Do you feel like you have hit your forties, your body has flipped a switch and now you’re an exhausted, hot, sweaty, nervous wreck? If so, you may just assume you’re on your way to menopause. But is it really perimenopause or stress?
I know you’ve heard the horror stories about menopause – vaginal dryness, creaky joints and surprise episodes of incontinence.
Your period might be less like clockwork and more like snail mail – you never quite know when it’s going to arrive… but you hope it’s soon because it might bring some relief from the overwhelming anxiety and mood swings that have your family maintaining a wary distance.
Trust me when I say that I have been there, done that. I set the world record for losing my sh*t with my kids, when ten minutes before we were having a great time. Not to mention accidentally flooding my office chair with blood (mortifying) or losing my train of thought with every second sentence.
I’m Not Old Enough Yet!
I’ve been through the paralysing anxiety over situations that I would have breezed through just a year earlier.
I wasn’t old enough to be menopausal just yet, surely. I felt like it was too soon!
I’d forgotten that I was old enough for the glorious transitional period of 2 to 10 years where the communication between the brain and ovaries is extra sensitive.
COmmon, Yes. Normal, No.
I want you to know that if your family life is being affected by your uncontrollable mood changes, irritability or crippling anxiety, while this experience is incredibly common, it doesn’t have to be your new normal.
If your hot flashes are causing an ongoing battle for control over the thermostat and your partner is fed up with being woken up in the night because you need to change the sweat drenched sheets, don’t give up hope – there is plenty that we can do to ease this for you.
I tried herbs, they didn’t work
Perhaps you got to the point where you knew you needed to do something about it for your own sanity (and your family’s sake as well). So you hit the supplement aisle and picked some herbal tablet that promises ‘happy hormones’ and relief from your menopausal woes.
So why didn’t it work? Chances are, you actually aren’t menopausal just yet and are either moving through peri-menopause or dealing with a whole lot of stress.
Now I’m on my way through it, I’m here to clear up the confusion and help you understand whether its perimenopause or stress causing your cycle to go haywire.
What is peri-menopause?
There’s a few different layers to the tranistion to menopause. Let me lay it out for you.
You’re still having a regular cycle, with about twelve periods in the last twelve months. Maybe you’re having some new PMS symptoms, headaches or changes in anxety and mood around your cycle. This starts sometime in your 40s.
Menopausal transition (perimenopause)
You’re still getting a period every now and then, but less than twelve in the last twelve months. Those classic symptoms of perimenopause are similar to the worse PMS of your life and are actually more likely to be due to a heightened response to stress than due to a perimenopausal loss of oestrogen. Because you’re still having a menstrual cycle, you’re still making oestrogen, but the sudden spikes and dips of different hormones trigger symptoms like anxiety, hot flashes and sweats.
When you haven’t had a period for twelve months, you have reached menopause. Huzzah! Congratulations, you made it through puberty (again!)
Does stress make peri-menopause worse?
Basically, if you’re experiencing all the classic symptoms of menopause, but you’re still having a semi-regular cycle, your symptoms are likely due to your body being extra sensitive to stress. It’s like your body is under new management (things are going to happen a little differently around here from now on, there’s a new boss in charge).
If you’ve been bearing the mental load for your family, carrying the team at work, trying to manage everything from grocery shopping to organising oranges for Saturday sports, this is about the time it all starts getting too much.
Stress starts affecting your hormones, causing them to fluctuate widely and rapidly. This affects the regularity of your period and you get symptoms of perimenopause. Even though you may not be in perimenopause.
Symptoms of perimenopause:
- Hot flashes
- Mood swings
- Headaches, migraines
- Urinary tract infections
- New food intolerances, allergies
- Changes to libido, vaginal dryness
- Weight gain
- Decreased memory, concentration & focus
- Brain fog
- Irregular periods
Many of these are the same when you feel stressed. And that’s because stress does similar things to your reproductive hormones and menstrual cycle. So how do you work out what it is?
Well, which one is it, perimenopause or stress?
It can be really tricky to work out. But some basics are to consider your age. What age was your mum and other women relatives when they went through perimenopause?
Most importantly, critically analyse your stress levels. So many women tell me they aren’t stressed, but their lifestyles are HECTIC. Seriously busy, they dash from one meeting, to another, juggling groceries, meals, activities and all the rest of the things they do. Maybe you’ve mentally adapted to that level of busy, but I can promise you that your body and brain haven’t.
Either way, It’s not the end
Unfortunately, perimenopause (and menopause) are considered an ending within our culture. When the attitude is menopause is something to be feared or suffered through, it’s less than empowering.
Often women say to me that it feels like a second puberty. That the first hormonal rollercoaster was hard enough without teenagers, mortgages and the fourteen different hats you have to wear throughout the day just to keep the family afloat!
It can seem like a cruel cosmic joke to be mimicking puberty as a grown woman, particularly if you’re sharing your breathing space with one or more hormonal teenagers.
perimenopause or stress, let’s get you back to your old self
Personally, I had reached a point where my husband and kids were practically begging me to do something – they wanted the ‘old me’ back. I wanted the ‘old me’ back too!
I decided to start by addressing the stress in my life. I clawed back some time and energy for myself. I made the commitment to uphold my boundaries and prioritise my own health. I fed myself properly and gave my body what it needed.
lean in, let the magic happen
When I leaned into peri-menopause as an opportunity to change some things that hadn’t been working for me, I got major relief from the anxiety, PMS, hot flashes and forgetfulness. I enjoyed the time I spent with my family instead of feeling irritable and exhausted. I was more productive, resilient and sure of myself than ever.
It’s for this reason that I am a huge advocate of peri-menopause as a ‘second spring’.
Yes, it’s a transition
It’s also a beautiful time to re-evaluate. It’s a time to reclaim your sovereignty, to adopt a more sustainable pace and to listen to what your body is screaming at you. To take a moment, breathe and put yourself first after so many years of catering to everyone else.
you don’t have to go it alone
Now my passion is in helping women sort through their symptoms and work out whether they really are approaching menopause, or whether it’s a few too many years of stress finally catching up with them.
Together we untangle things and create a sustainable solution (without you having to quit your job or your family). I’m right here myself and have also lived through long-term extreme stress, so I know what is realistic and what isn’t.
I’d encourage you to talk to a health professional whether you think it’s perimenopause or stress, because if you’re young, you really want to hang on to your hormones for your long-term, overall health. Oestrogen is very important to the health of your bones, cardiovascular system, blood glucose levels, and thyroid.
I provide realistic support and advice, from experience
So if you’re nodding your head through all of this, if you’re ready to make changes in your life that will help you take back control and feel like yourself again, I invite you to book in a free 15 minute phone call and let’s get started.