you need from others - you might find you get what you really want.
HRT might be the right route for you and if it feels good, go with it but there are many women who it’s not right for. “A woman who responded really well to the contraceptive pill, might be a great respondent to HRT but there’s a huge subset of women where they're not going to be great responders,” explains Dana James. In which case, time to try the numerous natural remedies from menopause mood swings.
Focused breath work has been proven to reduce hot flushes and dissipate anxiety. Alternate nostril breathing, deep diaphragmatic breathing and paced breathing techniques with breath holding, practiced morning and evening, reduce central sympathetic activity and create a relaxation response within the body.
There is a beautiful confidence in ageing; this is your time to create new things and a truly joyful time of life, understand the chemical changes that are going on and not beat yourself up about it. Yes, it's a journey and there’ll certainly be some bumps in the road but it can be a truly enlightening journey of discovering yourself.