I can still clearly remember when the first hot flush struck me – I was in a meeting and out of the blue I became very hot and got drenched in sweat. By the time I had to speak, I was red in the face and had to wipe my brow as I was dripping. To say that I was self-conscious and embarrassed is an understatement. I was in my mid-40s, and it never crossed my mind that I was perimenopausal. I was too caught with work and all the other life demands to think of this! And then, when a couple of weeks later I woke up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat, the penny dropped – I knew that have officially entered the perimenopause.
Probably you recognise the story, as hot flushes are one of the most frequent symptoms women are likely to experience when going through the menopausal journey.
The causes of the hot flushes are not exactly known, but the belief is that changes in the hormonal levels during the menopause is affecting the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that controls the body’s thermostat. As a result of dropping oestrogen levels, the hypothalamus is failing to regulate properly the body’s temperature, hence the hot flushes and sweats which are the body’s way of trying to cool itself off. Hot flushes are sometime associated with palpitations, dizziness, headaches, and shivers and can last from a few seconds to several minutes with various degrees of intensity and many women can experience this symptom for several years.
You may have wondered – How can psychology help with the hot flushes and other physical and psychological symptoms associated with the menopause – and the answer is about to follow.
It’s likely that you have previously heard the saying ‘Pain is unavoidable, suffering is optional’. In the menopause scenario, I would translate this into: ‘Hot-flushes are unavoidable, suffering is optional’. This is because these two concepts are not the same – pain, or hot flushes in this situation, are caused by a raw physical sensation, but the suffering is generated by the way we think about this symptom. Suffering is the wrapper we put around the symptom, the struggle with this symptom, the story-telling our mind engages with, when we go through this experience. We tussle with the thoughts about what they are, what they mean to us/about us, where we are in life, engaging with indignation, complaining and sometimes self-pity about having to go through this experience.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), a form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is giving us the principles and tools of how to deal with the hot flushes by helping us to manage our mind, so it does not add to the pain of the hot flushes and turn them into suffering.
Using the ACT tools does not mean the symptom will go away or it will feel good. The whole point of doing this in not to turn the pain of hot flushes (and menopause per see) into suffering.
How do you deal with your hot flashes and night sweats? Let me know in the comments below!
To find out more how to deal with hot flushes and night sweats during the menopausal transition, contact me and I will show you how to use CBT – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – to become CBT – ‘Confident, Brave and Thriving’ again.
For more information and resources on hot flushes during the menopause please see: