Since September is Menopause Awareness Month, here is the first in a series of articles on menopause.
Many women worry that reaching menopause will tip their emotional wellbeing. Doctors typically blame estrogen, because estrogen levels drop in the years leading up to menopause -- the perimenopause -- and lower levels of estrogen can lead to hot flashes, poor sleep, night sweats and more frequent urination.
All of these things can keep a woman up at night or at least disturb her sleep. And tired people are at more risk of being cranky and depressed. But midlife itself is also a time that many people are at risk for depression, mood swings and irritability. If your menopause seems to be affecting your mental health, talk openly about it with your doctor.
Here are seven things to consider before you have that conversation:
• Were you depressed before menopause? Could this be part of an ongoing problem that just got worse?
• Are too many wrinkles and too little energy making you feel old and negative about yourself and lowering your self-esteem?
• Is your life under increased stress?
• Are you suffering from severe menopausal symptoms that are bringing you down?
• Are you socially isolated -- no relationship, friends or family for support?
• Are you having financial problems that limit your happiness?
• Are you sad because you don't have kids or can't have any more kids?
Here are some ways to help you feel better:
• First, talk about menopause with your doctor. Consider estrogen and find out if it is a good choice for you or if not, what the alternatives are.
• Consider talk therapy with a mental health professional or someone trained to deal with mental health issues and menopause. I treat many women who are in or near menopause and need guidance through this window of transition. Talking with friends or others who have similar problems can also help.
• Discuss medical prescriptions for depression with your doctor to find out if this treatment would be helpful for you.
• Get enough sleep. As Shakespeare said, "sleep knits the raveled sleeve of care." Click here for a free sleep diary to see if you are getting enough sleep.
• Get physical -- start to exercise (walk, garden or go dancing) for at least 30 minutes at least four days a week.
• Look for ways to de-stress -- listen to relaxing music, read a book or try relaxation techniques. Click here for a free relaxing song I wrote called "Summer Day." Breathe in and out slowly while listening to the song.
• Use positive affirmations such as "I attract only healthy relationships," "I am capable and deserve success," or "I believe in myself and others believe in me too." Positive self-talk works.
For more by Mache Seibel, MD, click here.
For more on personal health, click here.