Is Perimenopause Making You Feel Mentally Unstable?
Me too! And we’re not alone.
In fact, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that about 41% of women in their mid-40s to early 50s are dealing with some mental health challenges. And this number increases to 56% for women between 51 and 55 years old.
These mental health challenges could be as simple as erratic mood swings or as serious as depression and thoughts of suicide. Feelings of uncontrollable rage or deep sadness, anxiety, feeling broken, hopeless, numb or apathethy – these feelings are real. And they could be result of the rollercoaster ride of hormone fluctuations we experience during perimenopause. Even if you are only in your early to mid 30s – it could still be the early stages of perimenopause.
Our hormones are changing
The roller coaster ride of hormonal changes we experience during perimenopause are triggered by our ovaries producing lower levels of estrogen as we move towards the end of our reproductive years.
This decline in estrogen disrupts the delicate balance with progesterone, another hormone produced by the ovaries. As progesterone, our calming hormone, dips we have trouble regulating our moods, keeping our waist line in check or getting a good night’s sleep .
And unfortunately, as you’re likely well aware, the lack of sleep and tiredness only exacerbate symptoms including irritability, anxiety and our ability to concentrate.
Eventually, as we reach menopause, our bodies produce such small amounts of estrogen that our ovaries no longer release eggs, resulting in the end of our menstrual periods.
That’s a pretty simple overview of what’s happening to our hormones during perimenopause. To learn more, check out our blog, Is This Menopause?
If you are feeling unstable, out of control, alone or afraid, know that we are here for you. And know that there are things you can try to help you find some ease during this transition, like:
Talk to your doctor
This is always the best place to start. Your mental health challenges could be the result of hormonal changes, but there could be more at play here. It’s important to consult with a doctor who can help to assess your symptoms and discuss the best options for you to try.
If you can, do a little prep work before your appointment. Bring a list of all your symptoms, the timing of when they’re happening (to help identify if they’re cyclical in nature) and any questions you have about treatments and next steps.
Unfortunately, you should also be prepared for the possibility that your doctor will dismiss you or normalize your symptoms. You may need to push back and advocate for yourself, which can be difficult. Especialy when you’re already feeling so fragile. But it’s important that you are clear about the fact that you are struggling and need help.
Share your feelings
There is no shame in what you are going through. Don’t be afraid to share your thoughts and feelings with your friends and family. Trust me, I’ve been there and I know how hard it is to put into words the pain and sadness you are feeling. But it’s important for your people to know that you are struggling.
You might also consider joining a perimenopause Facebook group. I’ve found this to be a great space to share my experiences and emotions and feel supported rather than judged.
Prioritize self care
Find ways to calm your nervous system – like going for a walk, taking a bath, playing with your pet, practicing mediation, breathwork or yoga, or even just finding a quiet place where you can close your eyes and breath for five minutes,
Taking a few minutes each day to take a calming breath and relax will work wonders to reduce the cortisol levels in your body. Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, can have a serious impact mood, emotions and anxiety.
For perimenopausal women, it’s more important than ever to prioritize self care.
Get some sleep
In my opinion, sleep is the most important pillar of health. I’m also a perimenopausal woman, so I know how evasive sleep can be. Do the best you can. Create a solid sleep routine (we’ve got some tips for you) and try to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. In the wise words of Harper Lee, “Things are always better in the morning.”
If you are still struggling and are feeling helpless, try talking with a psychologist or certified counselor. Find someone who is trained to address mental health issues and who has a variety of tools and strategies to help improve your well-being.
When you are feeling sad, angry, desperate, hopeless or a rotating combination of these powerful emotions – remember, you’re not alone. There is help and support available to navigate these perimenopausal challenges.
Your well-being matters, and taking steps to care for your mental health is a significant part of this journey.
And This Is Perimenopause is here for you every step of the way. Let’s get through this together.