Susan, who worked in a marketing company with a variety of clients, found herself doing some strange things: she confused the work she had to do for one client with another and got the deadlines mixed up, something that had never happened before. She also went to pick up her son after band practice only to realize when she got there that it was her daughter she was supposed to pick up from her babysitting job. Mix-ups like these continued to happen and she became alarmed, wondering if she was developing Alzheimer’s Disease. So she went to her doctor and explained what was happening. Her doctor reassured her that she was probably just experiencing brain fog, one of the common signs of menopause.
Foggy thinking can be scary and weird. One week you’re sharp and on top of things and the next week your mind is constantly wandering, you’re forgetful, you’re disorganized, and you burst into tears watching cute cat videos.
What’s going on?
It’s your brain on menopause. While most of us are familiar with physical signs of menopause, such as hot flashes, there’s very little discussion about the impact menopause can have on the brain.
During menopause, a tremendous fluctuation in hormone levels disrupts the production of hormones and mood-regulating chemicals. These include serotonin, which is involved in the control of pain perception, the sleep-wake cycle and mood; and endorphins, which are often called “the happiness chemicals” because an increase in endorphins is related to feelings of pleasure. Fluctuations of these chemicals, which are key elements of brain function, can account for dramatic shifts in mood.
You’re not crazy or senile
The first thing to realize is that you’re not losing your mind. However, what you’re experiencing is not a figment of your imagination. In a recent study, women were given a comprehensive battery of tests to evaluate their brain functioning. The findings: cognitive and memory problems were shown to be very real and at their worst in the first year after a woman’s last menstrual period.
Here’s the good news about the signs of menopause
Although they’re disruptive and unpredictable, these cognitive and memory issues usually improve over time. Research shows that loss in brain functioning in early menopause is likely to improve and return to normal over time.
In the meantime, there are ways to ease memory loss as well as other signs of menopause, such as mood changes and poor sleep quality. Some lifestyle changes and treatments may help reduce stress, which can make a big difference. The effect of stress on hormone activity can be so strong that it can actually bring on menopause symptoms. It may help to take up meditation and let out a deep “ohm”. Relax and indulge in a little bit of wine and chocolate, both of which are rich in resveratrol, an antioxidant that could help improve memory.
Memory games can help rebalance your brain and keep your mind sharp. Until the fog lifts, you can also compensate by taking notes and making lists that will help you perform better.
Don’t worry – you’ll be back to your old self soon enough!