If you’re a woman over the age of 40, then having hot flashes, cold sweats, fatigue, and hormone imbalances usually hint at one thing – menopause. But, is it the really the only cause? Experts claim that the signs of menopause often resemble the symptoms of chronic stress. Stress, however, might be a symptom of an underlying physiological or psychological illness. Here’s how to find out whether you’re undergoing menopause or your body is just reacting to chronic stress.
Signs Of Chronic Stress
If you’ve been working extra shifts lately or are stuck in a job that you don’t particularly enjoy, stress is inevitable. Sometimes, friction in personal or professional relationships can be a major contributor to stress. If you’re frequently exposed to stressful situations, your body’s natural reaction is “fight” or “flight.” Some of the symptoms of chronic stress include chronic muscle pain, respiratory issues, heart problems, digestion-related gastrointestinal issues, and hormonal imbalances. It could also impair the functioning of your nervous and reproductive systems.1
Signs Of Menopause
If it’s been over 12 months since you menstruated, chances are you could be hitting menopause. The average age of menopause in American women is 51 years. Along with the absence of a period, menopause is accompanied by hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, depression, difficulty concentrating, sleeplessness, vaginal dryness, painful intercourse, loss of bladder control, thinning of the skin, and a low sex drive.2 Additionally, the reproductive hormones associated with menopause can later contribute to the development of osteoporosis, bone fractures, and cardiovascular disease.
Chronic Stress Vs Menopause
Since the signs of both conditions are similar, it easy to misdiagnose a case of chronic stress as menopause. If you ignore chronic stress and leave it untreated, it can contribute to a host of other health conditions. Also, it’s important to remember that menopause and chronic stress are not always independent of each other – menopause is often accompanied by chronic stress. However, not all cases of chronic stress are linked to menopause.
How To Manage Chronic Stress
Learning how to effectively manage chronic stress can help avoid a complete burnout. Here are some ways that will help you deal with chronic stress and overcome it.3
1. Set A Priority To-Do List
Stress often makes you feel overwhelmed and incompetent. To reduce stress to a certain extent, organize your tasks better. If your work schedule is hectic, then make a to-do list of tasks and arrange them priority-wise. It also helps to note the expected time needed for you to complete each task. Also, once you know that your plate is full, avoid taking on more commitments. This way, you’ll experience less stress and feel more prepared to handle your day.
2. Lean On Your Support System
If your stress isn’t the result of work pressure, it could have something to do with personal relationships. If you’re facing a rough patch in your relationship – romantic or otherwise – or are suffering from psychological issues like depression or anxiety, then tap into your support system for help. Talk to your family, friends, or a therapist. They might have undergone a similar situation before and could be in a position to help you out. If you’re being abused by a family member or a colleague, seek immediate help.
3. Eat Right
If your stress is a result of hormonal imbalance or other underlying illnesses, resolve to correct it. If you’re affected by a certain vitamin deficiency, opt for a supplement or eat foods rich in the nutrient that your body lacks. Also, remember to stay hydrated and eat nutritious food. Eat small meals throughout the day to make sure that you don’t fall low on energy.
4. Give Gratitude
Every day, stand in front of the mirror and make a list of 3 things you are grateful for. Had a great dinner the night before? Your pet gave you a long early morning cuddle? Or did you manage to brew yourself some excellent coffee? All these little details might seem small but are actually significant to be considered “good” things. Counting your blessings and giving gratitude can make you feel more positive and less stressed.
5. Have A Good Night’s Sleep
Lack of sleep is one of the major causes of stress, adrenal fatigue, and several other health conditions. Each night, try to get at least 7–8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. To fall asleep quickly and enhance the quality or duration of your sleep, avoid drinking coffee or aerated drinks right before bedtime. Also, remember to eat a wholesome meal. It might also help to keep houseplants in your bedroom – they purify the air around you and help you sleep better.
Menopause and chronic stress have similar symptoms, so it’s easy to classify stress as just a menopausal symptom and leave it untreated. If you are unable to cope with stress, visit a medical practitioner, as it could be the sign of an underlying illness.
|↑1||Stress effects on the body. American Psychological Association.|
|↑2||Menopause. University of California, Los Angeles.|
|↑3||Stress won’t go away? Maybe you are suffering from chronic stress. American Psychological Association.|