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7 Tips to Cope with Menopause Mood Swings

Nicole Tekkora, MS, RDN

Published in Women's Health

6 min read

October 17, 2022
An older person with short grey hair, in glasses, sitting down reading a book and looking away pensively
An older person with short grey hair, in glasses, sitting down reading a book and looking away pensively

Menopause can be a challenging period filled with many physical, mental, and emotional changes. For some people, the emotional symptoms and other mental aspects that can come with this transition can be particularly difficult to manage. 

The mood swings some women experience during menopause can be the result of the hormonal changes that happen during this transition period in life. Research shows that people who are going through menopause may even be at a higher risk of developing depression.

So, although it may feel difficult, there are a variety of ways you can support mood swings and other symptoms during this time. In this article, we’ll explore the science behind mood changes during menopause and share some effective tips for your emotional well being.

What are the Common Symptoms of Menopause?

A person with long, dark black hair wearing a black and white striped top holding her head

Menopause is the transition period that occurs in a person’s body during the 12 months that follow their final menstrual cycle. This time of life is primarily associated with vasomotor symptoms (VMS), also known as hot flashes and night sweats, which affect many women as they pass through this transition.

Some of the other common symptoms of menopause that you may encounter can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal weight gain
  • Headaches
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Dysuria, or difficulty urinating
  • Changes in sex drive

Why Does Your Mood Change During Menopause?

Mood changes during menopause can be a little complex to understand due to the many hormonal shifts that occur during this time. For simplicity’s sake, we can group these shifts into two main categories: physiological changes and psychosocial factors. The physiological changes include:

  • Decreasing estrogen levels
  • Decreasing progesterone levels
  • Increasing levels of follicle stimulating hormone, or FSH
  • Increasing levels of luteinizing hormone, or LH
  • Increased risk of insulin resistance

During menopause, the changes in estrogen and progesterone disrupt the signaling of a neurotransmitter and neuromodulator called serotonin. Serotonin is involved in mood regulation. 

When proper signaling of serotonin is disrupted, you may become more prone to mood fluctuations. Norepinephrine is another type of neuromodulator that can affect menopause-related mood changes. 

These changes are also linked to increased symptoms of depression. If you have a history of depression and experience worsened symptoms, you may want to consult your doctor for treatment options.

Other Factors that Can Lead to Mood Swings

A person with mid-length blonde hair and glasses in a pink sweater and jeans sitting on a table holding a coffee cup

Along with physiological changes, psychosocial factors can also play a role. Psychosocial factors that affect menopause can vary from person to person, as they can depend on each person’s environment and lifestyle. 

For example, as adults age, their social circle may become smaller, which can limit some from getting the social support they need. While this may not apply to everyone, some studies indicate that menopause-related mood swings and other symptoms can increase as feelings of loneliness and anger increase.

Physical exercise can be a great way to improve mood and reduce rumination. However, those that live in more isolated areas or have less access to nearby areas for exercise get less daily activity, which can negatively affect mood

Neighborhood barriers can sometimes hinder older adults from getting more daily physical exercise such as walking. Staying at home itself may also increase the risk of low mood or feelings of depression in some people.

Seven Tips to Support Mood During the Menopausal Transition

There are a variety of ways you can support your well being during the menopausal transition. Here are seven lifestyle changes you may consider trying for a better transition during menopause.

1) Support Your Hormones Through Your Diet

An older person with short black hair in a white t shirt, eating fruit and looking out of the window

If you’ve read our article on the menopause diet, you may already know that nutrition can be an effective way to support your body through hormonal changes. Eating a healthy diet with plenty of whole foods can help provide your body with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can support hormonal health

Consuming enough fiber in your diet may be beneficial for menopause-related (and age-related) insulin resistance. Some other beneficial foods to consume more of include:

  • Nuts and seeds
  • Adequate protein from high-quality sources
  • Plenty of fruits and vegetables

2) Make Daily Exercise a Habit

An older woman with short black hair wearing a long grey top and running outdoors

As we’ve mentioned, getting regular exercise can be beneficial for both the emotional well-being and physical health of older adults. One study found strong evidence to suggest that exercise can improve mood in women going through menopause. 

