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A Better ‘Change of Life’- Mental Health and Menopause

Our Mental Health Week guest Blogger is Tanya Bowe, a psychologist specialising in women’s mental health issues. Tanya shares her insights regarding mental health problems in perimenopause and beyond

Menopause brings about a number of physical and emotional changes as our body undergoes a significant transformation, often accompanied by night sweats, hot flushes, restlessness, depression and anxiety. However, this transformation also brings about an opportunity for personal growth and change.

The Pressure Builds…

Sure, that shift in hormones may make us more emotionally reactive to things, particularly those things that we have pushed aside or suppressed over the years – they often arise with gusto during this time. It’s also possible that during this phase a number of relationships change (or end!) as a woman transforms into a less suppressed, more powerful version of herself…. She is surviving her body’s monumental shift and do not stand in her way.

Often in therapy, a perimenopausal woman might present with mood swings, depression and/or anxiety (and anger!), however the reason for the increased emotional distress isn’t obvious at first (or in psychoanalytical terms ‘conscious’).

However what we know is that this stage of a woman’s life is often the busiest – if they have children they are likely to be school aged, they are often in the peak of their career, and life is demanding. The same can often be said for their similarly aged partners- also at a peak careerwise and achieving new levels of fulfilment their work. Then at home there is chaos – there’s dishes, washing, food, lunches, sport, training, dance lessons and not to mention the family pet…. Life is full, without time or priority given to her, without self-care.

Be A Carer, Not A Martyr

Importantly, self-care does not mean a shower every day or a cup of tea (although those things are lovely!). Self-care is listening to your body and being present with yourself so you can identify what it needs – time to yourself, reading a book, a night away, an early night. Attending to yourself in the same way you attend to others you care about. 

Many women have not learned how to do this, we carry with us generational traditions of suppressing our needs, and continuing the practice of putting (all) others’ needs ahead of our own. No wonder this leaves woman at this stage of their lives feeling depleted, resentful and invisible/unimportant…and often angry. (side note: anger often presents a mask for these ‘softer’ feelings – when they are left ignored they manifest as anger).

Mental Health Self-Care

Some tips to making perimenopause a smoother transition:

  • Assertively communicate your feelings and state your needs as they arise (not a week later!) e.g. “When you didn’t ask me how my day was, I felt unimportant to you. What I need is connection with you”
  • Not waiting for permission to engage in self-care, and having a healthy balance of leisure to compliment your busy life (social activities, exercise, hobbies, relaxation)
  • Listen to your body – on the days you feel high emotional arousal instead of speeding up reduce your pace instead, take time to breathe and regularly reset your mind and heart rate (using basic mindfulness techniques 5 senses).
  • Treat yourself with the same compassion and kindness as you would others during challenging times – ask yourself “what would I say to my best friend, or my daughter if they were in my shoes right now”

Sleep On It

One final thought is related to bed sharing – often women are tempted to spare their partners the disruption of their night sweats and restless sleeping patterns, and I would suggest that this not be a long-term arrangement.

There are worse things than sharing a bed with a hot sweaty woman on the precipice of a monumental physical and emotional shift! In fact, mental health can be improved by closeness and connection with a loved one, and anxiety can increase in the absence of this connection – so please don’t initiate abandonment in the bedroom during a time you need comfort and support, who knows what those hot flushes will bring! 

So, if you are heading towards perimenopausal age and you’ve had always had a lingering feeling that you might want to work on a few things you may be avoiding, I’d strongly suggest finding a psychologist you connect well with before it grows into something explosive.

With over 10 years’ experience as a registered psychologist (MAPS), Tanya Bowe has always had a passion for working with women and supporting them to bring about personal growth and change. She provides counselling to women requiring emotional support at various transition stages in their lives Tanya has a special interest in women’s mental health including perinatal psychology, fertility, adjustment to perimenopause & menopause; and associated anxiety and depression. Tanya practices from Corinna Chambers Psychologists in Woden (Canberra) and is the Director of Nurturing Women Psychology.

https://www.facebook.com/nurturingwomenpsychology/

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