A Midlife state of Mind
The changes that come with menopause can be subtle or they can come like a sledgehammer. Hot flashes, night sweats- they're the obvious ones. At least when it's a sledgehammer, there's no doubt about what's going on. Most women themselves and any reasonable medical practitioner can figure it out. But what about some of the more subtle mental and emotional changes that can happen? Many women and many non-gynecologists may not be as familiar with these changes, much less know what to do about them.
What are they?
This is that state of forgetfulness that we laugh about when we see it on TV. Oh, she left her coffee cup on the roof of her car, she went into the kitchen, and left the bathtub to overflow, she can't find the word for "exaggerate." Brain fog is real. And for women who are used to juggling ten balls in the air at one time, it can be quite disconcerting! It can often overlap with some other menopause symptoms. For instance, if you are having night sweats that disrupt your sleep, your brain is not getting the replenishment it needs, you may develop daytime fatigue, and so you don't think as clearly, and can become forgetful. But even in women who sleep well, brain fog can still occur. The good news- it does get better. There are some supplements that can help. Keeping lists, reminders, and digital alarms are all helpful life hacks that can help. Treating night sweats so you sleep better is also a good idea.
Anxiety and Depression:
These may present themselves at the same time that career burnout is brewing, or relationship issues are coming to a head. If you have elderly parents, and/or kids who are teenagers or young adults, you may also be mentally exhausted. You may blame your situation for how you feel, or worse, blame yourself for not dealing with the circumstances better. Maybe your temper is a little shorter, and you snap more easily. Or maybe you cry more easily. It's very easy to tell ourselves we just need to learn better coping skills. Well, your brain in midlife is on fire; neurotransmitters are up and down. If you remember being a teenager, and having PMS, welcome to menopause. Menopause is PMS on steroids. And if you ever had postpartum depression, then you are much more at risk to develop depression in menopause. New onset anxiety is also very common in perimenopause. But you are not crazy! Therapy or coaching, exercise, and mindfulness meditation can definitely help calm your mind and help you with the coping you desire, but it may not be enough. Sometimes medication is in order, especially if you ever took medication for depression or anxiety in the past.
It may not be related to menopause per se, but when women reach midlife, they commonly have a mental attitude shift. Questions may come up like, "Is this all I am meant to be?" Or "What is my true purpose in life?" Our kids are growing up, we have been at our careers for a while, and we are comfortable in life. But we may have a new medical condition or a family crisis that pushes us over the edge. It's no coincidence that between 45 and 60 years old, there is often a "come to Jesus" moment. Midlife brings on a change-both in our physiology and also in our thinking. It seems as though we reach a point where we don't want to put up with any more bullshit. We learn to say "NO" and prioritize ourselves. We seek out our true passion, and strive for fulfillment. Sometimes this involves a total pivot. But we are also more courageous, more confident, and less afraid to put ourselves out there.
Midlife brings many changes. Don't let them get you down. As you transition through it, get educated, and find a medical provider to help you with the hard parts. As for your midlife attitude, embrace your new-found confidence, and move forward courageously on your journey to find the joy and fulfillment you deserve!
"People may call what happens at midlife 'a crisis'. But it's not. It's an unraveling - a time when you feel a desperate pull to live the life you want to live, not the one you're supposed to live. The unraveling is a time when you are challenged by the universe to let go of who you think you are supposed to be and to embrace who you are."
~ Brene Brown