Many women report that menopause and stress go hand-in-hand, but does it have to be that way? What can you do to manage the stress during these transitional years and live your best life in menopause? Let’s look at stress in the menopause years and what you can do.
What is stress?
Stress is a feeling of physical and/or emotional tension in response to an external situation. It can be good for you, as when it motivates you to accomplish a task or finish a race, or it can trigger symptoms that can be challenging to handle and damage your health.
Women are more prone to stress than men. According to an American Psychological Association study, women are more likely than men (28% vs. 20%) to report a lot of stress in their lives, and they are also more likely to report having physical and emotional symptoms of stress than their male counterparts. Statistics from Health and Safety Executive note that women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder than men.
Reasons for greater stress among women range include juggling many roles and tasks, such as mother, caregiver for elderly parents, employee/worker, homemaker, and health challenges, including menopause.
How is stress associated with menopause?
Women sometimes ask, “Is it my imagination, or am I more stressed now that I’m in perimenopause/menopause?” No, you're not imagining it. As estrogen levels begin to fluctuate, the body produces more of the stress hormone cortisol. When you combine the higher levels of cortisol and feeling uncertain, frustrated, and scared when perimenopause and menopause symptoms develop, you can see how large a role stress can play in this stage of life.
Another change also takes place. As your ovaries gradually stop making estrogen and progesterone, your adrenal glands take over by producing a hormone that converts into a form of estrogen called estradiol. Estradiol is essential because it helps with bone and heart health and provides neuroprotection after menopause.
How to manage stress in menopause naturally
Several natural lifestyle remedies can work to tame the stress in your life and help you restore balance to your hormones in particular and your life in general.
- Stress-reducing techniques. These techniques can work if you give them a little time and you practice them daily. Include mindful meditation, visualization, deep breathing, journaling, yoga, or tai chi in your life.
- Quality sleep. Getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night is critical for hormone balance and stress reduction.
- Adrenal herbs. Some herbs have shown an ability to help restore hormonal balance. They include ashwaghanda, holy basil, licorice root, maca root, Rhodiola, Siberian ginseng, and schizandra berry. Consult an expert before taking any of these supplements.
- Magnesium. This mineral is known for its ability to relax the body and its role in the body’s stress response. Research shows that combining magnesium with vitamin B6 can reduce stress even more.
- Take time. Spending time each day for self-care can help lift stress from your shoulders. Moments of self-care may include walking in nature, a massage, reading, stretching, participating in a hobby, or enjoying aromatherapy.
- Socialize. Spending time with people (or your pets) you enjoy allows you to relax and for your body to release oxytocin, a hormone associated with a positive mood.
When to call your doctor
If your feelings of stress make everyday activities increasingly difficult, you are experiencing changes in eating or sleep habits, or you feel increasingly withdrawn, contact your doctor.
Perimenopause and menopause can be stressful transitions. Some stress is healthy, but when it becomes chronic, or it is affecting your ability to enjoy your life, it is important to take steps to manage it.