Stress and menopause are inextricably linked. Stress, and the way women cope with it, can worsen the symptoms of menopause. The challenges of menopause can cause significant stress. Menopause isn’t a single entity. Its impact infiltrates into many aspects of a woman’s life and the resulting stress can often feel overwhelming.

In the first of two articles on this very important subject, I will explore the interaction between stress and menopause. In my second article, I will provide some advice and tools which I hope you will find helpful.


Medically speaking, ‘the menopause’ refers to a single point after a woman has had no periods for 12 months. Cessation of periods usually happens when a woman is in her early 50s, but can occur any time before that. The lead up to this point is called the perimenopause. What many women don’t realise is that changes relating to the perimenopause can start many years earlier. As a result, many symptoms relating to this fluctuating hormonal milieu are put down to other causes. After a woman has had no periods for a year, she is described as post-menopausal. Although her periods have now stopped, she may still be experiencing significant symptoms for many years.

For the sake of simplicity, I will use the term ‘menopause’ to cover the period of symptomatic transition. During this time many women experience significant changes in their mental and physical wellbeing.  


Let’s start by considering the stressors that women are often dealing with when they are going through menopause. Many have children who are a source of stress, either at home or having left home. Elderly parents can also be a source of concern and, sometimes, take up time and energy. Work maybe stressful. There may be relationship challenges and some women maybe dealing with separation or divorce. Others are facing the grief of widowhood. Women maybe facing financial challenges, dealing with health issues and a whole variety of other stressors. We know that stress impacts on the ability to think clearly, make good decisions, remember things and control emotions. In addition, through its complex physiology, stress can also impact on a woman’s health, wellbeing and functioning in a multitude of different ways.


Now let’s consider how menopause can be a source of stress. Flushes and sweats are extremely common symptoms. These can cause embarrassment and loss of confidence. They are uncomfortable, create large laundry loads and disrupt sleep, often repeatedly. Brain fog affects a woman’s ability to think clearly which can impact on her confidence and day to day functioning. Anxious and negative thoughts can increase and become overwhelming. Physically, menopause can cause a whole variety of different symptoms. Many affect her appearance which can impact on her confidence eg hair thinning, weight gain, changes in body fat distribution and skin changes. Other symptoms include joint pains, muscle aches, bowel symptoms and reduced libido.

Essentially, stress and menopause combine to create a cauldron of physical and mental health issues which impact on a woman’s wellbeing and ability to function day to day.


When people are stressed, they often reach for ‘quick fixes’ to help them feel better. These include alcohol, sugary and fatty foods, caffeine and social media. Unfortunately, these particular ‘quick fixes’ can worsen symptoms of menopause.

Women may start having an alcoholic drink to help them alleviate symptoms of anxiety, relax when they feel tense or help them get to sleep. Unfortunately, alcohol can worsen flushes and sweats and exacerbate brain fog. Regarding sleep, it sedates but doesn’t generate a healthy sleep. Alcohol is highly calorific so increases the risk of weight gain which is already a problem for many women at this time.

If a woman’s sleep is interrupted, she may rely on caffeine to get her through the day. Caffeine worsens flushes and sweats. It is a stimulant, so increases the heart rate and can worsen the physical symptoms of anxiety. If taken from mid afternoon onwards, it can make it harder to get to sleep.

Women often crave sugary and fatty foods, as a treat or a comfort when they are stressed. Sugary and fatty foods, however tempting, can cause a lot of harm. They create spikes in blood sugars which can affect energy levels. If consumed late in the evening, they may make it harder to fall asleep.  They can also worsen flushes and sweats as well as cause weight gain.

Social media, if used correctly, can have a positive influence on wellbeing. However, social media also has the potential to increase a woman’s anxiety and impact negatively on her self-esteem.

I encourage you, now, to reflect upon your own situation. What stressors are you facing at the moment? Do you have any unhealthy stress relieving tendencies? What symptoms are you experiencing that maybe related to menopause but also to stress?

In my next article I will explore ways to help you manage stress and menopause in a healthier way.

Please get in touch if you are struggling and think I might be able to help.