If you’re riding an emotional roller coaster these days, you’re not alone. As if hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and fatigue aren’t bad enough, many women may also experience irritability, anxiety, or feelings of sadness as they transition into menopause. And, a recent study shows that increased anxiety can continue even after menopause, negatively affecting a woman’s quality of life for years.
Fortunately, Mental Health Month is the perfect time to discuss strategies that can help manage anxiety and mood swings associated with menopause. Simple lifestyle shifts can ease symptoms of anxiety and depression, and improve your daily life. If you’re feeling increasingly depressed and unable to cope, however, talk to your doctor, who can recommend antidepressants and/or therapy for more help if needed.
For general anxiety and mild mood swings, start incorporating these everyday habits into your life to stay calm and balanced:
- Add healthy fats. Using food as medicine will give you the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to managing your emotions. Kelly Brogan, M.D., author of the New York Times bestseller A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives, recommends healthy fats like coconut oil and grass-fed beef to help balance hormones. “A nourishing diet is the best strategy against depression,” Dr. Brogan says in her book.
- Supplement B vitamins and magnesium. If your diet is deficient in good sources of the B vitamins, including liver, meat, turkey, molasses, and nutritional yeast, consider supplementing. Research shows that a B12 deficiency is linked with anxiety and related psychiatric symptoms. Magnesium helps calm the nervous system and support thyroid function- an under-active thyroid is linked with depression.
- Stay away from sugar and processed foods. Processed foods and sugar can cause inflammation in the body, and studies show that patients with mood disorders have increased blood inflammatory biomarkers. Eliminating these foods from your diet can directly impact your mood and wellness.
- Probiotics for prevention. We now know that depression starts in the gut, where our cells activate inflammatory messages to the brain. Studies show that beneficial bacteria can reduce anxiety and depression by reducing inflammation, so incorporate probiotics into your diet through fermented foods or take a daily supplement.
- Get moving. Exercise can be as effective as medication for some people to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and one vigorous workout can help bring relief for hours, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise 3-5 times a week for maximum benefit.
- Daily relaxation techniques like meditation and yoga are proven ways to reduce anxiety. Research shows that meditation actually rewires the brain by helping us control our reaction to stress, decreasing disease-causing inflammation levels in the process. Start with a simple daily mindfulness mediation practice like Headpsace to get started.
No one should have to live with anxiety and irritability in their life. You can get control of menopause mood swings by making small shifts in how you approach your diet and lifestyle. Take care of yourself and those around you by adopting these proven ways to improve your mood, starting today.