Menopause and mood swings go hand-in-hand for around 45% of woman, many of whom consider the emotional rollercoaster ride to be one of the most annoying symptoms of menopause. Whether you’ve been feeling depressed or anxious or you’re sad one minute and happy the next, understand that there is a reason for your unpredictable moods and there are ways to get back to your old self.
The causes of mood swings: hormone imbalance
While there’s no clear medical explanation for how hormones affect mood, it’s clear that they do have a profound impact on the way we feel from one day to the next and even one moment to the next. What’s known is that oestrogen, testosterone, and androgen stimulate the nervous system, while cortisol and progesterone have a depressant effect.
When levels of stimulating hormones fall, you’re left with a relative excess of calming hormones which can have an overall depressive effect on your mood. These hormones also control your level of serotonin, the chemical that directly controls you mood. When hormones alter your brain’s level of this chemical, you’re mood is bound to get out of whack.
Menopause and depression
While a fall in progesterone and testosterone are partly to blame for feelings of depression, they’re not the whole story. Sometimes simple exhaustion can leave you with an usually low mood. Let’s face it, going through menopause can wear you out. The hot flushes, the sleeping problems and even stress from physical changes like irregular periods, weight gain, and hair loss. Even on a good day, this kind of stress can leave you irritable, but combine that with hormone fluctuations and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
How to control mood swings
If you’re suffering from menopause insomnia, you’re first step in alleviating mood swings should be to find ways to sleep better at night. Being exhausted naturally leads to anxiety, irritability, and depression.
If you’re sleeping all right and suspect your mood swings may be coming more from stress and hormones, try to carve out a little “you time” to refresh your mind and spirit. It doesn’t have to be a week-long get-away; even 15 minutes of meditation a day can help.
Your everyday activities also play a role. If you’re feeling over-extended and stressed out, try to take some time to do something you enjoy, even if it’s just going for a walk in the park. Half an hour of exercise each day can also help stabilize your mood.
For serious mood swings, doctors sometimes recommend low-dose oral contraceptives because they keep your hormone levels stable, which in turn keeps your mood stable.
Natural treatments for menopause mood swings
There are also certain vitamins and herbs that can also help stabilize your mood. The B complex vitamins are particularly important because they keep your nervous system healthy. They also affect levels of the neurotransmitters that control your mood. Vitamin B6, for example, is essential for converting tryptophan to serotonin. For herbal treatment for mood swings during menopause, look into St. John’s wort, kava kava and hops.
Many women accept menopause mood swings as a natural part of going through the change of life, but in reality there’s a lot you can do to keep your mood stable during this time. For some women the solution may be as simple as doing a little yoga every day, while others may benefit more from progesterone replacement therapy.