Managing Your Stress and Menopause
Women are more susceptible to bouts of anxiety during periods of hormonal upheaval; many will experience a sudden anxious episode for the first time during puberty, pregnancy, or perimenopause. However, stress is difficult to predict, and even more challenging to control when you’re living with menopause symptoms – unless you know your risk, and how to stack the deck in your favor.
Since stress (and to some degree, anxiety) is a normal part of life, it can be tempting to ignore the effects, but chronic stress can have serious consequences for your body and mind, especially during menopause. Learn where your stress is coming from and how best to handle it for a better quality of life now, and in the years to come.
Stress and Early Menopause
If you worry about experiencing early menopause, take a look at the stressors in your life – early menopause rests on a variety of factors, and recent research suggests that stress is one of them. Although premature menopause (or, menopause that occurs before the age of 40) has been linked to smoking for quite some time, it seems that socioeconomic status is also to blame.
Researchers believe the stress that comes with economic hardship helps to explain why women in poor regions or communities are 80% more likely to experience early menopause. A recent study out of England reveals that women who live in developing countries experience menopause an average of 8 years earlier than women in North America.
It’s not clear whether financial stress brings the same physical response as other types of stress, but experts suspect that stress of all kinds has a penetrating influence on menopause. However, the relationship goes both ways: biological changes that begin in perimenopause commonly bring on bouts of physical or emotional stress, and under some circumstances, those stressful episodes can grow into a chronic stress or anxiety disorder.
The Link between Hormonal Changes and Anxiety
As hormones climb and dip in the years leading up to menopause, the endocrine system falls out of balance. Sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone are significant when it comes to symptoms and wellbeing, but there are other hormones involved in stress regulation and emotional balance. The hypothalamus is particularly important: it regulates cortisol – the hormone responsible for stress response. When too much cortisol is released, severe fatigue, insomnia, irritability and digestive problems can result.