The common concerns of menopause - including hot flashes, night sweats, trouble sleeping, stress, anxiety, brain fog, vaginal dryness, and depressed mood - can have a significant impact on your quality of life. These concerns aren’t one-dimensional. They impact multiple areas of wellbeing, including your physical, mental, and emotional health. Therefore, it is no wonder that when you start experiencing these concerns you will start searching for ways to alleviate and cope with these discomforts.
While talking to a doctor or medical professional is always recommended (and encouraged as a first step to confirm that there is not some other underlying health condition that needs to be addressed), there is often no one treatment that helps with all side effects. The good news is that different treatments and tools can be used. Finding the ones that are best suited for you is the goal.
This is why I encourage looking into Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as a way to help address the discomforts of menopause; it encompasses multiple tools and approaches to help increase coping skills and reduce the severity of symptoms over all areas of your wellbeing.
What is CBT?
CBT is a non-medical, evidence-based approach that has been shown to help with multiple health issues including anxiety, depression, sleep, chronic pain, health anxiety, hot flashes, fatigue, and couples issues. The underlying principle is that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all connected. Finding ways to modify and change unhelpful thought patterns has a lasting effect on how we feel and how we behave.
For example, if you wake up with a hot flash in the middle of the night you might think, “Oh, this is happening again, I have no control, I am not going to be able to go back to sleep and am not going to be able to function tomorrow at work.” In turn, these thoughts might leave you feeling hopeless, anxious, and stressed. These feelings make it even harder for you to relax and go back to sleep and you might decide to skip work or go in late (behavior) which reinforces the thought that you cannot function your best when you have a hot flash.
Thoughts are extremely powerful and often we are not even aware of the automatic thoughts that we are having at any moment. Becoming aware of these thoughts and any unhelpful thought patterns is one of the first steps. Awareness is key for being able to modify and change these thoughts which, as a result, improves our ability to cope with stressors in our life.
While becoming aware of and modifying thought patterns are at the cornerstone of this approach, CBT also encourages using behavioral strategies to help improve symptoms. For example, in the scenario above, a behavioral approach would be to practice deep belly breathing (diaphragmatic breathing) to help elicit the relaxation response and help calm your body for sleep. This is one of many behavioral strategies that can help alleviate stressors.
CBT and Menopause
While CBT techniques will not eliminate hot flashes or vaginal dryness, it does give tools to help deal with the distress that you experience. As a result, this improves your ability to cope and your quality of life. Another great aspect of CBT is that it is safe to do in addition to any other medical treatments you might be on, such as hormone replacement therapy. So there is a low risk in trying these strategies starting today. What do you think? If you feel like giving it a try, here are a couple of tools you can start using.
Want to learn more? Get tailored education and suggestions for your own personal menopause journey by taking Kindra's hormone assessment.
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Tags: Mental Health