Menopause transition is a period of intense change in a woman’s life that triggers many different emotions, some of which can be uncomfortable or difficult. Emotions are signals we experience in response to internal mental processes and /or external events and all of us experience a wide range of emotions. They may be positive, neutral or difficult and unfortunately, we can’t pick and choose to only experience the pleasant or happy ones.
Emotions shouldn’t be seen as barriers, but as signals for the things we care about. You should listen to them as they are trying to point you in the direction of what action you can take to get you closer to your goals and values. The key is to not to bottle up your emotions as this can create a later explosion of emotion, leading to more difficult feelings or even a complete emotional shutdown.
Four steps to responding to difficult emotions:
1. Recognise your emotions – notice and label:
- When a difficult emotion shows up it can be helpful to notice where you feel it in your body – become aware and don’t ignore it or try to distract yourself from experiencing it. If the emotion becomes more intense then try moving your body, stretching or taking some deep slow breaths.
- Recognise the emotion by labelling it. Use specific words like angry, sad, afraid (rather than global descriptions – overwhelmed, stressed, etc). This helps to reduce in the intensity of the emotion and in turn allows you to stay in the present instead of worrying about the future or ruminating about the past.
2.Allow the emotion – let go of the need to control:
- Drop the struggle against difficult emotions and allow them to take their course. Our ability to problem solve – although very helpful for practical or intellectual tasks – is unhelpful when dealing with difficult and uncomfortable emotions. So instead of trying to control how you feel, take control of your actions and behaviours. Emotional control strategies like suppression or distractions are generally ineffective. On the other hand, if you accept the lack of control over your emotions you will be open to the discomfort of uncertainty but free from the ongoing battle with our minds.
- Use slow controlled breathing to ground yourself and ‘make space for these emotions.’
3. Investigate with kindness and compassion:
- Simply be curious about the discomfort you feel. Make room for any sensations that may come up and notice the specific feelings you are experiencing. Where are these sensations located in your body? What other emotions come up? What is your mind telling you about these feelings and sensations?
- Be curious about what the emotion might signal about the things that matter to you and then allow it to take its course.
4.Give yourself some comfort – reassurance, validation, and self-compassion:
- Curiously tune into what is going on emotionally.
- Reassure yourself that this emotion will pass. Emotions are like waves; they raise, peak, plateau, and fall, even when they feel overwhelming. One way of looking at this is to imagine surfing your emotion wave.
- Provide comfort and self-compassion: think of a person you deeply care about, what would you say to them? Now say the same thing to yourself with kindness and compassion, ‘I am okay; I’ve done the best I could’. This approach provides reassurance and self-soothing.
Following these steps will help you gain better understanding, insight and a new perspective allowing yourself to become more present and connected to your experience. Dealing with difficult emotions is hard and it takes practice to acquire the skill to respond to them in a more balanced way. Be kind, compassionate and patient with yourself and others. Opening yourself to all your emotions will allow space to create more awareness, curiosity, and expansiveness into your life.
Menopause CBT Clinic
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