Hot Mess: Understanding & coping with Menopause stress on World Menopause Day
Body temperature isn’t the only thing that can rise uncontrollably during perimenopause and menopause. If you’re finding the smallest things unearthing a fiery temper you didn’t know existed, you’re not alone. Stress, anger, and irritability during menopause are extremely common.
Fluctuating hormones during perimenopause and menopause, and an onslaught of physical and emotional symptoms (as many as 48!) can leave you feeling overwhelmed and isolated. The great news is there are effective ways to manage uncomfortable symptoms, find support and feel yourself again.
The menopause conversation is growing. With this shift in cultural consciousness has come a wealth of insight- empowering employers, brands, healthcare professionals, and peers to provide support at all ends of the spectrum. Check out GenM’s website for excellent menopause resources and support. But what happens when stress is affecting your day-to-day life, relationships, or work? And how do you manage stress and its unwanted effects on your body and mind?
Why am I so stressed during perimenopause and menopause? The science
Menopause symptoms and the accompanying changes to our minds and bodies are enough to unnerve the calmest among us. Our hormones also play a crucial role in understanding this unfortunate connection.
You may be familiar with the ‘fight or flight’ response. When stressed, our bodies can activate either of these responses to help protect us from perceived threat. The hormones responsible for these stress responses are adrenaline and cortisol. Produced in the adrenal glands, adrenaline increases your heart rate, blood pressure and boosts energy, whilst cortisol increases blood sugar levels .
During menopause, your ovaries stop producing oestrogen, and the adrenal glands take over its production. If the adrenal glands are busy making stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, oestrogen and progesterone production can be further reduced . As lowered levels of oestrogen and progesterone are responsible for many symptoms of menopause, the effects of stress can make some menopause symptoms worse.
Can Stress cause bleeding or spotting during and after menopause?
Menopause is diagnosed when you have gone 12 consecutive months without a period. During perimenopause your periods are likely to be irregular. They may be heavier or lighter than usual, or more or less frequent. Increased cortisol levels can lead to delayed, missed or lighter periods than usual . So if you’re wondering if stress can impact your menstrual cycle, the answer is yes.
According to Gynaecologist Dr Andrew Krinksy, both physical and mental stress can impact whether bleeding after menopause happens. But it’s always best to see your healthcare professional if you notice bleeding after menopause, even if it’s just spotting.
Tips for easing stress during menopause
How to reduce stress and improve wellbeing during menopause
- See your doctor, gynaecologist, or menopause specialist. If stress is affecting your day-to-day life, work, or relationships, it’s time to see a healthcare professional. Menopause symptoms can be managed with treatments such as Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and other complementary therapies. See our menopause page for additional resources and support with navigating menopause.
- Prioritise rest and sleep. Your body is going through a lot of change and you’ll no doubt be feeling more tired as a result. You don’t need a reason or excuse to give yourself permission to rest. Create a relaxing bedtime routine and stick to it. This might mean reducing screen time before bed, eliminating distractions, and heading to bed earlier.
- Skip caffeine and other stimulants. Remember cortisol? Caffeine increases cortisol levels making it harder to regulate your stress levels. Opt for decaf or avoid altogether.
- Look after your mental health. There are many practical and medicinal ways to improve mental health, reduce anxiety and improve mood. Improved mental health can help reduce stress and give you more internal resources to deal with unavoidable stressors in your life.
Read our Menopause and Mental Health blog for more ways to positively manage your mental health.
- Reduce stressors and prioritise self-care. Ask yourself if you are taking on too much. Are there things you can simplify and re-prioritise to give yourself time to do things you enjoy? When you feel stress rising, consider what you need in this moment. Self-awareness can be a powerful tool to help us regain control in periods of high stress.
- Talk honestly to your loved ones, boss, or HR team.
- Communicating with your loved ones can help them to support you better. It can also help you to let go of any guilt you might be experiencing as a result of your feelings. Some workplaces have policies and practices in place to support women going through the menopause. GenM provide excellent resources on navigating menopause in the workplace.
Read our recent interview with Dr Clare Spencer, registered menopause specialist, for expert tips on preparing for menopause and navigating the journey with greater ease and confidence.
 Cleveland Clinic