Why is it that we fear menopause, and then we fear and feel anxious about everything once we enter peri-menopause?
Is it because we naturally are going to go a bit nutty like our mothers before us? Why would nature set us up like that?
I think there are very good reasons why nature set us up, but nature didn’t know we were going to take it this far…
According to WebMD, depression is not caused by menopause, when your menstrual cycle ceases. However, depression and other feelings of unease, anxiety for instance, can occur during peri-menopause and/or menopause.
Why this occurs is more complex than simply because you have less progesterone and estrogen available. Both hormones are required when you are fertile, but once you are no longer at the age to bear children and your eggs are no longer viable, you don’t need the same level of either of these hormones.
If all else was normal, then the effects of lowering hormone levels should be minimal. But for some they are not.
Look Beyond Lower Levels
Hormones are not independent chemicals floating around your system, and there are about fifty of them circulating throughout your body. They are an aspect of a complex communication system and their primary role is to convey messages. They direct organs to produce, reduce, stop producing…they tell cells to make more energy, absorb fat, release fat…
Hormones are intimately connected. They interact with each other constantly, they are created using the same base building blocks, and often they are within the same pathway or at least partially. And they are ultimately affected by other hormones.
For instance, when your senses indicate threat, your brain sends a signal via the hypothalamus, pituitary and then to the adrenal glands to release stress hormones; epinephrine (adrenaline), nor-epinephrine and cortisol.
However, through the course of normal activity, this pathway is also partially used to send signals for minute to minute activity, except instead of a signal from the pituitary to the adrenals, the signal now goes to the thyroid or gonads.
These three pathways are not the only hormone pathways, but how these three pathways relate to each other can help to illustrate why you want to look beyond your natural lowering of estrogen and progesterone.
Look Toward Stress
Most hormone dysfunction can be traced back to stress in one form or another. All the root causes that come up in my client base, have a direct link to stress. In addition, they create stress in the body which further causes hormonal imbalance.
The more often you are in a state of stress, the more you divert resources and space away from digestion, immunity, and other routine systems…the more hormone imbalance.
Your body will need to concentrate most of its effort on keeping you alive. There’s no reason to spend a lot of energy digesting food you will never use or increasing your feel-good chemistry if you’re not going to be around to enjoy it.
Of course, you’re rarely in a life or death situation, but your body doesn’t know that. It reacts the same to a tiger jumping out of the bushes and chasing you down as it does to an inconsiderate driver who is in a rush to get somewhere and cuts you off in the middle of your commute.
And the way we often respond to a non-life threatening event, elevates that same threat level. Furthermore, we hang onto the in-justice, rudeness, insult and allow that threat to linger. Now instead of an immediate threat, we have created chronic stress for ourselves.
How Stress Is Triggered
Your brain is constantly looking for and assessing threat as nature intended to increase your chances of survival. This is one of the reasons why we are so interested in bad news and always on the lookout for negatives.
In your brain, your amygdala is a small almond-shaped mass of gray matter inside each cerebral hemisphere, involved with the experiencing of emotions and it is your primary alert system.
As your sensory system scans your environment, your amygdala is monitoring for anything that may be a threat. When a possible or definite threat is identified, your amygdala triggers fear and anxiety. Other areas of your brain can overrule this alert, but it is your amygdala that is first to respond.
If the alert is not overruled, your stress response system is triggered, and stress hormones are released. As stress hormones are released non-survival systems are slowed down or shut down. This also affects other hormones in your body, particularly ones that are managing non-survival systems.
Stress And Feeling Depressed Due To Hormone Imbalance
According to research by Torbjörn Bäckström from the University of Umeå in Sweden, higher levels of progesterone can lead to depression. Apparently, it triggers the amygdala.
You may have experienced this during periods of PMS. As your estrogen dropped, the ratio of progesterone to estrogen rose, and you may have felt more anxiety and even depressions during this time.
This can also occur during periods of chronic stress. Looking at the diagram below, you can see that progesterone is present in two pathways. The stress response pathway that leads to more cortisol and the reproductive pathway. If you are in a state of chronic stress, your body will naturally produce more progesterone in order to produce more cortisol and cortisone.
And because cortisol and cortisone are considered critical for your survival during periods of stress whereas reproduction is not, your body will focus more attention on producing progesterone to respond to stress than it will estrogen.
Now you have a hormone imbalance that can lead to depression and/or anxiety, because your amygdala is more responsive.
What You Can Do
Hormone therapy has a lot of benefits if done skillfully, but it’s not a total solution in any case. The real solution is to reduce the need to trigger your response system, so you body can focus on more other activities like digestion, healing, repairing and maintaining healthy hormone balance.
The interconnections of your hormones and systems is very well evolved, but it wasn’t designed for the elevation of stressors you have imposed on you today.
You already know that stress is a problem. It affects everything in your life and it makes living harder than it needs to be. But how can you reduce it? Effectively…
First you want to remember, you are the creator of your reality. You can decide if that inconsiderate driver who is obviously having a bad day and cut you off while driving is going to be a trigger for you or not.
Initially, you do need to react, so that you don’t wind up on the side of the road arguing over whose fault the accident was. However, once the initial shock is over, let your more evolved areas of your brain override the alert.
Talk yourself down, remind yourself what is more important, and breathe deeply for two minutes or more and allow yourself to calm down.
Take It A Few Steps Further
As a manager or a team leader, you would not approach a project by asking for advice and then implementing the advice without a plan. You would not build a house by putting up curtains your neighbor recommended before you built the walls and inserted the windows.
And yet, that is how you may be approaching your life.
You want to lose weight, so you ask friends, check Google and jump in…without a plan.
But even before you can plan you need to do a few things.
Your life should be fun, enjoyable and have spontaneous moments. But if you want to have more or less of something in your life, you really do want to be more strategic. If you want less stress in your life, so you feel great – you want to approach it like a project.
Use that sensory system of yours to tell you of stress triggers. It’s already doing it, so why not pay attention to it.
Then analyze and get to know why it’s a trigger. Know how it affects you and why.
Now it’s time to clear the way and make a plan of action. What steps do you need to take to decrease or increase what you want?
And of course, once you have a plan you need to implement it. You want to be skillful and utilize resources, leverage your strengths and find support to fill in the gaps.
Finally, remember this is your life and no one is the expert on you. So, stay centered and always review what how it’s going and check in to see if the path your own is going where you want it to go.
You are responsible, though you don’t have to do it all on your own. If you believe your hormones are imbalanced and your struggling with depression, anxiety, weight…you name it…I can help.
Not only can I help you determine what lab tests you need and address root causes, I can help you learn how to manage your life systematically. In a way that is designed by you, so you have less stress and experience more freedom – daily.
It’s not that hard, but no one has taught you how to do it. I wasn’t taught directly either. I had to learn over time using various systems and then broke it down into a system for myself. The methods that work for me might not work for you, but the principles are still the same.
If you want more information, need some clarity or want to learn how to do this and develop a process that will help you solve your real problems systematically, contact me. I have set aside time to meet with women like yourself who want to take charge of their health, who want to support their body’s natural hormonal rhythms, and who know they need some extra support for feeling like themselves again.
If you’re interested in this, click on the button below and fill out the health questionnaire. Once you click Submit, you can schedule an appointment that is convenient for you.
You can feel like yourself again and feel confident in your body, while supporting it naturally in a way that truly works for you.
Your partner in health,
P.S. You may also be interested in these posts: