It can start during perimenopause and continue you on all the way through menopause as well: we’re talking about problems with concentration. Although challenges with concentration and memory can be disturbing and even frightening, most women find that these mental functions return to premenopausal levels once they reach postmenopause. But how do you make it through the tough times? Let’s take a look.
What is concentration?
Concentration is the ability to focus or direct attention on a given object, situation, or event. The ability to concentrate is critical for so many things we do every day, even every minute. Whether you are reading a book, driving your car, walking down the street, talking with a friend, or landing an airplane, concentration plays a major role in how well we are able to perform.
Basically, concentration involves taking in information, processing the data, and then computing the thoughts or actions necessary to perform. When that process slows down, as it can during perimenopause and menopause, it’s easy to become frustrated and concerned. However, you can take actions to help you get through these situations.
How is concentration affected during menopause?
Problems with concentration and memory can be annoying as well as frightening. If you are in a high-stress job or are regularly called upon or expected to be “on your game,” as many of us are, then sometimes losing the ability to concentrate can make you anxious and stressed out.
According to neuroscientist and neuro-nutritionist Dr. Lisa Mosconi, estrogen is a “master regulator” because it directs your brain on how to burn sugar to produce energy. Because estrogen levels begin to decline during perimenopause, the brain doesn’t work as hard, so your energy levels begin to decline as well.
The result can be what is often referred to as “foggy brain.” That’s when you experience difficulty with concentration and short-term memory. You also may have difficulty with sleep and insomnia.
The North American Menopause Society also has a few words about concentration and menopause. It notes “There is no strong evidence that concentration or memory actually decline because of natural menopause. The reason is more likely that our mental processes change throughout life—especially as we age.”
How can I treat concentration problems naturally?
Women are so resourceful; they have developed a variety of ways to improve concentration and memory to help them through these trying times. Here are a few suggestions you might try.
Write it down. Take notes in a notebook you carry with you, write down people’s names, create to-do lists, use sticky notes on your dashboard and refrigerator, keep a diary, and send yourself text or email messages. All of these tips can help you with concentration and memory.
Get more sleep. I know sleep disturbances and insomnia are often a problem during perimenopause and menopause, but it’s time to look at your retiring habits and see how you can improve them so you can fall asleep and stay asleep better.
Eat estrogens. Did you know you can boost your declining estrogen levels naturally, without hormone therapy? Certain foods have phytoestrogens naturally, including flaxseeds, chickpeas, sesame seeds, strawberries, oranges, dried fruits, yams, kale, lentils, peas, and turmeric. Include as many of these foods in your diet on a daily basis as possible.
Get rid of distractions: Perhaps the most distracting thing in our lives today is our electronic devices. You don’t need to know the latest news blast or what your friend had for lunch on a Facebook post or every social media announcement. Turn off your phone, computer, tablet, or TV when you need to get tasks done or you need to unwind. All of these devices can make concentration difficult.
Focus on details. Lack of focus is usually tied in with an inability to stay present. Rather than concentrate on making dinner or finishing a graphic art project at work, you let your mind go to an argument you had yesterday with your partner or making a list in your head of all the errands you have to run. However, learning how to stay present can make it easier for you to concentrate. Practice this: when you’re in a familiar situation, try to notice anything that’s new or the minute details. Have some new flowers bloomed? Are the shadows on the mountains different? This exercise can help you better concentrate on activities and situations in your life.
Listen to white noise: Use of white noise machines, especially when you are working your way through a challenging situation, can be very calming. White noise is neutral and may help improve concentration.
Do doodle. Doodling and daydreaming seem like not-so-good ideas for improving concentration, but the opposite appears to be true. Harvard research shows that doodling may help you take in more information and concentrate better.
When to call your doctor
If you occasionally lose your keys, forget people’s names, or lose your place while reading a document or a book, that’s normal. However, if these concentration challenges are accompanied by persistent confusion, sudden weakness, headaches, or trouble speaking or seeing, contact your doctor as soon as possible.
Concentration challenges are a normal part of perimenopause and menopause. However, you can take various steps to minimize the impact of this symptom of hormonal fluctuations and look forward to better concentration once menopause has passed.