Medically reviewed by Dr. Louann Brizendine MD`
The holiday season is upon us. And as with so many things that wind up “upon us,” it can feel a bit unbelievably oppressive. Especially when your unpredictable hormone levels are messing with your moods. A lot of women experience increased or newfound anxiety, irritability, depression, or tearfulness during menopause. Pile on amped-up social schedules, financial stress, and the always interesting Family Dynamics, and it’s no wonder some women our age feel like a powder keg ready to blow this time of year.
The good news: there are many ways to even out this emotional rollercoaster, ranging from herbal supplements to prescription meds to psychotherapy. So if you haven’t already talked to one of our doctors about your meno mood issues, by all means, do it now! You do not have to grin and bear this.
In the meantime, there are some lifestyle tweaks you can start making on your own, today, to get ahead of the holiday ho-hums, boo-hoos, or oh-damns.
1. Put Yourself First
Carve out time just for you every day—even if it’s only five minutes. You know how flight attendants tell you to put on your own air mask before helping others? Same concept. When you make your own health and wellbeing a priority, everybody wins (especially you).
2. Eat Happy Food
Processed foods and sugar are linked to depression. Try shopping just the perimeter of your grocery store. This is where you’ll find the feel-good foods: protein (lean meats, dairy), produce (fruits and veggies) and healthy fats (nuts, avocados, fatty fish, tofu).
3. Move More
Exercise is an antidepressant. Sometimes all it takes to lift your mood is raising your heart rate for 30 minutes 3-5x/week. And you can work it into stuff you already do. Lunge to lunch. Get off the bus a few stops earlier. Take your dog for longer but faster walks.
4. Sex It Up
While moods can dampen your libido, a satisfying (and well-lubricated) roll in the hay can go a long way toward perking you back up. When done with gusto, it’s a great form of exercise. And the hormones it releases in your brain can create feelings of pleasure, happiness, and relaxation.
5. Get Outside
Ever heard of forest bathing? Google it. Getting out into nature may improve your mental health. And no, you don’t have to be naked to get the full effect. But don’t let us stop you.
Insomnia more than doubles the risk of depression and can wreak havoc on your moods. Some solutions: Exercise daily. Ditch caffeine after noon and booze after dinner. Turn off any screens a few hours before bedtime. Also, check out this article about How to Fall Asleep in 120 Seconds.
7. Tune In
There’s evidence that Meditation and mindfulness, yoga, prayer, and tai chi can improve mood. You don’t even have to commit to regular classes. There are numerous apps for that. If you want a recommendation, let us know.
8. Brighten Up
When was the last time you were grumpy at the beach? Never. That’s because sunlight acts as an antidepressant. This time of year the sun is in short supply, but you can supplement it with light box therapy. The Mayo Clinic has helpful info on what kind of light box to consider.
While your moods may make you want to hole up until spring, isolating yourself will only make them worse. And this is where the holidays can be your friend. Accept some of those invites. Spend time with people you care about, feed off their energy, and get out of your own head.
Okay, that’s a lot. But you don’t have to do all of them to start feeling the effects. And even if you don’t make any of the above tweaks, plan a nice reward for yourself in January, just for making it through. Fantasizing about a spa day with friends, a long weekend with your partner, or a vacation just for you is a great way to escape the hormonal holiday blues.