Perimenopause + StressJun 06, 2022
When it comes to stress during perimenopause, I’ve got some bad news and some good news.
The bad news is that chronic stress often amplifies (as in, makes worse) many of the common and oh-so-challenging symptoms women experience during perimenopause and menopause. We’re talking about super fun stuff like hot flashes, mood swings, brain fog (and other cognitive issues), insulin resistance, weight gain, sleep disruptions, etc.
The good news is that upping your stress management game can dramatically improve the quality of your life before the more severe menopausal symptoms are likely to set in and long after they’re gone. In other words, this is the kind of work that will serve you well for the rest of your life, which makes it extra worthwhile.
Stress reduction generally falls into two main categories:
- Ways to limit avoidable stress
- Ways to manage unavoidable stress
The first category is the one I want to focus on today, especially with kids home from school for summer vacation and with so much tragedy in the news lately.
Unfortunately, we live in a culture that often expects women to sacrifice their well-being for the comfort of others, which makes tackling that first category really challenging - it forces us and our loved ones to bump up against strong cultural currents.
Reducing avoidable stress may mean setting boundaries, delegating household tasks, challenging the expectations of friends and family, and reordering systems that serve everyone else but you. It may very well mean disappointing people who selfishly prefer the version of you that puts herself last.
We also live in a culture with very enticing apps that make staying constantly connected to our social media feeds and the never-ending news cycle nearly impossible to resist. And yet that constant connectedness also contributes to avoidable stress and anxiety.
Here are a few suggestions as you contemplate how to extract yourself from any (metaphorical) briar patches that likely fall under the category of avoidable stress:
- Take a brutally honest look at your calendar. If you’re looking at the coming months with a sense of dread or anxiety, that’s a sign that you need to make some adjustments. Disappointing your people is hard, but learning to respect your limitations and prioritize your well-being is important work. YOU ARE WORTH IT!
- Learn to communicate your needs. You have more options than saying no or playing the martyr. Let a friend or loved one know what you need in order for the situation to be a “yes” for you. This strategy has worked really well for me the last few years in a wide variety of situations.
- Set limits for time spent on social media or reading the news. When tragedy strikes, take action (make a donation, join a group, call a representative, etc.) and then give yourself a break from your phone to breathe, process and grieve. “Doom scrolling” and endlessly worrying over the state of affairs does nothing to make the world a better place, but taking action and then taking a restorative break helps to break cycles of chronic, unproductive stress that can lead to burnout and a more challenging menopause transition.
One last loving reminder: the only way out is through. The work of learning to identify and let go of avoidable stress can be messy, hard work. Be brave and willing to begin anyway, knowing that it takes time and that everyone will be the better for it - especially you.
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