Mental Health & Menopause: Why Body Love Is So Important For Self Esteem

mental-health-and-menopause

One of the overarching signs and symptoms of menopause is a change of body shape and – oftentimes – weight gain. Oh me, oh my, right?

We know you struggle with this and we have as well! But the truth is there’s not a lot of evidence showing weight gain is directly attributable to menopause. However, a combination of hormonal changes and lessening of activity can contribute. Meanwhile, evolution changes our shape as shifting estrogen levels move body fat from the hips and thighs to sit more around the middle.

Other common signs of menopause include a muddling of self-concept, loss of confidence and poor self-esteem. And right alongside these can sit a feeling of extreme fatigue.

Do any of these strike a chord? Hmmm, same here.

Put them together and you’ve got a pretty challenging life-cocktail.

Furthermore, the mental health issues of loss of confidence and poor self-esteem are not well-recognised symptoms. Yet, they can have a big impact on your life. Huge.

Especially when it’s time to don shorts and swimmers.

You might feel:

  • Lethargic
  • Less feminine
  • Discouraged when you look in the mirror
  • Like your sense of self is diminished
  • Not as sexy
  • As if your body’s been taken over

If you can relate to these you’re not alone and it’s super important to not beat yourself up. In fact, self-compassion and self-care come into their own here.

We’re not going to serve up any of the “love yourself, you’re beautiful” mantra. You are, but the point is that’s the last thing you want to hear when you’re not feeling great.

Interesting fact:

This study showed body image dissatisfaction was more likely during perimenopause. Women in post-menopause women were less bothered.

Why are poor self-esteem and loss of confidence menopausal symptoms?

Even though they’re psychological, poor self-esteem and loss of confidence at menopause are the result of the physical changes going on in your body.

A big part of what’s going on through the biological process of the menopause transition has to do with the brain. And estrogen plays a key role in brain function.

“Hot flashes, anxiety, depression, night sweats – those symptoms don’t start in the ovaries they start in the brain,” says neuroscientist Dr Lisa Misconi. “Those are neurological symptoms we’re just not used to thinking about them as such.”

Dr Misconi PhD is a world-renowned researcher and the director of the Women’s Brain Initiative at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York. In her research, she has found that midlife women’s brains are sensitive to hormonal ageing as well as chronological ageing.

Related: How Menopause Affects Your Brain

5 ways you can boost your body image, confidence and self-esteem during menopause

1. Overhaul your fridge and your pantry

A ‘menopause diet’ is a very real entity and can make an enormous difference to both weight management and mood.

A few guidelines:

  • Drink more water
  • Remove table sugar
  • Avoid refined flours
  • Increase your greens
  • Eat more (healthy) fat
  • Choose vitamin B rich foods
  • Ensure you’re getting enough omega 3 essential fatty acids
  • Load up on phytoestrogens (get our FREE phytoestrogen list here)
  • Say no to alcohol – it’s a massive depressant

You can get more in-depth info here.

2. Move

Several studies have shown that exercise makes us feel better about our bodies and increases our mood-enhancing endorphins. Plus, it increases energy and mobilises menopausal weight gain. Subsequently, we feel happier.

Exercise is essential not just for physical health but mental health as well. It doesn’t have to be formal exercise it could be a brisk walk around the block or dancing around the lounge.

We understand that it’s hard to push yourself when you’re feeling low or very tired but it has the potential to turn these feelings around. Try just five minutes to start with and see how you go. And remember the best exercise is the one you’ll do.

Related: Menopause & Why You Need To Exercise

3. Manage your mind

Many women in menopause can find their inner critic speaks loudly and their minds can ruminate for hours.

Taking control of the mind can be a powerful tool to try and get it to focus on the things you like about yourself.

Keep a diary and write them down. Better yet, record your wins i.e. “today I walked around the block”.

Related: Mindfulness Aids Menopausal Signs

4. Feed your soul

We know one of the symptoms of menopause can be a reluctance to socialise.

And goodness knows during the pandemic we’ve often had no reason to! But if you can try and engage in a relaxing or spiritual social event it may just lift your spirits.

Breathwork and yoga can be helpful here too. I’m constantly talking about the benefits of breathwork for good reason as the benefits can be far-reaching.

Try this exercise: 

Related: Menopause Remedies You Can Do At Home – 5 Of Our Favourites

5. Don’t suffer in silence

It can be difficult to admit to being vulnerable when you’re feeling low. With that said, talking to other women experiencing similar signs can lift you. Knowing you’re not alone (and you’re not) can be reassuring. Please don’t hesitate to join our private Facebook group 40+ Club For Ageless Goddesses.

Conclusion:

If you’re struggling, menopause can feel like a minefield. But it may be useful to remember it’s a phase of life, not an illness.

We often say it takes a multi-factorial approach to have the best pre-, peri-, meno and post-menopause that you can. Take a look at our 7 Wellness Pillars For Your Best Menopause.

If you’re feeling hopeless and it’s affecting your life and relationships consider seeing a professional. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) has been shown to help women during menopause.

7 Wellness Pillars of Menopause

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Post-menopause


This is the time when menstruation is well and truly over, the ovaries have stopped producing high levels of sex hormones and for many ladies, perimenopause symptoms subside.

Estrogen has protective qualities and the diminished levels mean organs such as your brain, heart and bones become more vulnerable. It’s also a key lubricant so your lips may become drier, your joints less supple and your vagina might be drier. In addition, your thyroid, digestion, insulin, cortisol and weight may alter.

At this juncture, a woman might experience an increase in the signs of reduced estrogen but she should have a decrease of perimenopause symptoms. That said, some women will experience symptoms like hot flushes for years or even the rest of their lives.

Perimenopause

Peri = ‘near’

Most females begin to experience the symptoms of perimenopause in their mid-forties. Your progesterone levels decline from your mid-30s but it’s generally from around 40 that the rest of your sex hormones begin to follow suit. 

Perimenopause is a different experience for every woman and some women may barely notice it. The first indicators are usually changes to the monthly cycle. This means that for some ladies, this can be accompanied by things like sore breasts, mood swings, weight gain around the belly, and fatigue as time goes on.

For those with symptoms it can be a challenging time physically, mentally and emotionally.

Importantly, perimenopause lasts – on average – four to 10 years. The transition is usually a gradual process and many women enter perimenopause without realising.