5 Ways Changing Your Thoughts Can Help You Manage Menopausal Symptoms
When we think of menopause, we often think of it as a sudden stop point and menopause itself is defined as the time in a woman’s life where she has not had a menstrual period for twelve months or longer. However, the lead up to menopause tends to last for several years and some women experience menopausal symptoms for some time post-menopausally. All of this means that a significant part of a woman’s life may be spent during the menopausal transition.
Perimenopause is the lead up to menopause and often starts for women during their early to mid-forties. During this time, the hormones which are closely tied to reproduction, estrogen and progesterone, begin to decline. The reduction in these hormones is tied to symptoms including:
Aches and pains
As if that’s not enough, women don’t just experience a steady, gradual decline. Instead, there’s often a period of wildly fluctuating hormones and it can be difficult to know what one day is going to feel like compared to the next. Added to the physical changes which women are going through, many women face huge responsibilities at this time in terms of career and family responsibilities.
Menopause, then, can be a tough time for many women. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is designed to replace the female hormones which are reducing. Whilst many women find HRT highly effective, some women cannot take HRT for medical reasons and some choose not to, often because of the potential risks and side effects of doing so.
When looking for alternative treatment options, therapy might not automatically come to mind. After all, this is a physical condition, right? In fact, therapy has been shown to help women with menopausal symptoms and to improve their mood generally.
Whilst we often think of the mind and body as being separate, in fact what we think impacts our body all the time. For instance, when we’re anxious, we might notice our heart beating faster or a feeling of heat in our chest and face. We know that a woman’s experience of menopause is influenced by her previous emotional and physical health, social situation, experience of stressful life events and her beliefs about the menopause(1). Whether a woman views menopause in a positive or negative way is influenced by her personal, family and sociocultural background and, in turn, influences how she experiences the menopausal transition(2).
We know, therefore, that there is a clear link between how a woman views menopause and her life, cultural and social experiences; how we think and view menopause and ourselves influences how we experience it. This opens up a real need for treatment options which can help identify the impact of our thoughts and attitudes and which can help women adopt more helpful thoughts and attitudes. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) helps us to identify the link between our thoughts, emotions and behaviours and has been shown to help women manage hot flushes, depression, sleep disturbances and sexual concerns(3). Hypnotherapy has been shown to reduce hot flushes by up to 74% in addition to helping with overall health and wellbeing(4). HypnoMenopause® combines both CBT and hypnotherapy, alongside mindfulness and NLP, and has been designed specifically to help women during menopause.
In addition to seeking out therapeutic support, you can help yourself by taking the following steps:
1) Notice your thoughts
Recognising that your thoughts are impacting your experience of menopause doesn’t take away from the fact that your menopausal experience may be very difficult for you. But it does give you back some control. What are you thinking during a hot flash/ fatigued moment/ sexual experience which might just be making things worse? For instance, are you getting frustrated at yourself when you’re having a flash, or worried that people are noticing, and this is actually creating more anxiety and heat in your body?
2) Challenge your thoughts
As humans, we all have some irrational thoughts which might go back to how we were raised or cultural ideas we have internalized. If you’ve identified a thought process which isn’t helpful, now’s the time to challenge it. How true is it? For instance, is everyone really judging you negatively for having a hot flash, or is it possible that most people aren’t even paying you any attention?
3) Create positive behavioural changes
Menopause is a time of change and doing everything the same way you always have isn’t necessarily going to meet your changing needs. Now’s a great time to start prioritizing your needs and looking after yourself. This might mean saying no more often, taking more time for yourself, pursuing a new interest or even cutting your hours at work.
4) Access support
In addition to therapeutic support, if needed, you may find it helpful to connect with other women who are going through similar experiences. Although things like vasomotor symptoms (hot flushes and night sweats) are well understood, many women are not as aware of the extreme fatigue, general feeling of unwellness and changes in mood which are a feature of menopause for so many. Connecting with other women who are going through the same experiences can help you cope in a more positive manner at this time.
5) See it as a time of potential
It might be hard when you haven’t slept, are sitting sweating in a meeting and wondering where the spring in your step has gone to view menopause as a positive time, but despite the difficulties many women face, many also manage to see this as a positive phase in their life. So many women embark on new careers or adopt new creative outlets. Realising that life isn’t finite can be a useful trigger to making the most of life. As our hormones change, so do our priorities and making yourself your priority might just open you up to a whole new world.
Hunter MS (1993) Predictors of menopausal symptoms: psychosocial aspects. Baillieres Clin Endocrinol Metab.7(1):33-45. doi: 10.1016/s0950-351x(05)80269-1. PMID: 8435056.
Hoga L, Rodolpho J, Gonçalves B, Quirino B (2015) Women's experience of menopause: a systematic review of qualitative evidence. JBI Database System Rev Implement Rep. 13(8):250-337. doi: 10.11124/jbisrir-2015-1948. PMID: 26455946.
Green SM, Donegan E, Frey BN (2019) Cognitive behavior therapy for menopausal symptoms (CBT-Meno): a randomized controlled trial. Menopause. 26(9):972-980. doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000001363. PMID: 31453958.
Elkins, G, Fisher, WI, Johnson, AK et al (2012) Clinical hypnosis in the treatment of postmenopausal hot flashes. Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause