Perimenopause can be difficult at times. Your body is changing and you’re experiencing a range of symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings and weight gain. While hormonal changes may result in an increased level of stress, you can still find ways to manage your stress with healthy solutions.
Perimenopause and stress
During perimenopause, your hormone production decreases. Specifically, your estrogen production decreases which directly impacts the level of cortisol in your body. Estrogen helps regulate your cortisol production. Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, is your body’s indicator to prepare for a stressful situation. With a decrease in estrogen, your cortisol levels increase and your body is more frequently in a stressed state.
How else does perimenopause influence stress levels
Stress is a common reaction to certain perimenopause symptoms. Due to hot flashes and hormonal changes, perimenopausal women may have disrupted sleep. A lack of sleep increases feelings of fatigue which in return results in feelings of stress. While it has been proven to have positive benefits when felt in small amounts, stress is damaging to your health when it becomes chronic. When your body is under continuous and large amounts of stress, your immune system is weakened.
Not only does stress impact your health, but your relationships, work performance and general quality of life may also take a hit. According to Mayo Clinic, common effects of stress on your behavior include angry outbursts, social withdrawal, exercising less often and changes in sex drive.
I feel stressed – what should I do?
Start by recognizing when you’re experiencing stress or identifying situations that increase your stress levels. When you feel stressed or encounter a stressful situation, the North American Menopause Society suggests trying one of the following activities:
- Exercise. Whatever movement you enjoy, give it a try! A gentle walk, a pilates class or a dance party – try to get some movement in your body.
- Talk. Find a trusted person in your life to talk through your stress with – reflecting on the stressors in your life with someone can help relieve some of it. This could be with a friend over the phone or a therapist you seek out. You can also try journaling to work through your stress.
- Eat well. The occasional indulgence of your favorite treat is a great way to make an ordinary day exciting, but overindulgence can ruin that little celebration. Overindulgence may feel good at the moment but your long-term health will thank you for creating a balance.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine elevates your cortisol levels and while alcohol may make you feel drowsy, it has been proven to interrupt proper sleep cycles. If you’re craving a drink besides water, try an herbal tea to soothe yourself.
- Sleep. While every adult needs different levels of sleep to function properly during waking hours, the typical range is between six and nine hours per night. Determine what is your requirement and make it a priority to get that every night.
- Pamper. Treat yourself to some pampering – however that looks for you! Curl up with a book, get your paint brushes out or head out to get a massage. Give yourself permission to participate in an activity purely for enjoyment.
The transition through perimenopause comes with many changes to your body and life but that doesn’t have to be negative. Becoming aware of your stress and the role it plays in your perimenopause transition can equip you to better combat it.