Empowering Women at Midlife

Many women experience physical as well as emotional changes at midlife. Often women complain that they seem more irritable or angry, or anxious. Most women know that menopause is the permanent cessation of menstruation or when a woman stops having her period, but not all are aware of  perimenopause which occurs during the years leading up to menopause. Typically beginning when women are in their mid to late forties, perimenopause is when women’s estrogen and progesterone hormone levels change or shift. As these hormones interact with the brain they guide women to be less focused outside of themselves and more inner focused (Northrup, 2006, p.36-75). Episodes of stress due to relationships or jobs during this phase of life may seem to cause emotions to ride to the surface more often. Perimenopause can be a confusing time. 

Women can have a small glimpse as to what the hormonal shift of perimenopause will be like emotionally during PMS (premenstrual syndrome) when their hormones cause or guide them to be in a more reflective state, inner directed and self-focused. As mothers during the childbearing years, women’s hormones assist them in being more focused outside of themselves caring for others, revealing their nurturing ability. Women during this phase of life tend to put themselves and their needs last.

Many years of learning to put oneself last can undermine women’s mental and emotional health during perimenopause. Stressors in relationships, children, or job related issues where women feel angry or powerless, left unchanged can build up as unresolved emotional stress. An accumulation occurs each cycle that goes by where a woman ignores these issues. When the hormonal shift occurs at perimenopause, the years of unresolved emotional stress or “emotional baggage” can magnify one’s symptoms. Women experience more emotional volatility if one has not worked through relational stress with one’s spouse, children or job related issues, or even one’s parent/childhood issues.

Women’s perimenopausal hormones are guiding them to focus on their own accumulated needs.  Perimenopausal emotional and physical symptoms alert women that it is time to mother themselves. Unresolved issues with one’s parents or spouse will resurface during the perimenopausal hormonal shift. At midlife the way a women’s brain interacts with this hormonal shift results in one’s inner self revealing one’s needs. Biologically, a women’s body is communicating to her that it is time to address these unresolved issues, the symptoms make it difficult to ignore or put oneself last anymore.

The perimenopausal years are a time to be self-nurturing to take time to listen to one’s body, as it is urging women to reevaluate their self-care physically and emotionally. Not being critical of one’s emotional feelings, but instead allowing room to be more interpretive and proactive as to what these emotions are attempting to communicate. What issues or stressors have been left unresolved? During this hormonal shift women can be empowered to allow themselves to fully experience their feelings instead of fighting against them. Allowing oneself to be fully present to one’s body physically and emotionally. Instead of asking what is wrong with me, or why do I have to go through this, try to uncover what is driving the angry, irritable feelings? Women can  embrace midlife by surrendering control, allowing themselves to fully feel what is happening to their body, letting their feelings wash over them, and staying with the feelings long enough to unpack their inner wisdom. This time of inner reflection can be a new normal for women empowering them to bring healing and growth to themselves.

Women’s midlife brains can bring clarity through self-reflection. Midlife women can have a profound effect on their health by giving themselves quiet time to fully experience their daily thought patterns, attitudes, beliefs and emotions. Being fully present, taking time out for oneself, surrendering to one’s emotion can be healing. Women can discover their wants, desires, needs, and dreams as well as unresolved issues from life situations that need to be addressed. Rather than feel victimized by their midlife bodies and brains, women can be empowered by their inner guidance system (Northrup, 2006). Just as they were there for their children or other’s that they loved, midlife is a time to be there for oneself. Be a good listener, acknowledge, and express feelings. If at times angry or sad feelings seem overwhelming take time to yourself to identify what is being experienced rather than being reactionary, allow these feelings to be expressed honestly and freely. Empowered by their inner guidance or inner wisdom women can assess whether they need help or support to navigate their unresolved issues. If you need assistance unpacking your emotional or relational stress please contact our office.

By: Nance Robson, NCC, LPC