Menopause Awareness Month highlights this important life transition, to educate and help women have a better menopause and enter their second spring stronger, wiser and more fabulous than ever.
The theme of Menopause Awareness Month 2022 was cognition and mood. There are over 35 symptoms of menopause, and whilst we are unlikely to experience all of them, brain fog and mood swings are the most common after hot flashes and night sweats. The ‘where did I put my keys/phone?’ moments are really common. Concentrating and maintaining focus can become a huge challenge.
Menopause occurs at a busy time in our lives, whether we have all or a combination of; managing our careers, young children, teenage children, ageing parents, and running a home, It’s a perfect storm.
So, if you are feeling overwhelmed during your menopause transition, you are not alone. During menopause, our oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone levels (to a lesser degree) are already performing a dance – decreasing but relative to each other. These hormonal changes influence our mood and our anxiety levels. It can make us feel anywhere from unsettled to depressed.
Menopause doesn’t wait until you’re ready
What can we do to help maintain our cognition and manage our moods?
HRT can certainly help with cognition, brain fog, and anxiety as well as help manage our increased risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. But for those women who can’t take HRT, don’t want to take it, or possibly do take it, but also want to supplement their health and wellbeing the question is what else can we do to help ourselves?
Control your controllables
Consistency is key and the evidence shows that the more often we practice, the more benefit we have, so why not try 5 minutes a day?
We need to give ourselves a chance to pause so our busy minds can find focus. Adopting practices that help settle our nervous systems and reduce anxiety. Working with our breath is a free mood balancer. In an ideal world, we would have 20 or 30 minutes free each day to meditate and practice. But, we can get so much benefit from simply finding 5 minutes a day.
The aim is to calm our minds, and to bring into play our parasympathetic nervous system more readily. This is not our only stress reliever, but it is helpful for a number of reasons. Using the breath we bring focus to ourselves for a moment. By bringing our attention to our breath we help quieten our noisy minds. Noticing our inhale and exhale, the length of each, and where we are breathing. Then increase the length of your breath, staying attentive to how this feels and counting the rounds of your breath.
This can be done lying, sitting, or walking. I make myself a cup of coffee every morning (I’m usually up first and I like my 10 minutes of peace!) I sit on the sofa, cross-legged (you don’t have to), and close my eyes and breathe. My dog joins me for a cuddle, and whilst I don’t time myself, when I feel ready I open my eyes and my coffee is the perfect temperature to drink.
I found time for this new habit by dropping my habit of scrolling on my phone first thing every day. It really helps, I start my day feeling more focused and clearer. Let’s face it, reading the news first thing is not conducive to starting the day positively.
What else can we control?
Exercise and nutrition. Like many of us, I have to schedule and plan both but never do I feel worse after being more active, and the evidence for the benefit of exercise is overwhelming.
Taking effective and appropriate exercise, including two sessions of resistance training helps manage our risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, certain cancers, anxiety, and depression, and it also helps our cognition and memory too. At this stage of our lives, we need to use our body weight or lift weights and strength training to stay strong and healthy. This keeps our bones and muscles strong but also our brain. Activity improves our cognition.
Good nutrition; sufficient protein, healthy fats, and many greens, managing our caffeine, sugar and alcohol helps our focus and our mood swings. We are by nature social animals and we benefit from being around others, for our emotional well-being and also our cognition. So staying in touch – be that a call, a walk, or Zoom – all help our parasympathetic system activate so we feel less stressed and reduce mood swings.
Consistency is the key to success.
We meticulously plan our work and life admin so planning in your self-care is vital. Plans change, but if your self-care isn’t in your diary, it’s not going to happen.
Controlling what we can – our activity, nutrition and mental health improves our overall well-being and means we enter our second spring with excitement for this next stage of our life.