Empowering the Freelance Economy

Midlife crisis: How hormonal imbalance wreaks havoc on couples (and how to weather the storm together)

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A perfect storm is brewing in the bodies and minds of those in midlife, making them particularly vulnerable to emotional turmoil. As hormones fluctuate and life’s milestones trigger introspection, men and women face unique challenges that can strain relationships, careers, and overall well-being.

This special report delves into the world of hormonal imbalance, shedding light on its causes and the often unpleasant symptoms. By understanding what’s happening within your bodies, you can empathise with one another and provide much-needed support.

Facing these challenges alone can take a toll on mental health and lead to regret. It’s better to tackle this together and strengthen your relationship during this transformative period.

For women, the onset of perimenopause and menopause brings a cascade of hormonal changes that can disrupt sleep, trigger mood swings, overall muscular and joint pain and fuel anxiety. Simultaneously, the demands of caring for aging parents and launching children into adulthood create a stressful balancing act.

Men are also experiencing hormonal shifts and must confront their own set of midlife health and mental challenges. Declining testosterone levels, for example, can affect energy, mood, and libido, while questions of purpose and professional fulfilment may surface.

This convergence of biological and psychological stressors can create a breeding ground for emotional imbalance, leading to fatigue, illness, and strained relationships. However, experts emphasise that couples who acknowledge these challenges empathetically and proactively address them together are better equipped to navigate the midlife storm and emerge stronger on the other side.

Hormonal shifts: a silent challenge for freelancers

Freelancers aged 40 to 65 could be experiencing hormonal changes that could be silently impacting their productivity, well-being and personal relationships, especially with their partners. Reports highlight how men and women in this age group experience unique hormonal imbalances, affecting both physical and mental health. Understanding these shifts is crucial for freelancers to maintain productivity and overall wellness.

For example, progesterone levels decline significantly faster than oestrogen in both women and men, particularly around the age of 40. This faster decline leads to oestrogen dominance, a hormonal imbalance with potential negative health effects. Men also produce oestrogen, which is essential for various bodily functions. Environmental factors may further exacerbate this issue by increasing oestrogen exposure through certain foods, alcohol, and the surrounding environment.

Hormonal imbalance in women: menopause and beyond

For women, the most significant hormonal change is menopause, typically occurring between 45 and 55. According to The American Psychological Association “menopause is tough”. With fluctuating oestrogen and progesterone levels this can cause a range of symptoms, including hot flashes, mood swings, sleep disturbances, and brain fog. These can significantly hinder a freelancer’s ability to concentrate, meet deadlines, and maintain client relationships like they used to. It’s unfortunate given the years and effort you have put in to build your business only to have your health put a spanner in the works.

Furthermore, declining oestrogen levels can lead to decreased bone density, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. This can be particularly concerning for freelancers with sedentary work habits.

A recent Fawcett Society survey of 4,000 perimenopausal and menopausal women in Great Britain revealed that communication about menopause between patients and doctors is lacking. Nearly half of the women surveyed (45%) had never discussed their menopause symptoms with their doctor. Furthermore, 31% of the women were only diagnosed correctly after several appointments with their doctor. These findings indicate the persistent stigma associated with menopause and the need for better education for both patients and healthcare providers.

Hormone imbalance: solutions for women

The good news is that various solutions exist to manage hormonal imbalance in women. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), while controversial due to what one medical doctor says is shadowed by one 2002 “misleading study”, can alleviate some symptoms. However, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional to discuss the risks and benefits.

Dr Louise Newson has experienced the life-changing benefits of HRT herself. She says for some women, taking HRT can be a matter of life and death if they are suicidal. Dr. Newson’s mission is to educate women and health professionals that HRT is safe.

Lifestyle changes are also crucial. Regular exercise, adequate sleep, and stress management techniques like yoga or meditation can significantly improve menopausal symptoms. Dietary adjustments can also play a role. Foods rich in phytooestrogens, such as soybeans, flaxseeds, and whole grains, may help balance oestrogen levels.

Hormonal Imbalance in Men: Andropause and Its Impact

Men experience a gradual decline in testosterone, known as andropause, starting around age 40. While less dramatic than menopause, the effects can be significant. Studies and medical organisations such as the Cleveland Clinic have found low testosterone can lead to fatigue, decreased muscle mass, mood changes, and difficulty concentrating. When in this state it is also referred to as “irritable male syndrome (IMS)” which can include nervousness, irritability, lethargy and depression.

For freelancers, these symptoms can translate to reduced productivity, lack of motivation, and difficulty managing complex tasks.

Moreover, low testosterone is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome, underscoring the importance of addressing hormonal imbalances in men.

Men and women alike may not realise many of their symptoms are caused by hormone imbalances. If two people in a relationship are both going through these imbalances and not discussing them with a medical doctor, other health issues are likely to creep in. This could be as stated above, a serious health condition, a mental breakdown or even a breakdown of a marriage or long-term relationship.

Hormonal imbalances: solutions for men

Similar to women, lifestyle modifications are essential for men experiencing hormonal changes. Regular exercise, particularly strength training, can boost testosterone levels and improve overall health. A balanced diet rich in zinc, vitamin D, and healthy fats is also beneficial.

In some cases, testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) might be considered. However, weighing the potential risks and benefits with a healthcare professional is crucial.

The importance of proactive health management

Hormonal changes are a natural part of ageing, but their impact on freelance work shouldn’t be underestimated. Proactive health management is key. Regular checkups, open communication with healthcare providers, and a willingness to make lifestyle changes can significantly improve well-being and work performance.

Foods to help restore hormonal balance

Incorporating certain foods into your diet can support hormonal balance:

For women: Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower), fatty fish, berries, nuts and seeds, and fermented foods.

For men: Oysters, lean meats, eggs, beans, and leafy green vegetables.

It’s important to note that this is not an exhaustive list and individual needs may vary. Consulting with a nutritionist or dietitian can provide personalised guidance.

Next steps

Hormonal changes can present unique challenges for freelancers aged 40 to 65, especially if they are in a relationship with someone also going through the same stage of life. However, these challenges can be effectively managed with awareness, empathy, proactive health management, and appropriate interventions. By exercising and cooking healthy meals together, you can talk about what makes you feel better or worse by trial and error. By prioritising well-being, freelancers in particular can continue to thrive in their careers and enjoy a fulfilling lifestyle. They could also strengthen their relationship with their partners and family.

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