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Stress and menopause - why you need to get it under control

For many people, going through menopause can be a stressful experience. It entails managing physical changes, navigating relationships at home and work, and coping with the pressures of contemporary living.

Why does perimenopause increase stress?

The fluctuating hormone levels during perimenopause and menopause can significantly impact how we respond to stress, both physically and emotionally. This often leaves women feeling low, lacking in confidence, or overwhelmed, anxious, and isolated. Understanding and acknowledging the effects of stress are so important, along with adopting healthy habits to help you to cope with it effectively.

What are the main stressors?

Women in midlife are often called the "sandwich generation". As a midlife woman you may be a caregiver, for children and for elderly parents. You may be experiencing relationship issues, or money stress. Your career may be creating a huge amount of responsibility and pressure. Couple all of that with the symptoms of perimenopause and you have a recipe for hugely increased and chronic stress.

Why does stress matter in perimenopause?

Under stress, your body produces two hormones – adrenaline and cortisol, commonly referred to as the 'fight or flight' hormones. Adrenaline, produced in the adrenal glands, increases heart rate, blood pressure, and energy levels, while cortisol raises blood sugar levels and influences immune responses, as well as suppresses digestive and reproductive functions.

After the stressful situation passes, hormone levels typically revert to their usual state. However, persistent stress can disrupt almost every bodily function, resulting in symptoms such as anxiety, fatigue, headaches, insomnia, and impaired concentration. Furthermore, it heightens the risk of severe health conditions like strokes, diabetes, and heart attacks.

Increased cortisol levels also affect the production of oestrogen and progesterone. During perimenopause, the adrenal glands may take over oestrogen production, but if they're producing stress hormones, this can impact the production of oestrogen and progesterone.

The impacts of stress on your body in perimenopause

Stress can have a huge impact on your body, especially during perimenopause:

  • Stress can trigger hot flushes by placing strain on the nervous system.

  • Sleep disturbances often occur due to low oestrogen levels affecting sleep quality, with stress exacerbating these issues.

  • Mood swings may worsen under stress, leading to heightened worry or feelings of being overwhelmed.

  • Continual stress or even mild, daily stress can compromise the effectiveness of our immune system.

  • Weight gain, especially around the waist and mid-section, can result from stress-induced changes in hormone levels and cravings for unhealthy foods.

  • Digestive issues, such as indigestion and bloating, are common when stressed, contributing to discomfort.

How can I reduce stress?

To effectively manage stress, consider making lifestyle and dietary changes:

  • Avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms such as excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, or comfort eating.

  • Opt for a balanced diet rich in vegetables to curb unhealthy cravings. Incorporate lean proteins like meat, fish, eggs, and pulses to promote satiety.

  • Stay hydrated by regularly consuming water or non-caffeinated beverages.

  • Integrate physical activity into your routine, such as brisk walking, yoga, or weightlifting, to enhance mood and energy levels.

  • Engage in relaxing activities like reading, listening to music, or meditation to unwind and alleviate stress. Keeping a journal can also aid in processing thoughts and fostering gratitude.

  • Consider getting coaching to help you identify your stress triggers and ways in which you can lighten your own load.

Stress is a huge trigger for health issues in perimenopause and it isn't always simple to find the ways to relieve your own stress. Midlife coaching can have a huge benefit in allowing you take the time to explore what you need in order to cope with your stressors, helping you to regulate your nervous system and find the right route forward for you. Contact us to find out how we can help.

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