Nonpharmaceutical approaches include psychotherapy and mind-body techniques such as visualization and cognitive restructuring. Regular exercise can also help.
Consider meditating rather than medicating: It’s easy to learn relaxation techniques. (For more details, see Leslee Kagan’s book, Mind Over Menopause.) These tools can help trigger your body’s inborn ability to calm down. Tapping into that response on a regular basis can also reduce hot flashes, improve sleep, as well as boost your mood.
One positive fact to remember: Depression rates decline in women who are officially menopausal.
Mind/Body Approaches to Coping with Perimenopause
Changing the way you think can make this major life transition easier, according to Leslee Kagan, director of the menopause program at Mass General’s Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine.
"Are you thinking of it as a new stage of life, or as a stage of loss?" Kagan says. "Youth is valued, so a changing body image can be upsetting." Be aware of black-and-white thinking (It’s all downhill from here!) and "should" statements (I should not be feeling so moody!). Ask yourself: Am I using a mental filter, focusing only on all of the negative parts while ignoring the positives? Is this phase really as bad as it seems? Does it serve me well to think this way? "Negative thoughts lead you into the stress response," Kagan says. Instead of dwelling on the negative, try to move your thoughts to appreciation: "What about my day am I thankful for? Avoid saying perimenopause is awful; instead, ask: What is in store for me in this next phase of life? What do I want?
"It really does help when you can change your thoughts so they can serve you better," Kagan says. "It gives you a greater sense of control."
Kagan also suggests two other mind-body approaches to help you ease your own passage.
- Share your experiences with other women who are going through the same experience: "That normalizes things — it’s reassuring to know that a lot of women are feeling what you’re feeling."
- Spend time with friends. "Just being with your girlfriends, gossiping, giggling, can help your mood," Kagan says.
Originally published in MORE magazine, October 2008.
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