When women reach a certain age and period of life, the menopause is inevitable - having a varied and sometimes overwhelming impact both physically and mentally. Stress is an often reported symptom of the menopause, but can stress be a contributing factor to early menopause?
Let’s take a closer look.
The link between stress and menopause
Stress is a very individual experience - that is, we all feel stress to different degrees of severity, in light of different situations and challenges. What is stressful to one person may be fine to another - it is all about how we react both emotionally and physically.
By way of an example, a mental reaction to stress might be to struggle with concentration, and to feel overwhelmed all the time. A physical reaction might culminate in headaches and tiredness. But that’s not all.
When you experience stress, the body releases what’s called cortisol - a hormone to help manage the stress. But when you feel stressed a lot, and cortisol release becomes a regular occurrence, the levels of the cortisol steroid hormone in your body can start to wreak havoc with your other hormones.
Oestrogen meanwhile is what helps to regulate the levels of cortisol. Menopause is responsible for ceasing and lessening your body’s natural production of oestrogen - so that when you go through menopause, your body’s response to and ability to manage cortisol also lessens.
The result? You find yourself stressing more readily.
Can stress bring on early menopause?
So, back to the million dollar question. Can stress directly lead to menopause?
This is something which is being studied from a number of different angles, specifically linking the body’s natural response to stress to symptoms which appear to match those experienced by women facing menopause. Crucially however, it is believed that while these symptoms match and mirror those experienced by women in the grip of menopause, it is not menopause which is causing them.
When the body experiences high levels of stress, it may be that the cortisol levels outweigh the presence of oestrogen - therefore leading the body to react in such a way that implies it has a deficiency in oestrogen (something often caused by menopause).
Resulting symptoms can include anything from anxiety and heightened stress to bloating, fatigue, headaches, hot flushes, and an inability to sleep.
What can you do about it?
From supplements to lifestyle adjustments, here are some of the ways that you can tackle both the early signs of menopause and the symptoms of heightened and prolonged stress.
- Engage in meditation, yoga, and other light exercises which help you to practice de-stressing. When you face stressors head on and understand what causes them, you are better equipped to face and minimise them.
- Always aim to get outside, even if just for a short walk every day. The combination of fresh air and exercise is great for coping with and managing stress.
- Make time for activities you actively enjoy.
- Open up with those around you and discuss how you are feeling / how you can minimise your stress and feel more positive.
- Make sure that you are getting enough sleep. This is a particularly important point to focus on because sleep depravity can cause intolerance and irritability and can make any small stressor feel a lot worse than it really is.
Making these small changes may not lead to internal changes in your hormone levels, but it will equip you with tools that minimise and help you to manage common signs and symptoms of stress. There are also a selection of natural herbal remedies on the market that can help with sleep and stress management - or you can explore our range of supplements which are designed to directly combat the symptoms and signs commonly associated with the menopause.
Inspired Health: For wellness & menopause healthy living
Lifestyle changes and small adjustments are some of the best ways of coping with increased and prolonged stress. But if that’s not enough, there are supplements you can take which help to tackle those menopause symptoms - whether you’re experiencing early menopause or not.
We’re the official UK home for a number of leading health and wellness brands. This includes Cleanmarine and their leading MenoMin daily supplement, specially formulated for perimenopausal and menopausal women.
For more insights, check out The Menopause Blog — a carefully-curated hub of research-packed content relating to the menopause. For general health and wellbeing information, be sure to also explore our Wellness blog.