Your relationships are one of the most important aspects of your life — but it can be hard to maintain them the way you’d like when you’re in survival mode (thanks, hormones).
While some of us get through perimenopause and menopause with nary a mood swing, others will have a hard time. The idea of traveling with friends, something we once loved, may fill us with dread. Family reunions? Please no.
Navigating menopause with our partners can be especially tough. Our partners may be many things: Kind, caring, clueless, loving, infuriating, and many others, depending on how we're feeling that minute. But here's one statement that rings true for many of us – they just don't understand how menopause feels.
Tips to help you get through menopause mood swings
Conflict is another unwelcome stressor, of course, but feeling distant from your loved ones can also affect the support you receive during an objectively tough time. Here’s how to keep those emotional ups and downs from ruining your relationships.
Be willing to learn about menopause together
Learning about what’s happening in your body is a huge part of empowering yourself during peri/menopause — but you’re not the only one who’ll benefit from Menopause 101. A basic understanding of how shifting hormones can affect your mind and body can be majorly beneficial to the people closest to you, whether it’s your kids, your partner, or your close friends. Recognizing that your mood swings stem from your body and not your actual feelings is the first step to overcoming frustration.
“It’s so important that you’re aware of what’s going on with your body, but it’s also crucial to share and communicate that with others,” says Markesha Miller, a clinical psychologist based in Columbia, South Carolina.
So if you feel like your relationships are taking a hit, be willing to learn together. Share what you know about menopause, and guide your loved ones to resources that can help them grasp this huge transition in your life. If your mood swings continue affecting your relationships despite your efforts, consider going to a therapist together or inviting your loved one to your next doctor’s appointment to gain new coping skills as a team.
Be honest with your partner
For many of us, talking openly about menopause and its symptoms can be extremely difficult. It can feel awkward and embarrassing to have a conversation about weight gain, sexual discomfort, or the fact that vaginal dryness can be more difficult to manage as we get older. Beneath those troublesome symptoms might be self-doubt, frustration, anger, stress, or anxiety, all of which can also be hard to express.
Either way, it pays to be honest about how you’re feeling. If you know your mood swings are affecting your ability to process certain events, tell your partner, and find ways of coping with these sudden changes together.
If you find yourself lashing out at the people you love, remember to apologize. You may not have as much control over these emotions as you’d like, but that doesn’t mean you have the right to belittle or offend loved ones. If you make a sincere effort to show them you’re trying to work your way through your symptoms, they will understand and likely offer their support.
De-stress as much as possible
According to Miller, self-care — prioritizing your own well-being amid your shifting hormones and tough symptoms — is a huge part of building stronger relationships. “Every relationship is a two-way street, and we forget that to bring our best we have to prioritize our own needs,” she says. “So much of what we can do to prevent our symptoms from affecting our relationships begins with ourselves.”
Along with prioritizing sleep, nutrition, and exercise — all the things we know make us feel good — take steps to actively de-stress. Stress can make it difficult to focus on the most complex procedures and the simplest tasks alike. Rather than fixate on the stress, anxiety, and other negative emotions your brain immediately wants to focus on, redirect that energy into something else. Find ways to decompress and defuse the situation so you don’t end up lashing out at someone you care about.
For some, de-stressing could be meditation or yoga. For others, it might be a new hobby or a walk. Encourage your loved ones to join you in activities that lower stress. Sharing in a positive, peaceful experience can act as a reset button if things are tense; when the atmosphere is calm, the body and mind will soon follow.
Be empathetic towards your loved ones
It’s hard to be empathetic when you have no frame of reference about what something’s like. Just as people in your life may not understand what you’re going through, you may have a blind spot in how others are experiencing your actions. While it may seem like someone else’s issue, your own lack of empathy can have repercussions on how the people in your life interact with you.
People may begin tailoring their behavior around you because they don’t want to overstep or cross any boundaries. It’s important to express to them that though you are going through these changes, you still love, respect, and care for them. Understand that this is just as much of a change for them as it is for you. You are experiencing how it affects both/all of your personal lives together.
Take some alone time
No matter how much we love our friends, families, and partners, sometimes it helps to be alone. Spending time alone is a very healthy thing, especially when trying to process all the changes menopause is bringing your way. Pampering yourself or picking up a new, just-for-you hobby can truly help rejuvenate everyday life. Decompressing on your own time, and on your own terms, can re-center you and help you find ways to show how much you appreciate your friends, families, and partners even when they’re not around.
Spend your alone time completing fulfilling tasks or engaging in relaxing activities. Spa days, painting, bike rides, pottery, whatever you enjoy doing alone — find a way to incorporate that into your routine. It will help you feel refreshed and ready to take on any new challenges you encounter.
Looking to connect with a community of women who know what you're going through? Check out The Hot Spot!