You used to pride yourself on your memory – but too often these days you forget what you only remembered five minutes ago. And why did you come into the kitchen?
Thoughts can escape you mid-sentence. New information just won’t sink in. It’s like trying to think through a fog. And it’s bloody frustrating.
It’s not just you, you know. ‘Brain fog’, the collective name for forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating and an inability to think clearly is a common symptom in the perimenopause.
Whether you are trying to crack on with a challenging report, or just want to relax with a book – it can be hard to wrestle your brain into focusing on the matter at hand.
But what causes brain fog in the perimenopause? When your brain isn’t behaving itself and feels more like cotton wool than a useful organ, it’s down to those bloomin’ hormones again. This time oestrogen and testosterone are sloping off and affecting your cognitive powers.
These issues appear to pop up more in the perimenopause and first year after your periods stop. A study of 117 middle-aged women showed that those in the 12 months of menopause scored the lowest when tested on verbal learning, memory, motor function and attention.
Researchers have also found that women negotiating the menopause may experience mood swings, and that might affect their memory. Sleep problems and hot flushes don’t help your brain to fire on all cylinders either.
TOP TIPS FOR YOU
The good news is that, for many of the women studied, memory improved over time.
But if you don’t want to wait to sharpen up your noodle, there are still things you can do to find your way through brain fog and improve your cognitive health.
We know, we keep telling you to get a good night’s kip. But if you are going to give your mind a fighting chance to deal with all these hormonal changes, as well as your busy life, then it’s vital you work on your sleep deficit.
What can you do to improve the quality and quantity of shut-eye in your bedroom? Take a look at our top tips on dealing with sleep problems, like deep breathing, yoga, and massage, and put some into action.
USE IT OR LOSE IT
We all have bits of our body that we’d like to tighten (hey smutty lady, I was thinking of tummies rather than vaginas). But have you ever thought about toning your mind?
You don’t have to do a crossword a day to combat menopause brain fog, taking up a new hobby like learning to play the saxophone or interacting with new people will do the trick. Anything that works out your grey matter in a different way.
Think of it as the mental equivalent of your feet walking on sand rather than on a flat pavement. The more you challenge your mind, the sharper it will get and it might just slow down that memory loss.
Exercising your body as well as your mind will give you the best chance of blowing away brain fog - as well as a few personal cobwebs.
Wherever possible, get out in the fresh air. Reinvigorate yourself. Regular exercise helps alleviate so many perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms. Why not kill several birds with one heart rate-elevating stone?
MAKE THINGS EASIER
Don’t doggedly expect yourself to remember things if you’re feeling hazy.
Instead of getting frustrated by doing what you’ve always done, take the pressure off by keeping a ‘to do’ list or putting reminders in your phone. Don’t forget that Google is always there to take the pressure off too.
FEED YOUR BRAIN
We do hope you like fish? No worries if not. You can always take an Omega 3 supplement to support your cognitive function if you’re not a fan of mackerel. (Other fatty cold-water dwellers like salmon, tuna, herring and sardines will also do nicely).
Chomp on walnuts and chia seeds too to cut through brain fog. Flaxseed, soybean, sage, ginkgo biloba and canola will also help to keep your brain function highly tuned. As will healthy fats in foods like avocados. And if you are unsure how to balance your diet, talk to a nutritionist.
CHECK IT OUT
If your mental weather forecast goes from a bit misty to pea soup – then it might be a good idea to talk to your doctor.
Then you can rule out other health issues or ask about treatments like HRT that might help you think and feel a whole lot better.
TOP TIPS FOR OTHERS
What she really needs with this particular symptom is her partner, friends and colleagues to be understanding. Read on to find out how you can support her.
OUR ADVICE TO HER
In terms of self-care, we’ve recommended that she sorts out her sleep routine, works out her mental muscles and exercises her body to blow away the cobwebs in her head.
She can also find new ways to remind her of information and tasks to take the pressure off.
But if the fog thickens or memory loss gets worse, it’s a good idea to encourage her to get checked out by her GP.
More info on all of these top tips is on the ‘For her’ section of this page. Take a look.
It can be frustrating when you don’t get a clear answer to what you think is a simple question. But imagine the frustration of not being able to find the answer because of menopause brain fog?
Give her time and don’t make it a big deal if she can’t give you the answer right away. Brushing over it will stop her from feeling flustered and means she’ll probably know what she wants to say quicker.
ASK HER TO EXPLAIN
Don’t assume you know what her brain fog feels like. Gently ask her to explain the effect it is having on her physically and emotionally.
You may not be able to do anything to make her feel better. But she may not want answers, she may just need to talk – and be properly heard. Switch your listening ears on and give her your full attention.
Regular exercise is a key tool for managing brain fog during the perimenopause and menopause.
Combining something you want to do (spend time together) along with something you need to do (exercise) can be a real game-changer.
Partnering up to go for a walk, swim or to the gym is also more likely to help you both stay motivated and could improve brain function for the pair of you.
CREATE A WEEKLY MEAL PLAN
With brain fog, it’s really important women get enough lean protein, Omega 3 from oily fish and healthy fats from things like avocados and nuts in their diet.
Planning meals ahead is a good way to get an overview of what you’re eating, while shopping for the ingredients together and sharing the cooking can take the pressure off. You could even sign up for a cookery class to learn some new culinary skills.
SUGGEST A SUPPLEMENT
If she’s still not getting enough Omega 3 from her diet to support her cognitive function, perhaps you could suggest a supplement?
Why not gently ask if she’s tried anything like that? Let her know she can find loads of reputable suppliers over on our nutrition page.