One minute you feel like screaming; the next minute you almost burst into tears. For years, mood swings have made menopausal women the butt of jokes thanks to the myths that refuse to die. Women were either dismissed as crazy or treated as weaklings looking to justify their actions by blaming menopause. The bad news is that mood swings are inevitable during menopause and peri-menopause; the good news is that you can get through these times.
Mood swings and menopause
While the above example generally comes to mind talking about mood swings, things do not always have to be so drastic. Your moods may very well change in what feels like just a few moments. Or you may notice that you react to situations and feel as though you are no longer in control of your own body. You might also wonder why you are reacting in a way that does not seem normal for the given situation.
During peri-menopause and menopause the ever-fluctuating hormones disrupt your body’s natural balance. Throw in more unpredictable periods and you have even more emotional instability. You might be looking forward to the annual family get-together but find once there you feel irritated and would rather be anywhere else. These feelings are perfectly normal but for years society has dictated that being emotional is a sign of weakness and women (as well as men) should be ashamed if they do not project a strong image of themselves to the rest of the world.
In addition to the hormones some women will find that there is the “North American” factor; the obsession with youth. Going through menopause has been seen as a time when life is ending as women’s’ bodies go through different changes. Whether you have thinning hair, weight gain, skin changes, or are facing the end of your reproductive years you might feel attacked not only from the inside but the outside as well.
Recognizing mood swings
Just like the above example of feeling irritated at an event you were looking forward to, your feelings might not seem to match the situation. You might feel weepy for “no apparent reason” or notice that your partner’s clothes on the floor make you want to scream. Maybe your teenaged kids seem to be putting greater demands on your time, just when you are exhausted from lack of sleep.
If you are normally a Type-A personality who tends to react to almost every situation, you might notice that your stress levels are higher than ever. But even a more laid-back Type-B personality might wonder why they are upset over traffic when they usually were not in the past. You feel as though your body is acting on its own volition, and you have little or no control over it.
Control what you can, accept what you cannot
One thing about feelings is that they will happen, good and bad, and it is futile to think you can simply stop a feeling. A feeling exists in and of itself and you cannot control it from popping up. What you can control are your thoughts and reactions to the feeling. We cannot control our feelings but we can control whether or not they will overwhelm us.
Suppose you feel like everything is closing in on you and your patience is about to give. Feeling anxious, angry, or unhappy are perfectly normal feelings. The difference in the outcome is whether or not you give into those feelings and let them chart your day or whether you work through those feelings.
Acknowledge the feeling rather than ignore it and hope it will go away; this gives you a chance to understand what is happening right now and how you feel about it. Next, give yourself permission to feel the feeling and accept it.
It is ok to feel angry when everything seems out of control. Finally, look for ways to deal with the feeling by stopping your thought patterns from feeding on the energy of the feeling and in turn creating more feelings.
Talking to a friend, going for a run, doing some yoga, or reading a book seem almost too simple but these are all effective ways to help you deal with mood swings. As well, these methods are much safer than reaching for that cigarette, drink or tranquilizer. If you feel that your feelings are just too much to deal with on your own, talk to your doctor to rule out depression or more serious health issues.
Mood swings eventually lessen in their severity once the menopausal phase is complete, giving you hope that there is an end to these menopausal symptoms. But in the meantime, mood swings can be confusing and frightening. You can take comfort in knowing that once you understand that mood swings are normal and not a sign of ‘crazy women during the change’ you are in a better position to deal with erratic feelings. Feelings will be with you during menopause and peri-menopause, but you can prevent them from taking over your life.
Menopause, Your Doctor, and You