This benefit may extend beyond menopause to the postmenopausal stage, as researchers have found that exercise can significantly reduce feelings of depression and anxiety in postmenopausal women. 

Exercise can also help add social interaction to your day and provide health benefits such as improved weight management, glycemic control, and cardiovascular health. So, in addition to your daily walks, you may want to add in some weekly weight training or cardio to your routine. 

3) Keep a Journal

Throughout this period, some menopausal women may find themselves feeling more frustrated or irritated than normal. You may find it helpful to keep an “emotions journal” as these feelings pop up. 

For some, this can help show a pattern behind the emotional changes. Journaling has also been shown to have a positive effect on mental health.

Reflecting on these shifts in a journal may give you helpful answers and bring more clarity. If anything, for some people this can simply provide a safe, non-judgmental space for your thoughts to flow freely. 

4) Make More Time For Yourself

An older person in a pink tshirt with short grey hair and glasses, lying in a hammock swing

Making time for yourself is important, especially during challenging times or a transitional period of your life such as menopause. Creating some space and carving out more time to process your emotions can help you sort your thoughts. 

Many of us lead busy lives and may find this difficult to do. However, taking even 30 minutes for self-care can make a difference in your mood. Here are some ways you can make more time for yourself:

  • Going out for a daily walk can be beneficial for a number of reasons, but research shows that even a walk around the block may help your mood.
  • Block off time in your mornings for yourself or do things you enjoy.
  • Set out a day in your weekly schedule for engaging in self-care activities that bring you joy.

5) Consider Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

Hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, is a treatment option you may want to bring up and discuss with your doctor or healthcare practitioner. 

While there has been controversy regarding this from the original Women’s Health Initiative in 2002, a re-analysis of the research actually found that HRT can be beneficial for reducing menopausal symptoms. 

While HRT has been found to be most effective for vasomotor symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats, there is some evidence to suggest that it can also help with mood and mental health. 

Because the evidence is mixed, it may be the case that HRT is beneficial for some people while not having a significant benefit on mood for others. Some people may also experience side effects of HRT, so make sure to consult your doctor or gynecologist for guidance.

6) Reach Out for Support

Two women sitting in front of a table, one offering the other support

Building a support system and reaching out for support is important for well-being at any point of your life, but especially during menopause. You may want to surround yourself with other people who are also going through menopause, perimenopause, or are postmenopausal and can relate to your symptoms. 

Having support might also help you feel more comfortable talking about your mood shifts with other people who are also going through the same thing. Some ways to do so include:

Another way to share your emotions is to try therapy. One study, for example, found that acceptance and commitment therapy (or ACT) can make a positive difference in women’s mood during the menopausal transition. A good therapist may be one way to have a safe space for you to discuss the changes in your mood. 

7) Build on the Quality of Your Social Connections

Even though older adults may find that they have fewer social connections and are prone to loneliness, it’s not always the case that a smaller circle leads to feelings of depression. Research shows that when social connections are few, it’s the quality of those connections that can be beneficial for your psychological and emotional well-being. 

In a study on women undergoing menopause, women who had a social network or community around them tended to be more positive about their body’s changes. Spending high-quality time with those that bring you joy or that you feel positively about may help to keep you feeling positive and boost your mood as well.

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Heather Davis, MS, RDN, LDN

Reviewed by: Heather Davis, MS, RDN, LDN

Heather is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN, LDN), subject matter expert, and technical writer, with a master's degree in nutrition science from Bastyr University. She has a specialty in neuroendocrinology and has been working in the field of nutrition—including nutrition research, education, medical writing, and clinical integrative and functional nutrition—for over 15 years.

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