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Blog: Understanding Menopause and the Role of Counselling in Emotional Wellbeing



Introduction:

Menopause is a natural and inevitable phase in a woman’s life, marking the end of her reproductive years. While it encompasses physical changes, it also brings forth emotional complexities, including feelings of change and loss.

 

In this blog, we will explore the stages of menopause, delve into the experience of loss associated with this transition, and discuss the benefits of counselling in navigating these emotional challenges.

 

What is Menopause:

Menopause is the term used when you’ve not had any menstrual periods for 12 months (excluding pregnancies and breastfeeding).

 

The average age for Australian women to reach menopause is 51 but symptoms can start well before your last period.  We usually reach menopause between 45 and 55 years of age, but some women can become menopausal under 40.

 

Menopause represents not only physical changes but also a complex emotional landscape marked by feelings of loss. As women navigate this challenging terrain, self-care becomes a crucial component in managing the emotional aspects.

 

Menopause Symptoms:

Changes in your hormones during menopause can impact your mental health as well as your physical health.  These symptoms are a result of changes happening to your body and can have a big impact on your life.  Sometimes these symptoms are not recognised as menopause symptoms, but if you know what to expect, it can help decide on what to do to manage the symptoms and feelings you are experiencing.

Menopausal symptoms can include:

  • Hot flushes

  • Night sweats

  • Sleep disturbance

  • Vaginal dryness

  • Sexual problems

  • Weight gain

  • Mood changes – anger and irritability, anxiety, sadness or depression

  • Forgetfulness – poor concentration often described as ‘brain fog’

  • Loss of confidence and self-esteem

  • Muscle aches and pains

  • Memory or cognitive difficulties

Stages of Menopause:

1.    Perimenopause:  The Prelude to Change

Perimenopause, last for 2 – 12 years before menopause, typically starting in a woman's late 30s or early 40s, is the transitional phase leading up to menopause. This is the time you will experience the most symptoms such as hormonal fluctuations which can result in a range of physical and emotional symptoms, including irregular periods, hot flushes, and mood swings.  Recognising these changes as a natural part of the menopausal journey is crucial in understanding and addressing the emotional impact.

 

2.    Menopause:  Embracing Change

Menopause officially occurs when a woman has not had a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months.  At this stage, the ovaries have ceases releasing eggs and producing most of their estrogen, leading to a cessation of menstrual cycles and is usually symptom free.  The hormonal shifts during this stage can trigger emotional challenges such as anxiety, depression, and irritability and can affect your self-esteem, relationships, and overall quality of life.  The acceptance of these changes and the emotional support received can significantly influence the overall experience of menopause.

 

3.    Postmenopause:  Embracing a New Chapter

Postmenopause refers to the years following menopause.  While some symptoms may diminish, such as hot flushes and mood swings, the risk of certain health conditions such as osteoporosis may increase. Emotional well-being continues to be a crucial aspect of post-menopausal life, as women navigate the challenges and opportunities that come with this phase.

 

Emotional Wellbeing:  The Silent Challenge        

Menopause can bring about a rollercoaster of emotions, from feelings of loss and vulnerability to liberation and self-discovery.  It’s vital to acknowledge that emotional wellbeing is an integral part of the menopausal journey, often requiring as much attention as the physical aspects.

 

Menopause is a transformation and also brings an opportunity for personal growth and change.





Self Care:

 

Self-care is important.  Being mindful and present with yourself so you can listen to what your body is telling you what it needs vital.

 

Self-care strategies during menopause may include:


Physical Sel-Care:  engaging in regular exercise, prioritising sleep, maintaining a healthy diet and seeking medical guidance help manage physical symptoms to support overall wellbeing.


  • Emotional Self-Care:  practicing mindfulness, journaling, seeking emotional support through counselling, connecting with supportive friends and family, and engaging in activities that bring joy and fulfilment can help navigate emotional complexities.

  • Spiritual Self-Care:  exploring spirituality, engaging in meditation, connecting with nature can support spiritual wellbeing during this transformative phase.

  • Social Connection:  maintaining strong social connections provides emotional support and a sense of community during this phase.

  • Creative Outlets:  engaging in creative activities, hobbies, or outlets for self-expression can be therapeutic, offering a positive focus.


How Counselling can Help:

 

Counselling plays a crucial role in supporting women during menopause by providing:

 

Validation – counselling provides validation for the emotions and experiences associated with menopause, fostering understanding, acceptance, and self-compassion.


Empowerment – counselling empowers women to prioritise self-care, set boundaries, advocate for their needs, and navigate challenges.


Individualised Support – one of the most significant benefits of counselling during menopause is individualised support tailored to your unique experience and needs.  Your counsellor can help you navigate the emotional challenges of menopause, providing a safe and supportive environment to explore your feelings, concerns and goals.


Coping Strategies – counselling can equip you with practical coping strategies to manage symptoms such as anxiety and mood swings.  Techniques such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), Mindfulness and relaxation techniques can help you develop resilience and enhance your emotional well-being.


CONCLUSION:


Menopause is a transformative journey that encompasses physical changes, emotional complexities, feelings of loss, and opportunities for growth.

 

Prioritising oneself during this phase is essential for overall wellbeing and resilience.  Counselling offers invaluable support in navigating the menopausal journey, fostering self-awareness, empowerment, and personalised self-care strategies tailored to individual needs.

 

Embracing self-care, acknowledging emotions, seeking support, and fostering resilience are empowering steps towards navigating menopause with acceptance, and renewed vitality.





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