Riding the Mood Roller Coaster

By on May 4, 2011

By Kimberley Jace –

Are you alternately exhausted and energetic; delighted and depressed; hopeful and desperate? Do other people say you seem “a little crazy” these days?

Mood swings can be one of the most problematic of Menopause-related problems because they affect other people. We expect our families to remember that we love them, even when we’re out of sorts—but alternate bouts of laughter and tears can put a strain on any relationship. Your friends and coworkers might take your rapid shifts in moods even more seriously. Women have lost jobs by losing control of their reactions to everyday situations.

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Why am I ‘swinging’?

Your roller coaster of emotions is not your fault. The changing sex hormone levels of Menopause can also disturb the delicate balance of other hormones, such as serotonin, a mood-regulator. When serotonin is out of whack in your body, your mind doesn’t know how to react.

If these mood swings sound familiar, it’s because they’re very similar to the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. One of my young family members described my Menopause as “PMS that never went away.” That’s what it felt like, too. If mood swings look “a little crazy” on the outside, they feel MORE THAN a little crazy on the inside.

What do these moods mean?

There are a few important things to remember about menopausal mood swings:

1) They don’t mean you’re crazy and

2) They eventually subside.

Mood swings seem to be at their worst during the few years when estrogen levels are irregular. Once those levels drop and stay dropped, your body learns to cope and your happy, relatively stable mood returns.

Important Point #3 is, not all mood swings are caused by hormones, even if they happen during Menopause. You might have an underlying problem with depression or anxiety. You might be bipolar.

Don’t let anyone dismiss your moodiness as “just hormones” if you find your moods interfering with your ability to enjoy your life. Talk to a medical professional who can help you sort out how much of your problem might be hormonal and how much might be related to another cause.

How can I feel normal again?

While there are few actual “remedies” for the mood swings of Menopause, these symptoms seem to respond to the same self-care techniques that effectively treat PM.:

Limit white sugar. When your blood sugar is riding the waves, it’s easy for your moods to follow. Menopause might make you especially sensitive to refined carbs (and sugar was never doing your body any good anyway—even before menopause).

Get enough rest and exercise. Nothing will do more to make you feel like a normal, happy human being than a good night’s sleep and moderate daily exercise. Walking or swimming are ideal; both exercises provide a gentle boost to serotonin, release stress, and help you sleep more deeply.

Get some nutrients. Most women don’t get enough B vitamins or calcium/magnesium. If you’re not eating lots of fresh, raw veggies and drinking lots of skim milk, consider supplementing those important nutrients. You might feel a difference quickly—even immediately.

Find a spiritual touchstone. Whether it’s 15 minutes of daily yoga or 30 minutes of listening to guided meditation over headphones, do something every day that reminds you of the Bigger Picture. Join a church, if that appeals to you. Watch some of the Esther Hicks/Abraham videos on youtube. Find a series of thoughts about the meaning of life that will help anchor you.

Drink more water. The hormones that regulate your body’s water balance might be out of alignment or in flux, just like all the other hormones—and dehydration can cause moods of depression and anxiety. Carry bottled water with you. Buy a home water filter. Make it a habit to sip ice water during the day.

Talk to someone. A good friend of the same age who is going through the same thing is ideal, but if you’d rather keep your distress out of your friendships, talk to a professional therapist. The act of explaining how we feel automatically makes us feel more in control, and it’s a good idea to have someone else monitoring you in case you show signs that your many moods are really a more serious problem.

 If your mood swings are unmanageable, talk to a naturopathic doctor or your family doctor about hormone replacement therapy. Sometimes a short course of hormones will help swing your body back into balance, and your moods will follow.

Kimberley Jace is the editorial director at http://www.altmeds.com/.

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Riding the Mood Roller Coaster