Last Updated on September 19, 2022 by Editorial Staff
By Rachel Lankester, Founder Magnificent Midlife
One of the 34 symptoms associated with menopause is irritability. But it might just as well be described as perimenopausal rage. Because many of us find ourselves getting angrier than ever before. More frequently and more intensely. Sometimes that can be rather scary. But it needn’t be. Let’s take a look at why perimenopausal rage happens and what we can do about it.
Why do women experience rage around menopause?
If you’ve ever suffered from PMS you’ll know your emotions can often go a bit haywire around the time of your period. Hormones are fluctuating often constantly during the perimenopause years, so it’s not that surprising our emotions can start fluctuating too. In addition, perimenopause is when we’re often at our busiest and pulled in most directions.
We may be caring for teenagers and elderly parents. We may be in high stress jobs and/or feeling lost and not knowing where we want to go next. We may be in fulfilling relationships or in ones that just don’t do much for us anymore. When we have to cope with all the changes of menopause too, it’s really no wonder we can start to feel irritable and sometimes emotions can boil over into rage.
Perimenopause is a time when we’re changing emotionally as well as physically. Estrogen is the hormone that pushes us to nurture others, that can make us prioritize others often at the expense of ourselves, that can make us less prone to rock the boat! It’s sometimes even described as the biddable hormone. How susceptible we are to that aspect of estrogen changes during perimenopause as our estrogen levels decrease.
Many women describe feeling like their true authentic selves when they’ve gone through menopause. Some of us feel like our feisty, more confident pre-pubescent selves when estrogen is no longer dominating our hormonal profile. This can feel liberating. Sometimes anger and rage are just a natural part of that hormonal evolution.
The problem is, we’ve been taught that female anger is bad and that rage means we’re hysterical, rather than just angry. We’re taught early on that showing anger is not a feminine thing to do. I was never allowed to have a tantrum even as a child. We often grow up not knowing how to experience and express healthy anger. Boys and men can show anger, but girls and women not so much. We’re supposed to suppress our feelings and behave.
When the veil of estrogen is lifted as we go through perimenopause, we may initially find ourselves shocked by the strength of our emotions, especially if we’ve also bought into society’s negative narratives around menopause and getting older as those impact women. We may believe we’ve lost our value, being no longer young and fertile, and we are now on a downward slope. We may be questioning our entire identity! There is so much going on to make us cross!
But anger can also be a force for good. It’s what drives us to make change, to improve the world, to fight against injustice. So let’s look at how to channel it well, rather than letting it overwhelm us and potentially cause damage.
How to deal with perimenopausal rage
The first thing is don’t beat yourself up about it too much. These are natural emotions that you’re feeling. If they feel stronger than before, that’s because you’re now different, rather than the emotions themselves being necessarily wrong. Here are some easy ways to make your anger more manageable.
1. Acknowledge your anger. There’s no point trying to deny it or suppress it. If you don’t deal with it, it’s only likely to get worse. If your anger is causing problems in your immediate circle, take time to explain about the potential impact of perimenopause (if you can) and reassure those around you that you are taking steps to both understand and deal with whatever is going on.
2. Take some time to work out why you are angry. Sit with the feeling and get out a notebook and journal about what’s going on. If you do stream of conscious writing without any self-censorship or even thinking that much about what you’re writing, you may be amazed at what spills out onto the page. Your inner self may give you clarity about what’s really going on. It can be very helpful to do this exercise daily – writing your morning pages.
3. Remember to breathe deeply. When we’re angry, our breathing will become shallow. Make yourself breathe deeply, right down into your belly. As little as three slow deep breaths can have an extraordinary impact on our body’s physiology, bringing us literally back down to earth (when we’re in danger of going off on Apollo 9 as I like to say) and grounding us in the present.
4. Exercise can be very helpful for reducing all kinds of emotion and especially rage. Going for a run is my go-to remedy when I’m feeling upset. If you can’t run, go for a brisk walk or pedal hard on your bike. If you can’t go out, try thumping your sofa or jumping up and down to some really energetic music. We hold so much emotion in our bodies and all of these are great ways to get out what isn’t serving us. Check out our article on How To Design A Home Workout Routine.
5. Try to adopt a regular meditation practice. Meditation is brilliant for so many aspects of perimenopause and getting older in general. I often write about how midlife is the time when we need to start looking after ourselves better than ever so we can enjoy health and happiness long-term. Meditation helps to relieve stress, thereby reducing what is going to bring on anger.
Stress is very bad for our health and will exacerbate any menopause issues, so anything we can do to reduce it is a good thing. There are many different types of meditation, but simply sitting for 20 minutes with your eyes closed and focusing on your breathing, counting from 1 to 10 over and over if you need to, will ultimately do you a lot of good.
6. Sort out your diet. This might sound strange, but the right diet will help with most issues associated with menopause because it helps with hormonal balance. If your diet isn’t good, that will cause stress on the body, which will exacerbate menopause symptoms and add to the pressure your body is under including how well you cope with emotions. It’s particularly important to balance your blood sugar to reduce levels of stress hormones in your body. This enables your adrenal glands to take over producing the different estrogen we still need when our ovaries stop doing that. Eat a combination of protein and fibre with each meal and avoid long gaps between meals. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, reduce your alcohol, sugar, processed food and caffeine intake, all of which mess with hormones, and eat natural phytoestrogens to replace the estrogen your ovaries no longer produce with foodstuffs like flaxseeds, lentils, tofu and soy. Here’s a comprehensive list of all the foodstuffs that can help. Daily ground flaxseeds on my breakfast cereal as well as organic soya milk instead of dairy have massively helped me.
7. Channel that rage into something you’re passionate about. What do you want to rant about in the world? What would you get on a soapbox about? Use your anger (passion) to make positive change! That’s the real power of women in midlife and beyond!
There’s a lot we can do to ease our midlife transition through perimenopause. Rather than feeling overwhelmed, we can take back control. Anger is not necessarily a bad thing unless it causes damage in your life.
If you can use your anger and channel it into new passions, you can create a magnificent next chapter as you go through menopause and later on too. So think about how best to use your perimenopausal rage either to transform your own life or create positive change to something about which you are passionate. Good luck!
This post also appears on our sister site Magnificent Midlife where you can find out more about working with the author, midlife mentor Rachel Lankester.
Rachel Lankester is the founder of Magnificent Midlife, author, host of the Magnificent Midlife Podcast, a midlife mentor and editor of the Mutton Club online magazine. After an initially devastating early menopause at 41, she dedicated herself to helping women vibrantly transition through the sometimes messy middle of life, helping them cope better with menopause and ageing in general, and create magnificent next chapters. She’s been featured in/on BBC Woman’s Hour, The Huffington Post, The Sunday Times, Thrive Global, Authority Magazine, The Age Buster, Woman’s Weekly, Prima Magazine, eShe, Tatler HK and Woman’s Own amongst others. She believes we just get better with age. Get her book Magnificent Midlife: Transform Your Middle Years, Menopause and Beyond.