Stress In Menopause

Stress is something that affects all of us to some degree at some point in our lives. Stress can be caused by all kinds of triggers, from feeling like you haven't got enough time to do everything at work and financial pressures, to relationship problems and illness. Many women experience stress during menopause as a result of hormonal changes, which affect both their physical and mental health. As well as causing the unpleasant sensation of feeling like you're under a lot of pressure, stress can also increase the risk of headaches, nausea, anxiety, depression, changes in appetite, digestive problems and insomnia.

How is stress linked to the menopause?

Menopause symptoms are associated with changing levels of hormones in the body and stress is often linked to cortisol; cortisol is the body's stress hormone and it is released when the body perceives that it is under either mental or physical stress. Cortisol enables you to handle stressful situations, but a consistently high level of cortisol can be damaging. Oestrogen is responsible for regulating cortisol levels and as levels of oestrogen fall, the body may not be able to maintain stable cortisol levels as effectively and this can result in increased susceptibility to stress. There is some suggestion that stress can trigger early menopause; however, research to support this is limited.

Managing stress

There are lots of different techniques and therapies, which may be employed to combat stress, including:

  • Exercise: exercise is one of the best ways of dealing with and preventing stress; it releases tension and frustration and gives you a chance to clear your mind. Exercise also helps to mentally and physically tire you out, which helps you to sleep.
  • meditation
  • massage
  • yoga and Pilates: these gentle forms of exercise focus on breathing and are beneficial for your body and mind; they can help to clear your mind and reflect
  • make time for yourself, take time out from work or anything else you find stressful and do things that you enjoy, such as cooking, spending time with friends, baking, sewing, playing golf, seeing family or travelling
  • get plenty of sleep
  • share your problems or worries with people close to you
  • seek help if you can't handle stress and it's taking its toll on your health and your general wellbeing

If you suffer from severe stress, your GP may recommend medications to help you sleep and to lift your mood and help you cope better. If you have other menopausal symptoms, HRT may also be an option.

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