NHS GP and regular medical expert on ITV’s This Morning, Dr Zoe Williams, comments on mental health during the menopause and provides wellness tips to help mitigate the often-challenging symptoms associated with it.
Menopause stigma can make people fearful of speaking out about changes in their body, which can impact mental health, causing issues like anxiety or periods of low mood. However, information is power – and arming yourself with as many facts about the menopause as possible means you can ready yourself for anything that this natural process throws at you. Talking is great therapy – as many of us know. We should not be scared of speaking to others about our feelings around the menopause and what’s happening our bodies.
Menopause can impact mental health for a number of reasons. The hormonal changes themselves can directly affect us, as can experiencing the other symptoms of menopause and also the coming to terms with reaching this milestone in our life. Coping with the feelings and thoughts of everything can be a challenge. Low mood, anxiety and mild depression are not unusual – but equally shouldn’t be accepted or deemed as normal as they can often be improved through things like mindfulness, diet and lifestyle changes. However, if you are ever struggling with your mental health and these measures are not sufficient you should not delay in reaching out to your GP who can help you access professional mental health support. In England you can also self-refer for talking therapy by searching ‘NHS IAPT’ online.
So, what can some of the triggers be? The reality of no longer being able to get pregnant could impact on those women who still want to have children or for whom menopause has come unexpectedly early. Around 1 in 100 women experience the menopause before 40 years of age.
Physical changes in the body can be challenging to reconcile with the projected images of beautiful bodies seen in mass media and online. Loss of bone density could create postural changes in extreme cases. You may lose your sex drive or experience vaginal dryness or irritation. The texture of your hair could change, and some women say that they see a change in their skin. Generally, the peri-menopause can last for around four years – so it’s important to understand that you may experience all, some or none of these symptoms. It’s different for everyone, so be informed as to what the many symptoms are, then you will recognise them as potentially being linked to the menopause. Not suffering in silence is key to managing your symptoms, and for most people for whom menopausal symptoms are causing distress, the benefits of HRT will outweigh the risks.
Acceptance of this chapter of your life can be difficult and the more women talk openly and frankly about menopause, it reduces stigma and means many women feel less alone during this period of change. Celebrities, such as Davina McCall and Kirsty Wark, have recently put their voice and stardom behind destigmatising the menopause and its impact on the female psyche. Other women find a sense of comradery by going online and finding a menopause forum group, local to them. There are plenty on Facebook who meet virtually. Many women say it’s helped them not to feel alone.
Never mind the physical change in the body that menopause heralds – in most women, it also comes hand in hand with a coming to terms with reaching this milestone in their lives. It is important that society reframes mid-life as a time of opportunity, for taking up new interests and spending time, money and energy on themselves rather than dependents and work. A time to fulfil dreams and ambitions, essentially a time of firsts, not of lasts.
Eating a diet that is well-rounded and nutrient-rich can help to improve mood, increase energy levels, and even help you think clearer. I would recommend Linwoods’ new Functional Range, which has been specifically designed to enhance body functionality, both physical and mental. The healthy seeds blends are packed with vitamins and minerals including 96% of the daily recommended intake of Vitamin B6, which contributes to the regulation of hormonal activity, and vitamin B12 which can reduce tiredness and fatigue. Additionally, Menoligna contains Calcium, Vitamin D and K2 which contributes to the maintenance of healthy bones. Simply add a 30g daily serving of Menoligna to your favourite dish.
Linwoods are a sponsor of the Menopause Success Summit 2021