It is so amazing to see how our mental health and our physical health do a dance together throughout our lives. As we go through all the stages of life, our perspective and what is important will develop and change.
One of the most significant times for reflection often coincides with physical changes taking place in our bodies as well. So when we as women go through menopause we might see that as a stage, but really it is only a moment in time.
Menopause is the time when women stop having their periods so they are no longer able to bear children. Menopause, as defined by the Mayo Clinic, is the permanent end of menstruation and fertility, defined as occurring 12 months after your last menstrual period. The average onset for menopause is 51 years old.
In my practice I see women who have started having perimenopausal symptoms. We use the symptoms as a sign to start making better health and lifestyle decisions, and the symptoms of perimenopause are often reduced. This makes the 12-month cycle into menopause physically much easier.
The emotional and psychological issues that surface for women in their late forties and early fifties can be much more subtle and harder to uncover. These feelings are showing up around the same time as the physical changes for women, and it can make it seem like menopause is a stage, and not just a moment in time.
I look at the emotions in two different ways.
There certainly are emotional changes that occur as result of dealing with physical issues caused by hormonal changes. There are several medical models that look at lack of sleep, hot flashes and mild depression as a vicious cycle that accompanies menopause, and they should not be brushed aside or ignored. Getting the support to eliminate the physical symptoms of menopause can change your emotional health.
However, there is a second way that addresses the emotional component that impacts women in their late forties and early fifties. Let's look at the life changes that happen to women at that time.
Around fifty, women begin to think about the legacy they want to leave in the world.