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You’ve finally cracked the code to your periods: you know when they’re coming, you know how to handle them with your preferred menstrual products (including your beloved DivaCup), and you know how long they last. It’s been smooth menstrual sailing for the last few years, apart from the times you’ve been really sick or stressed.
Then you hit your late 30s and early 40s. You start to notice gradual changes to what was a very regular period and menstrual cycle. Maybe you might start to notice that you feel more anxious right before your period but can’t pinpoint the cause of the anxiety. You might notice that you spot more before your period. You might notice words don’t always come as easily as they used to.
Welcome to perimenopause! Don’t be afraid — let me teach you how to beat hormonal anxiety associated with this transitional time in your life.
What is Perimenopause?
Perimenopause can start as early as our late 30s, but most typically starts in our early to mid 40s and can last around ten years. Perimenopause isn’t sudden but is best described as a natural sequence of events that happens gradually.
Remember, this is an inevitable and natural time of life that shouldn’t be approached with fear or shame. You may experience symptoms, but there’s a lot you can do to support your mood, energy, and overall health during this time.
Here’s the perimenopausal sequence of events.
- Regular menstrual cycles can start shortening by a day or two.
- Menstrual cycles gradually change, becoming more irregular and/or shorter.
- There is a longer space between periods and when they come, they can be shorter, and lighter or heavier.
- Finally, the menopause arrives when you haven’t had a period for 12 months.
What’s Happening Hormonally?
During this time, things will change hormonally. You’ll ovulate less frequently as fewer follicles are available to grow into mature eggs. It’s important to note that it’s still possible to get pregnant during perimenopause.
If fertility is still on the cards for you, remember that it’s not about the number of follicles, but the quality of those follicles when they turn into mature eggs. As an aside, this is why it’s important not to get obsessed with your AMH number if you are trying to get pregnant, but instead, focus on what you can do to improve the quality of your eggs through nutrition, supplementation, and stress management.
Symptoms of Perimenopause
You may begin to wonder if the symptoms you’re experiencing are a sign of perimenopause.
Here’s how to know: Your symptoms occur throughout your menstrual cycle, rather than 7 – 10 days before your next period starts. They don’t stop when you get your period, and you notice existing premenstrual symptoms worsening and new symptoms such as temperature fluctuations and skin changes appearing.
How To Beat Hormonal Anxiety
What we eat, how we sleep, and our lifestyle habits really matter during this time. Learning how to beat hormonal anxiety means making a few lifestyle adjustments.
At each meal, you can add in foods that will support your energy and mood during your perimenopausal years. If you find that you’re experiencing more anxiety, try adding in foods with specific nutrients into your meals that help manage the stress response. Remember, when we’re stressed, the body uses these nutrients faster so make sure to keep topping them up!
- Magnesium: pumpkin seeds, green, leafy vegetables, sunflower seeds, cashews, pistachios.
- Vitamin B6: avocado, spinach, wild salmon, organic chicken, sweet potatoes.
- Vitamin C: berries, broccoli, kale, red and yellow peppers, citrus, tropical fruits.
Sleep becomes even more important during perimenopause. When we get enough sleep, we support healthy blood sugar balance and reduce the pesky sugar cravings and energy crashes that can send our mood plummeting and worsen anxiety. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each time, going to bed and waking up around the same time each day.
How we move our bodies is another valuable way to manage our health during our perimenopausal years. Resist increasing the cardio and start to add in more resistance exercise like yoga, Pilates, bodyweight exercises and lifting weights. We start to lose 3 – 8% of muscle mass per decade after the age of 30, so lifting heavy things helps to reduce this muscle loss, as well as support the health of our bones which can be affected by the gradual decline of estrogen.
Perimenopause as Reinvention
Above all, this is a time for reinvention and a deeper understand of who we are. If we focus solely on the negatives, we miss the opportunity to see the changes we experience as a new beginning. To quote Oprah:
“So many women I’ve talked to see menopause [and perimenopause] as an ending. But I’ve discovered this is your moment to reinvent yourself after years of focusing on the needs of everyone else. It’s your opportunity to get clear about what matters to you and then to pursue that with all of your energy, time and talent.”