Feeling Overwhelmed In Menopause? One of these strategies might surprise youJan 30, 2024
I have always thrived on staying busy and looking for the next challenge. Boredom is my worst enemy, so I wasn’t too worried when people would tell me that they were feeling overwhelmed during menopause. "I don’t feel overwhelmed," I said. Well, menopause has most definitely changed that. It seems as if being overwhelmed is my new normal. It feels as if my nervous system is constantly ringing the alarm bells, and often I struggle to ease that feeling. Even when it comes down to my preference for TV shows and books, I seem to have less tolerance for really intense things anymore. I’m a lover of British crime shows, and my favorite author is Stephen King, so I generally love suspense, but these days, I need to balance out every episode of something intense with two episodes of The Golden Girls or Schitts Creek.
Does anyone else feel this way?
Understanding Menopause and Brain Health
Menopause is often summed up to hot flashes and the end of periods but it is much more than that. The more silent and, in my opinion, often more significant changes are related to the brain. Many studies have shown that hormonal changes experienced during the menopausal transition affect the brain significantly (Weber et al., 2013, Maki, et al., 2008, Morrison, et al., 2006, Seitz, et al, 2019). This understanding is crucial in acknowledging why feelings of being overwhelmed are not just emotional responses but also biological reactions.
During my challenging moments, I remind myself that my brain is adapting to the shifts of perimenopause. Understanding this has truly made a difference for me, so I'm sharing my strategies in case they can help you too. One of them might come as a surprise: creatine supplementation.
Strategy 1: Creatine Supplementation
Did you know that creatine, naturally found in muscle cells, does more than just support muscle health? Recent studies suggest it can also boost brain function! I've found this especially intriguing, given how important cognitive clarity is during times of stress like sleep deprivation, which can be all too common in menopause. Adding a daily dose of 3-5 grams of creatine could be a simple yet effective way to support both your body and mind. For more on creatine and its benefits, check out my other article here.
Strategy 2: Regular Physical Activity
This one doesn’t come as a surprise but deserves a mention in any conversation about quality of life and health in menopause. Physical activity, especially resistance training, is a cornerstone of maintaining health during menopause. Regular exercise can be a powerful ally in helping with a variety of menopause symptoms, including playing a critical role in mental health. Sternfeld et al. (2014) found that physical activity could significantly improve psychological well-being in menopausal women. Evidence from a variety of studies indicates that resistance training is associated with improvements in self-esteem, as well as “self-efficacy, perceived physical strength, physical self-worth, and global self-worth. Walking has also been shown to be a great way to lower both anxiety and depression. The research supports that statement, showing a clear link between walking and improvements in mental health.
Strategy 3: Mindfulness and Stress Reduction Techniques
Mindfulness and stress reduction are powerful tools for managing menopause symptoms. Practices such as meditation, deep breathing, and yoga can significantly reduce feelings of overwhelm. Research shows the effectiveness of mindfulness practices in improving mental well-being during menopause. Simple exercises like mindful breathing for 10 minutes daily can be a great start.
Strategy 4: Adding vs Subtracting
Adding health-promoting foods is always better than eliminating foods someone has deemed “bad.” The following foods are just a few of the foods that have wide-ranging benefits for your health, brain, and possibly your menopause symptoms.
There is strong evidence that eating berries, specifically blueberries, and blackberries, have beneficial effects on cognition, memory loss, and overall brain function. Both blueberries and blackberries are nutrition powerhouses, but blackberries have higher fiber content. Blackberries: 8-10g/cup, blueberries: 3-4g/cup. These deliciously nutritious powerhouses exert their benefits through their polyphenolic and antioxidant compounds. The polyphenols and antioxidants in berries reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain, thereby protecting it from harmful free radicals.
Different pigments in foods have individual benefits, many of them providing anti-inflammatory perks. One of the reasons is their anthocyanin content, which are natural plant pigments that give your fruits and veggies their red, blue, and purple color. Anthocyanins have demonstrated a wide range of health benefits. So next time you head to the grocery store, reach for the purple carrots and potatoes. A few examples of diets that show benefits in lowering inflammation are the Mediterranean and the Paleolithic diet. But that doesn't mean you have to stick to those. Instead, start by making a few simple changes to your plate.
Lion’s Mane mushroom ( H.erinaceus), a culinary and medicinal mushroom that gets its name from its clump of dangling spines resembling a lion’s mane. It has been studied extensively for its neuroprotective properties and shown to promote positive brain and nerve health. In addition, lion’s Mane is effective in improving mild cognitive impairment.
If you want maximum brain benefit from your nutrition, you may want to switch your morning ☕ for a cup of matcha. Matcha, which is essentially theanine-rich powdered green tea, contains caffeine, so be aware if you're sensitive to caffeine.
Benefits at a glance:
✔️Reduced stress & anxiety
✔️Improved concentration & memory
✔️Improved cognitive abilities
Research has shown that it may have specific benefits for the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC), the part of the rational brain that plays a role in self-control and self-regulation. Matcha contains the amino acid L-theanine, which exhibits a stress-reducing effect in humans. L-theanine, in turn, promotes activity within the dlPFC, helping you stay more focused, less stressed, and energized through its caffeine. Although all green teas contain theanine, matcha has the highest levels.
Nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and flaxseeds, are particularly beneficial for brain health.
Navigating menopause can be challenging, but with the right strategies, it's possible to mitigate feelings of being overwhelmed. From the promising role of creatine in brain health to the undeniable benefits of physical activity, mindfulness, and adding health-promoting foods, these strategies offer a comprehensive approach to managing menopause symptoms.
Do you have any strategies that have been useful for you? I’d love to hear them. Email me at [email protected]