You’ve been waiting in line for 15 minutes when someone decides to simply cut in ahead of you. Do you seethe silently with your insides churning away? Or do you lash out at the culprit with full hormonal fury? Is there truth to the joke about being menopausal? Are we at the mercy of our emotions?
Anger is a part of our lives. Each one of us has a unique way of dealing with those moments of frustration. Normally we have our emotions under control; we deal with our anger and hopefully move on. But during menopause, you might notice that your tolerance quota is tested more often than usual. How much can we blame on our hormones without resorting to the ‘crazy woman going through the change’ stereotype?
What happens during anger?
Let’s use the line-jumper example because in the greater life picture an act such as this is not a major event. But when someone does something that we perceive is ‘wrong’ (and line jumping really is not a polite thing to do) we begin to react. Our subconscious mind is triggered to react; we find ourselves getting angry.
At the same time our conscious mind is replaying a quick scenario of why the line jumper is ‘wrong’ and we are justified to be annoyed. Our emotions in turn trigger a physical response. But what is really bothering us about the line jumper? Is it the fact that we will be inconvenienced by a couple of minutes or is it that we see line jumping as an inconsiderate act that displays selfishness towards others?
Adrenaline and anger
Our bodies will respond as our bodies increase production of adrenaline. Adrenaline is what gives us the human instinct to either flee an unpleasant situation (run away from a snarling dog) or dig in our heels for a fight (confronting the line jumper). All of this happens so quickly that we do not always recognize what is happening but we know that our pulse is racing and our body temperature increasing.
Over time, too much anger puts so much strain on our adrenal glands that we end up with adrenal exhaustion. Adrenal exhaustion depletes our immune systems making us more susceptible to a variety of health issues from colds to heart attacks.
Anger and menopause
As hormonal levels run amok during menopause, anger might occur with greater frequency, greater intensity or both. You might find that your patience level is much lower and many seemingly unimportant issues get on your nerves compared to in the past.
Ever screamed about the injustices of burnt toast, idiot bosses, jammed photocopiers, or sloppy husbands? What about the fleeting but all too real moments when you feel so angry at a slow traffic light or a kid who forgot to take out the meat for dinner that you feel everything is working against you?
Anger affects us all
The problem with failing to find a way to really deal with anger is that our actions affect others. We might hold our tongues while fuming in the line up but yell at our partner for failing to pick up their socks. We know we are not handling things well, but our bodies are already past the point of no return.
We find ourselves in a conflict of wanting to blame everything on menopause but not wanting to use menopause as a defense mechanism to explain away our behaviour.
Simplifying things a little, some of us will put on a brave face and say everything is ok while inside our bodies are racing a mile a minute. Others will blow off steam by yelling in an attempt to get it out of our systems.
Either way, anger is getting the better of us because ultimately we are the ones suffering from our reactions. Even if we are seemingly justified at wanting to throttle the line jumper, the person suffering the most is not the perpetrator who is oblivious to their action, but ourselves.
Menopause and the new anger
We may notice that we are not feeling like our usual selves. Perhaps we are reacting far more than we usually do to trivial matters even if they do not feel trivial at the moment. By recognizing that we are in the middle of physical and emotional changes during the hormonal transition, we can take the first step to deal with our reactions to different events.
Overcoming our anger and ourselves does not mean we have to pretend we are not hurt or let others get away with their actions. But we can look for better ways to manage our reactions and find ways to cope with our emotional health that will benefit us – and prevent us from hitting the offending line jumper with our handbags!
Menopause, Your Doctor, and You