In general, menopause gets a bad wrap. Many parts of our culture treat menopause like an expiration date for the time when women have carefree fun. In truth, a lot of research shows that post-menopausal women feel better than they ever have and that life satisfaction increases with age. And yet, going through menopause in the middle of a pandemic can put a microscope on the less-than-pleasant symptoms that accompany it. If this rings true for you, know you’re not alone; many women are reporting worse menopausal symptoms during the pandemic. Here’s how to cope in the meantime.
What to Expect Going Through Menopause During a Pandemic
Menopause causes your body to go through drastic changes quickly, very similar to the extreme alterations the pandemic has caused to most people’s everyday lives. So, it makes sense that menopause, an occasionally stressful time of life, will have symptoms exacerbated by the coronavirus. Determining if your anxiety stems from menopause or the coronavirus can be difficult, and it can be hard to keep a clear head during this unprecedented time.
Anxiety and depression are common symptoms of menopause, and the isolation and uncertainty about COVID-19 can increase these mood disruptions, too. Thinkpieces have been written on how the coronavirus has made getting to the doctor more complicated, and consequently, prescriptions, like hormone replacement therapy or antidepressants, are sometimes delayed. Further, the increased anxiety that the pandemic has caused can worsen your hot flashes.
Doctors have also been investigating estrogen as a protective factor against COVID-19, meaning that those going through menopause and producing less estrogen may be at higher risk. With all of these factors coming into play, it’s very likely women going through menopause will experience increased anxiety (as well as the hot flashes they trigger). Plus, the fact that our culture ignores the realities of menopause is in direct contrast to the near-constant stream of information about COVID. It’s essential to educate yourself about what you can expect from menopause and the pandemic while maintaining a balance so that you aren’t entirely focused on things that stress you out.
Finding the Light at the End of the Tunnel
The good news is that nearly everyone agrees that the pandemic is temporary and will be resolved over the coming months. Though the virus is unlikely to disappear, doctors are optimistic we’ll find new ways of coping with it, and life will return to normal—even though it will be “a new normal.” Similarly, most of the symptoms of menopause are temporary and will resolve on their own eventually (though vaginal dryness is not one of those symptoms, and it tends to worsen over time).
But this doesn’t mean you have to live with the adverse effects of the pandemic or menopause. Self-care is more important than ever, and finding ways to be calm and reduce stress can help keep your mental health intact. Maintain an active network of support that you can talk to about both menopause and the pandemic. Though social distancing is vital, now is not the time to isolate. Reach out to friends virtually and carve out time to spend with people to whom you are close. Make an effort to pay attention to your health. Though it may be more difficult and stressful to go to a medical appointment, putting off vital screenings can endanger your health and put you at risk for worse health outcomes in the future.
Prioritizing your mental health is fundamental to handling the doubly demanding menopausal symptoms during the pandemic. And don’t forget to take care of your physical symptoms (like vaginal dryness!), too. You deserve to feel good during menopause, a pandemic, and any other trial that life throws at you.