Mental Health Awareness Week: Loneliness and the Menopause
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week– an annual event that gives the whole of the UK the opportunity to focus on the importance of mental health and wellbeing. This year’s theme is loneliness.
According to recent research by the Mental Health Foundation one in four (25 per cent) UK adults have felt lonely some, or all of the time, over the previous month. The Mental Health Foundation’s Mental Health in the Pandemic research found that loneliness has been exacerbated by the Covid pandemic. Mark Rowland, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, said: “Loneliness is affecting more and more of us in the UK and has had a huge impact on our physical and mental health during the pandemic... That is why we have chosen it as our theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2022. Our connection to other people and our community is fundamental to protecting our mental health so we must find better ways of tackling the epidemic of loneliness."
Loneliness also plays a big part in the well being of women going through the menopause transition. In addition to the physical symptoms of the menopause, many women feel isolated and may feel they have no one to lean on. This can be true for single women going through the menopause– without a partner to offer support, as well as menopausal women in relationships who often feel they unheard and alone in this journey. Often times the menopause transition coincides with the time that kids are off to college or work and leaving the family home, so some women may be experiencing empty nest syndrome. Other women may have the added responsibility of caring for aging parents.
Being alone isn’t necessarily a bad thing, in fact many women welcome time for more reflection, but the problem is many menopausal women feel trapped in this state of being alone. For most, the very symptoms of the menopause could be the culprit. Estrogen levels decline when you hit menopause, and the unwanted effects that come as a result can contribute to isolation:
- Mood swings. These can make you more irritable as you find even the most minor things annoying.
- Depression. Many women feel depressed once they hit perimenopause. This can prevent you from reaching out even when you need it.
- Fatigue. Your body can literally force you into isolation. Without the energy to mingle with friends, you may find yourself constantly wanting to stay at home
- Anxiety. Feelings of doom and gloom or fear of panic attacks can make small talk seem impossible.
The symptoms mentioned above may cause some to feel isolated as many women are hesitant to open up the conversation on how their body and mood are changing.
Ideas to Lessen Loneliness During the Menopause
Just like how you’re working to alleviate menopausal symptoms, there are things you can do to lessen feelings of isolation. Here are a few things you can try:
- Start a New Hobby: A hobby is a therapeutic way to deal with stress because it lets your mind focus on something else. But if you’re dealing with isolation, you may want to choose something where you can meet other people. Taking part in a group activity doesn’t just distract you. It also surrounds you with people, thus preventing social isolation.
- Get Moving Together: Find a walking partner or workout buddy to make sure you get out an about and your endorphins up!
- Find a Support Network: Building friendships with women going through the same thing can be empowering. It makes the experience a lot more bearable and helps you feel that you’re not alone. Finding new friends and creating a support network is key. Our facebook group The Chilled Menopause is a great place to start.
It's important to remember that you are not alone, and of course seek the support of your GP or a therapist if needed. Learn more about this year's theme here.
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