How hormones influence your mood. (And what you can do about them.)
The changes start gradually enough.
Old projects at work that might have fired you up suddenly seem exhausting. Time working out seems like a painful slog. And quality time with family seems overwhelming and difficult.
Maybe you noticed a difference in your body as well. Tenderness, bloating, fatigue—all in places and times that you never used to have them before.
There, it’s been said now. And now that it’s been said, a flood of pop culture images of what menopause means floods into our brains. The drenched, sweating woman. The violent moody wife. The suddenly “old” mom.
As scary as these exaggerations can be, they at least in some part prepare a woman for the physical changes that do come with menopause. But what isn’t discussed and what isn’t shown in pop culture is how this transitional period in life will affect a woman emotionally. This is a complete transformation from head to toe for a woman and it can be unnerving or difficult to experience, let alone relate that experience to another person. It can test bonds. It can test love.
If you’ve already reached this transition in life, you might be thinking: are hormones ruining my relationship?
Before we answer that, it’s important that we take a moment to acknowledge the measurable mental and emotional changes that happen during menopause. Multiple studies have shown that levels of stress, depression, and anxiety rise during menopause. These are normal feelings to experience during this time.
Feelings of stress and anxiety can place a strain on any relationship, but especially a romantic one when coupled with the physical insecurities that often come with menopause. It certainly can feel like our hormones are sabotaging not only our bodies but our relationships. When you feel so separated from your own body, it is easy to feel isolated from your partner and your relationship as well.
Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone are the three main hormones that regulate a woman’s body. Estrogen is a busy hormone that contributes to a number of things such as stimulation of breast tissue, maintenance of vaginal blood flow and lubrication, and even the preservation of bone health. Progesterone helps prepare the lining of the uterus for a fertilized egg and helps maintain early pregnancy. Testosterone, although commonly associated with men, is also very present in the female body. It helps contribute to libido levels, maintains bone and muscle mass, and plays a key role in estrogen production.
But during menopause, levels of each hormone fluctuate wildly till eventually production slows down on all three. The wild fluctuations and eventual decrease are what trigger the physical symptoms of menopause—hot flashes, fatigue, bloating, headaches, etc.
But estrogen in particular is attributed to the changes in mood. Loss of estrogen, along with the steroid hormone estradiol, will affect mood and increase levels of anxiety, stress, and cause a higher chance of depression.
So how can this affect not only us but our relationships? And how can we resist falling to the mercy of our hormones?
A good start is to always make sure you are physically taking care of yourself. Taking charge and agency of your health allows you to mitigate some of the hormonal fluctuations, or at least have better control. A relationship will stand the storm of hormonal changes better when you feel more in control. It will also allow your partner to understand what role he or she can take to help you during this period of transition. Any doctor prescribed medications should be taken regularly. Hormonal supplements can also help tremendously as well. Asensia is a natural supplement that helps significantly improve the negative symptoms of hormone decline by naturally balancing progesterone levels.
But another just as equally important preparatory step is to take care of yourself mentally. Mental health is just as important as physical health and just like physical health, mental health also requires careful monitoring and awareness.
So what can we do for our mental health to prepare for this change? Answer: Self love.
Your mind is a part of your body. Your mind affects your body and your body affects your mind. It is all interconnected. If you can begin to love yourself and appreciate your sexuality, you will be kinder to your body as it transforms into its next stage. This self-kindness, something many women need more of, lowers the levels of stress and anxiety. You are giving yourself permission to be in pain, to be tired, and to change.
And when your stress and anxiety are lessened, relationships will feel less strained and difficult. Your self-love will allow for the shared love between you and your partner to flourish.
Self love is a broad term and it can take many forms—therapy, exercise, meditation. A variety of methodologies are available but if the idea of so many choices overwhelms you, one exercise of self love can be found in a very simple idea: playing.
Researchers have found that play is not just crucial for children. It is just as vital and important for adults. In his book, Play, psychiatrist Stuart Brown, MD, argues that not only does play bring joy, it also stimulates problem solving, creativity, and relationships. He found that couples that play together were able to rekindle their relationships and explore other forms of emotional intimacy.
So how does one play?
As an adult, it seems hard to figure out something so simple. But it is simple. As Brown defines it, play is simply a state of being that is “purposeless, fun, and pleasurable.” There is no end goal. It is the experience itself we want to enjoy.
Play can be interacting with your pets, reading with your partner, or playing with kids and engaging in play through their perspective. Find what excites you and explore the idea together with your partner. You will be de-stressing, self-loving, and strengthening your relationship all in one joyful activity.
Hormonal change can be a hard transition. But it doesn’t have to be something experienced alone. Better understanding the changes your body is going through will allow you to better communicate to your partner what your needs are. And together, you can face this new stage of life armed with knowledge and love.
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