Conquering the increasingly crappy moods from menopause isn’t easy. There are days when I think “if I could just beat the living c&*p outta someone, I’d feel much better”. A few years ago, I never felt that way….really! I wasn’t a walking land mine like I sometimes feel today. So what’s up with that?! Along with menopause comes the irritability (and the anxiety associated with it) for many of us women, so I found a few things that we can do about it.
There’s not a lot of research on the association between menopause and increased irritability. Can you believe that?! You’d think male researchers would be all over this one. It would be in the ‘self-preservation’ category but whatever…We really don’t need formal research to know that menopause can lead to increased feelings of stress and tension.
There are two things to consider:
1) Menopause directly causes irritability via a change in the body’s hormonal environment, thus directly impacting the chemicals in the brain that influence mood, and
2) Menopause indirectly causes increased irritability because of its bothersome symptoms like night sweats that lead to insomnia, and/or the simple knowledge that a woman is no longer fertile can put her disposition ill at ease, as she views menopause as the gateway to “getting old.”
Who wouldn’t be irritable over the concept of being in menopause?
Menopause is a milestone in a woman’s life. It comes replete with negative associations. Increased angst can result from what a woman anticipates will happen to her as a result of this natural change, such as thinning hair, weight gain, and if that ain’t enough, loss of libido too.
So far, no research shows a direct link between the hormones associated with menopause and a greater propensity for irritability. This is actually good news in a way, because it points to an origin that relates to outlook, perspective and personal management of this milestone—all modifiable factors.
When I started to notice getting my grumpiness on more often than usual, I went to my doctor for advice on hormone replacement therapy (HRT). I told him I’ve witnessed women completely losing it at work – yelling at people and throwing tantrums. I didn’t want to be that women! He gave me some great advice I’ll never forget.
“You don’t need drugs for this. Just don’t be THAT woman and get mental control over your emotions. You have a choice!”
At first I thought “You’re joking, right!?” but after giving it some thought, he’s right. I can take other actions besides letting it all fly out my mouth because I feel like it. When I feel like losing it, I just acknowledge how I feel and give myself the OK that I feel angry. However, I replace my reaction to anger with another action like going for a walk, punching my bed (yes, I’ve done that), or meditating. At first these activities didn’t give me the same sense of relief as ‘losing it’ but its way better on my coworkers, friends, and family. I just give my husband and warning that I’m struggling with my mood so he gives me some space and the rest of my mental health falls into place, along with a glass of wine of course.
Menopause May Not Be Causing the Irritability
Suppose us women or our family notices that we’ve been rather grouchy lately. We must ask ourselves first if there’s been any event that surfaced at around the time we began menopause or sometime not long after, that could be responsible for our edginess. The timeline of menopause and the stressful situation could just be a coincidence so let’s not fall into the trap of blaming all grrrr moments on menopause.
An example might be a new jerk-boss at work, or the failing health of an elderly parent. These events will cause anxiety for anyone – not just use older girls.
The irritability that seemingly stems from menopause may be transient and episodic, or more of an ongoing nature. It’s intermittent or episodic if it relates to hot flashes, migraines or other transient symptoms. But if it’s ongoing, it more likely relates to the woman’s overall approach to menopause—that it means “It’s all downhill from here,” or, “I’ll no longer be the hottie to my husband.”
Weight gain can also cause a persistent irritability (heck, that can be annoying at any age), since a woman suddenly finds she’s gaining body fat yet not eating more.
The irritability is not necessarily the same as the so-called mood swings. A woman can have a very stable mood with some bouts of easy irritability sprinkled in over trite matters.
Solutions to Menopausal Irritability
- Take inventory and find out what really could be causing the edginess. Have there been adverse changes in the workplace? Are you still broiling over being passed up for a promotion or the scathing comment your sister-in-law said to you at a family gathering that she never apologized for? Make sure you’re not blaming things on menopause to get off the hook or avoid responsibility. Don’t take the approach of, “You’ll just have to excuse my attitude these days; I’m going through the change.”
- See if a new medication might be producing irritability as a side effect.
- Make sure you’re making healthful behavioral changes to combat the physical fallout of menopause. This includes avoiding triggers for hot flashes; sticking to a clean diet; avoiding smoking; and doing strength training and cardio exercise.
- Take a magnesium citrate supplement. Low levels of magnesium can adversely affect mood.
- Take up a new hobby that has a youthful component to it. A hiking group for some women will rejuvenate them far more than will joining a bridge club.
- Make sure you’re getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night. If you’re getting by on six or five…something’s not right. What are you doing too much of that you can par back on (such as work hours) and replace with a little more sleep? You may think you’re doing just fine on low levels of sleep, but this alone could account for irritability, even if you’ve been shorted on sleep for years. Maybe it’s finally catching up to you. I use Natrol Melatonin and Estroven – love that shit. These products are drug free and really help with symptom. I have more info on my product review page.
- To many women, menopause signals the end of youth. What can you do to reverse the hands of time? Going blonde or a daring tattoo may give you a temporary rush, but nothing reverses the hands of time like a power-lifting regimen. A woman who feels she’s “getting old” because “all my eggs are dried up” won’t quite feel this way once she begins strength training and seeing the marvelous results.
The general consensus is that the irritability associated with menopause is mostly secondary to it (its symptoms and a woman’s perception of “the change”) rather than directly from declining levels of hormones. Follow the guidelines here for combating any negative fallout from this natural bodily transition.
Good luck and let me know how it goes for you!
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