Staying “On the Level”
If you are experiencing mild mood disturbances, anxiety, or general but recurring feelings of the blues, you have a number of simple self-treatment options for leveling out the emotional roller-coaster ride.
Give Yourself What You Need
First, give your body and mind healthy amounts of good fuel, activity, and rest. Eat a healthy diet that emphasizes fruit, vegetables, and whole grains and skips high-fat, low-nutrient foods loaded with sugar, salt, and simple carbohydrates. Limiting the amount of caffeine, salt, MSG, and sugar you consume can help your body remain active and alert, rather than jumpy and fatigued. Your physical and emotional health are closely linked, and you can't maintain either with a crummy diet.
Here are some other good guidelines to follow:
Eat sensible amounts of food throughout the day. If you stuff yourself or try to eat your way out of a low mood, you just add to the problem by contributing to weight gain, low self-esteem, and poor body image. Bad nutrition can lead to illness, fatigue, and a host of other problems that can leave you feeling hopeless and depressed. Caring about your body is essential to caring for your mind.
Be Active. Though mood swings, anxiety, and depression can leave you feeling frozen — uninterested in life and incapable of doing anything to participate in it — activity is one of the best ways to lift and stabilize your mood. Physical activity triggers your body to release mood-lifting endorphins, and it gets your heart pumping to circulate oxygenated blood throughout your body. Participating in activities with family and friends can help lighten your mood, broaden your perspective on problems, and help you deal more effectively with issues that threaten your emotional health.
Practice meditation or relaxation techniques. Meditation, relaxation techniques, and mind-body exercises such as yoga and Tai Chi are powerful tools for relieving stress, anxiety, and mild depression (see the section on Mind-Body Exercises in Chapter 5 for more information on these techniques). Fifteen-minute sessions of meditation, deep breathing, or relaxation every morning and evening can help reduce or even eliminate much of the stress and mood-altering emotional upheavals of perimenopause.
Get plenty of rest. Try to establish and maintain a regular sleep schedule, in which you go to sleep and rise at the same times every day — including weekends. Take time to read, listen to music, or soak in a hot tub to relax and prepare yourself for sleep. Don't exercise or eat large amounts of food late in the evening.
One study from the University of Washington showed that a simple intervention of a brisk daily twenty-minute walk, more sunlight during the day and less light at night, and taking certain vitamins, could impact women's mood. The program, called LEVITY — for Light, Exercise, and Vitamin Intervention Therapy — improved mood and well-being scores for the women. For details, go to
You Don't Have to Go It Alone
No single treatment option is right — or even effective — for every woman. But any woman suffering from mood disorders should talk with a doctor, counselor, mentor, or other trusted advisor to discuss all appropriate treatments. Depression and other mood disturbances are not a typical by-product of the aging process. A willingness to admit and discuss mood disorders is essential for overcoming them.
Though women are statistically more likely than men are to suffer from depression, they are also more likely to look for help in overcoming issues that affect their emotional health. Your friends, family, coworkers, doctors, minister, or other counselors can help you find ways to put emotional issues to rest, so you can concentrate on becoming healthier, stronger, and more engaged in life as each year passes.