As if the physical transitions and interesting new colonies of hair weren’t enough, midlife also invokes a buffet of emotional changes to round it all out. Here's how to manage them.

Hormones mess with us from the time we hit puberty until we finally reach our post-menopausal years.  And then the lack of hormones wreak havoc in other ways. We are the long-suffering females! No wonder we’re so strong, capable and gorgeous.

Ok midlife, what do you have in store?

Emotional changes during menopause can vary from woman to woman, so if you don’t recognize yourself in any of the following, feel free to do a happy dance and stop reading this article. Or, keep reading if you want to see how the rest of us are faring. 

Often, conditions such as depression and anxiety are hard-wired. If these issues have been a part of your life prior to menopause, you may experience them during menopause, but maybe not. The fact is, different research studies have shown differing results; some have shown a correlation between depression, anxiety and the midlife transition, while others have shown opposite results, with improvement of depressive symptoms during midlife. So no simple, formulaic answers. How’s that for ambiguous?

For some women, depression and anxiety can start anew during menopause. For those who experience newly developed emotional health concerns, it may be a result of hormonal changes, and adaptation to the physical, social and lifestyle changes that come with midlife. These changes can impact each of us differently, and for some it can be an experience that induces severe depression or anxiety. The loss of energy that can stem from hormonal changes and lifestyle shifts can also be distressing. It is easier to gain weight, experience sleep deprivation and fatigue, all of which can contribute to depressive symptoms. 

Managing the Emotional Transition

As we face midlife and the feelings that arise from this adjustment, we can honor ourselves by being intentional with our self-care. We must pay attention to our internal experiences and offer ourselves the kind of care we would extend to a friend. 

  • Keep a journal. Writing down your daily thoughts and feelings is a great way to look at your patterns over time. The act of writing also helps to untangle complex feelings that may arise for you during midlife and reduce stress in the process.
  • Join a community. Midlife transitions are universal for women, and if you are struggling with the emotions regarding transition, you probably know 14 more women who are experiencing the same challenges and dozens more you’ve probably never met in your community. Reach out and join the conversation. The Caria Community is a safe space to connect with and learn from the experiences of other women. Bring tissues, fans and chocolate.
  • Resist the urge to stifle. Our culture indoctrinates us to “keep a stiff upper lip” (which is a strange image that doesn’t entirely make sense). Trying to stifle our feelings is an exercise in futility. Whoever said we had to be stoic about our emotions was so full of it. Even if being open about emotions goes against your natural tendencies, try to loosen your grip on the controls and let yourself just feel. Emotions can be released as physical symptoms; this is known as somatization. Somatic symptoms are quite common for most people (nervous stomach before a medical procedure or test; feeling dizzy or heart racing when anxious) but these symptoms can become difficult to manage if left unattended.
  • Treat yourself like you matter. Attend to your sleep, food and exercise patterns. Treat these three factors of your life as if they are sacred parts of your day. Make time for each of these acts of self-care and if there is a lack of balance between these aspects of your life, create time to re-establish that balance. No one else can do it for you. We sometimes underestimate the impact of sleep, eating patterns and exercise on our mental health, but they make a big difference in emotional regulation. The Caria app gives you daily goals to stick to and helps you stay on track with all the healthy habits you should have during menopause. 

Regardless of where you are in your menopause journey, make it a point to keep tabs on your emotional wellness. There is no need to sit in silence with your feelings, talk to friends, family and health providers to help ease the adjustment.

Written by:
Paula C.
Paula is a psychotherapist and freelance writer. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends, and especially her “tweenager” who recently taught her how to “floss” (no, not the teeth cleaning kind) (she may have sprained her hip, send help). At age 46, she doesn’t look a day over 59. When she’s not working and spending time with loved ones, Paula enjoys kayaking and playing around with paint and canvases and other creative endeavors.