More than the night sweats and hot flashes, what really changed for me at menopause was my emotional landscape. I wasn't sure what the cause was, but I became hyper-sensitive. I cried easily at movies, couldn't stand to watch car crashes or bloody violence on the TV screen, I would flinch or jump at loud noises, and was generally more anxious than I remember being, especially while driving.
I would never have related this to hormone imbalance or menopause, if I hadn't read the following on the http://www.womentowomen.com website.
Here's an excerpt of the useful information I found there:
"Let’s start by looking at the root cause of anxiety — the destructive effect of stress on hormone balance.
It now seems the norm for women to be “maxed out” in all directions. Most of us work, and the workplace has gotten more demanding. Most of us raise children and help care for aging parents. We often have relationship issues that create stress too. And we are conditioned to put ourselves in last place on the list of priorities.
The type of stress is just as important as the amount. So much of the stress we experience is constant — it never goes away. The human body simply isn’t designed for constant stress. When that occurs, our ability to cope with stress can be overwhelmed. If you inventory the stress in your life you may realize that much of it is unremitting. This can give rise to a serious condition known as adrenal fatigue. It is also a cause of chronic anxiety that is often diagnosed as an anxiety disorder.
The estrogen dominance common to perimenopause probably adds to this “anxiety response.” In a normal menstrual cycle, estrogen dominates at the beginning of the cycle, and progesterone rises in the second half. The progesterone has a calming, relaxing effect. But in perimenopause we have more cycles in which we don’t ovulate, so the progesterone level stays low. (Also see our article on irregular periods.) For some women, anxiety attacks are their major symptom of perimenopause."
Add to all this the bad habits we have of jumpstarting our bodies with caffeine and eating poorly when stressed, and you have the recipe for higher levels of anxiety." www.womentowomen.org
I know many women in the same boat, with aging parents and teen-agers, full-time or part-time jobs, or sick family members that need care-taking, and very little time to care for themselves, let alone eat a healthy meal and get to bed early every night. So if you are one of those women burning the candle at both ends, don't be surprised if you feel a little raw or as if your nerves are exposed. Susun Weed, in her book The Menopausal years The Wise Woman Way says this can also come about due to our own neglect of listening in.
"You may think your feelings are out of proportion, too sharp, quite irrational, possibly insane. But, I assure you, they are only raw from neglect. Receive them without judgment, nourish them, and your 'uncontrollable' feelings during the menopausal years will lead you to the deepest heart of your own secrets.
If you cannot tolerate those about you, leave. Go to the sheltering space of your cave. Claim your Crone's Year Away." www.susunweed.com
Here's something you can do to feel better: write about your feelings in your journal, get in touch with your buried feelings (anger, grief, loss); Sing the blues or dance it out with some salsa music. Get more sunshine - not too hard in spring and summer. Move your body out into nature and take a long, healing walk. Get a massage - you'll be surprised what emotions well up sometimes while you are lying on a massage table. If tears come, let them. Find a homeopath to help you find a remedy. There are several remedies for emotional upset, overwhelm, feelings of depression or wanting to be left alone. Homeopathy was the only remedy I needed in menopause. It's inexpensive and has no side effects.
Finally, get thyself away on a retreat! - you may not be able to take a year off from your life, but you can certainly take one or two days. Find a woman's retreat by googling it, or look in your local health food store or yoga centre. I hold women's retreats once a season, so check this blog for announcements.
A new website coming in the fall, with my book, The Tao of Turning Fifty, and updates on courses and retreats.
Take good care of you!!