Let’s talk rage.
Not anxiety, not grouchiness…pure, unadulterated, messy, all-consuming RAGE. You know, that lovely fireball of emotions bursting out from your very core!
Many things can set off a rage tsunami: five consecutive nights of shitty sleep/night sweats, a toilet seat left open (how hard is it to just close it???), or the feeling of being taken for granted.
While bouts of rage are not exclusive to the menopause transition (or to women’s health), mood changes including anger are indeed a frequently reported menopause symptom. 70 percent of women experience irritability during perimenopause, with an increased risk of mood swings for those of us with a history of postpartum depression or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (a severe form of PMS).
But why do we suddenly feel this rage during perimenopause? How can we manage these bursts of anger? And is it possible that there’s something we can learn from our rage?
Why do we experience perimenopausal rage?
Any one of the 34 symptoms of menopause (brain fog, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, weight gain, or sore breasts, to name a few) is enough to evoke at least a small spark of rage. After all, it’s easy to feel like your body is betraying you during this transition.
But in order to understand perimenopausal rage specifically, we need to learn how fluctuating hormone levels affect our mood, namely estrogen, progesterone, and serotonin.
The production of estrogen is linked to our levels of serotonin (AKA the “happy hormone”), a neurotransmitter that reduces anxiety. Progesterone (the “calming hormone”) may also influence our levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that produces a calming effect when it binds to its receptors. As progesterone and estrogen levels fluctuate during menopause, your chances of experiencing mood swings, anxiety, and sleeplessness can fluctuate as well.
How can we manage menopausal rage?
Rage, in-and-of-itself, isn’t always a problem that requires treatment or management. However, if you are experiencing frequent bursts of anger that disrupt your wellbeing and the wellbeing of those around you, it may be time to explore holistic changes or medical treatments:
1) Don’t minimize your rage.
According to a 2019 study from the North American Menopause Society, women who ‘self-silence’ in relationships may have a higher heart disease risk. While it sometimes feels easier in the moment to squash down your rage, lock it in a mental box, and throw out the key, research shows that repressing one’s emotions can pose serious physical and mental health risks.
2) Examine the root of your rage.
As with most difficult and unpleasant emotions, we tend to label rage as simply a negative emotion or dismiss our own anger as merely a passing outburst at the hands of hormonal changes. But behind this reactive rush of emotions is often an important truth, need, or a boundary that we want to express or establish.
In Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger, author Soraya Chemaly explores the significance and validity of female anger, stating, “Anger is an assertion of rights and worth. It is communication, equality, and knowledge. Anger is instrumental, thoughtful, complicated, and resolved. In anger, whether you like it or not, there is truth.”
The next time you experience menopause anger, try to pause and ask yourself some questions: Have you been feeling overlooked in your relationship? Are you tired of tending to others needs rather than your own?
Pausing to look inwards and address your rage head-on is not easy, but doing so can provide essential insight into changes you may want to make in your life.
3) Practice new ways of processing rage.
Self-care practices including routinely getting out into nature, cultivating a mindfulness meditation or deep breathing practice, keeping a gratitude journal, and prioritizing “me” time have all been shown to reduce anxiety and depression while improving an overall sense of well-being. Don’t know where to start? Check out this enlightening podcast from a teacher of Tibetan Buddhism for a six-step meditation on recognizing and letting go of anger.
4) Consider lifestyle changes.
Surprise, surprise! Our diet, exercise, and sleep can have a big impact on our moods whether we’re pre-menopausal, perimenopausal, or postmenopausal. Moving towards a low-glycemic-index diet, developing a workout regimen comprised of strength and aerobic exercises, and sticking to a consistent and relaxing sleep routine can transform our mental wellbeing. Explore Elektra’s guides on sleep, nutrition, and our top exercise tips for our full expert-approved recommendations — cognitive behavioral therapy (aka CBT) included.
5) Consider prescription options.
Holistic treatments can have an incredibly powerful impact on mood changes for menopausal women. However, there are additionally hormonal and prescription treatment options as well. Check out our complete guide for a full run-down on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and our symptom page on mood changes for additional medication options, including anti-depressants.