Finding Relief: Strategies For Menopause Relief And Mental Well-Being

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated March 26, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Menopause can be defined as a natural physiological transition experienced by women in their late 40s to early 50s. This transition generally marks the end of the reproductive years and ushers in a new phase of life. The accompanying menopausal symptoms, which often include physical changes like hot flashes and sleep disturbances, can significantly affect day-to-day life. Menopause can also bring about psychological symptoms like mood swings and depression, but no one going through menopause must do it alone. Recognizing the significance of self-care routines, mindfulness practices, and professional help through in-person or online therapy can support people going through this transformative phase of life.

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Experiencing mental health challenges related to menopause?

Understanding menopause and mental health

Menopause tends to be a significant phase in a woman’s life, usually occurring a year after their last menstrual period. In general, it is intricately linked with mental health, as hormonal fluctuations tend to impact emotional stability. The symptoms of menopause, encompassing physical changes like hot flashes, night sweats, and emotional shifts, can be physically uncomfortable and emotionally frustrating. 

Those going through menopause are usually at an increased risk of developing depression and anxiety as a result of natural hormonal shifts, such as drops in estrogen levels. Estrogen therapy can treat hot flashes and help with mood regulation. 

Other physical symptoms, like sleep disturbances due to night sweats and urinary incontinence, can further compound stress, potentially contributing to an overall decline in mental health. 

Additionally, it can be crucial to note that individuals going through menopause may also be coping with the stress related to an increased risk of conditions like breast cancer

Mitigating the impact of the symptoms of menopause

Self-care can significantly assist women in managing physical challenges like hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and other menopausal symptoms that can influence emotional well-being. For example, regular exercise can improve mood and reduce feelings of anxiety, as well as mitigate the risk of heart disease, which women usually become more susceptible to after menopause. 

Similarly, maintaining a balanced diet – low in spicy foods that may trigger hot flashes and rich in essential nutrients – can help regulate energy levels and foster physical well-being. Additionally, the inclusion of bioidentical hormones in consultation with a healthcare professional may assist in managing specific menopausal symptoms. 

A consistent sleep schedule may be an often overlooked yet vital aspect of self-care. Adequate sleep can replenish energy, better manage stress, and promote the overall health of vaginal tissues affected by menopause. By incorporating these practices into daily life, women can improve their mood and overall mental well-being during menopause.

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Mindfulness and mental health

In addition to medication and lifestyle changes, there can be other techniques to regulate the nervous system in the face of stress or discomfort. 

Mindfulness can be a powerful tool for managing menopausal symptoms and enhancing mental well-being. Rooted in being present and engaged in the moment, mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga, can alleviate not just the physical discomfort, but also the stress and anxiety associated with menopause.

For instance, deep breathing exercises can calm the nervous system, reduce the intensity of hot flashes, and potentially relieve vaginal dryness by promoting overall body relaxation. Meanwhile, meditation can aid in managing anxiety, fostering a sense of peace and resilience. The practice of yoga usually combines physical activity, deep breathing, and mindfulness, potentially contributing to the relief of physical symptoms while promoting mental calm.

Some research indicates a notable reduction in menopause-related stress and anxiety among those practicing mindfulness, potentially affirming its value in the pursuit of menopause relief. According to board-certified gynecologist Sameena Rahman, M.D., “The symptoms of menopause, especially night sweats, may keep you awake, and the mental stress, anxiety, and depression associated with menopause can also affect your sleep patterns.”

It can be important to achieve at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night, and menopausal women can strive for that minimum by calming the mind with meditation and other bedtime rituals that work for them. Additionally, while some may turn to dietary supplements to manage menopause symptoms, integrating mindfulness practices into daily routines can provide a natural and holistic approach to mental well-being.

Seeking professional help

During menopause, professional help can play an invaluable role in managing symptoms and maintaining mental health. Healthcare professionals can provide various treatment options tailored to the individual’s needs. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can balance hormonal fluctuations, relieve vaginal dryness, reduce hot flashes, and alleviate physical symptoms associated with this life stage.

According to Jessica Chan, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist and OB-GYN, “Hormone therapy for women who have no contraindications has been the best studied and likely leads to the fastest relief.” Hormone therapy typically involves estrogen and progesterone, depending on whether a woman still has a uterus, and it can come in gels, creams, pills, and patches.

Antidepressant medications may also be prescribed by a doctor in some instances, serving as an additional tool to support mental well-being. Additionally, mental health counseling can offer a safe space to express and navigate the emotional complexities of menopause, potentially reducing feelings of isolation and promoting psychological resilience. 

Support groups can also offer immense value during this time. By enabling open conversations about shared experiences, they may foster a sense of community and understanding, further bolstering the emotional well-being of women undergoing menopause. Professional help should be considered not as a last resort but as an integral part of a comprehensive approach to managing menopause. 

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Experiencing mental health challenges related to menopause?

Benefits of online therapy

Online therapy can offer a lifeline for those grappling with the psychological challenges often accompanying menopause. First, the convenience and accessibility of online therapy may allow for easier integration of mental health care into daily routines, which can be particularly beneficial for those coping with menopausal symptoms like mood swings or anxiety. The perceived distance associated with online therapy may make it easier for women to open up about potentially uncomfortable or vulnerable topics.

Effectiveness of online therapy

Online therapy has generally shown efficacy in supporting breast cancer survivors simultaneously experiencing menopausal symptoms. In one study, an internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) approach successfully alleviated the severity of menopausal symptoms in a sample of 248 women.

Takeaway

Understanding menopause and its profound effects on mental health can be the initial step toward effectively managing this significant life transition. Exploring various strategies, from self-care routines to mindfulness practices, and seeking professional guidance, can be vital in maintaining mental well-being. While those going through menopause may experience emotions like sadness, loss, or loneliness, they do not have to navigate the menopausal journey alone. Support groups and professionals, including online therapists, may be available to provide relief, resources, and empathy.

Understand how menopause impacts the body and mind
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