Are you losing your doggammed mind?
So mental fog. It's a reality for 60% of perimenopausal women. It's frustrating to deal with on its own, but the struggle is compounded by the toll it takes on our self confidence, as well. Right? I mean, going blank, forgetting things, not being able to recall a very common word, these are all things that make us feel...incompetent! And somewhat alien to ourselves. This is one of the things that lead perimenopausal women to say they don't feel like themselves.
A 2016 study of midlife women suggests a link between mental fog and declining estrogen levels. It's not all in your head! (Haha, see what I did there?) The study did not control for cortisol--that I can tell, which would have been illuminating. Higher levels of cortisol can also negatively affect memory. As estrogen levels decline women often feel more stressed, which raises their cortisol levels. So the link between estrogen and memory may be secondary. But I'm not a scientist! What do I know? It's a question worth pursuing, though.
I've decided to make peace with mental fog. For example, with greater frequency I'll go to a different room (or open a cabinet) to get something and once there, I forget utterly what I was looking for. This is a common enough phenomenon. The action of changing settings can sort of wipe the mind sometimes. But it's been getting worse for me. So instead of getting frustrated with myself I just shrug and say, "this is how it is, now." I've come to expect it. It's going to happen again and again and that's okay. If I'm patient whatever I've forgotten will come to me and %99.999 percent of the time no one will die as a result of that lag.
What's really interesting is that once women arrive at the postmenopausal stage they show greater bilateral hippocampal connectivity than ever before. So it seems like perimenopause and menopause actually rewire your brain! But again, I'm not a scientist. Also I have the mental fog. But I think that's intriguing. Women's brains have more bilateral connections in general, starting at adolescence.
Back to the fog: there are some things you can do to reduce it a bit. You can exercise, cut the sugar and processed foods, try to get plenty of sleep, drink plenty of water, meditate--even acupuncture seems to help. And seriously, just be gentle with yourself. This is another opportunity to kick out your Inner Critic and move the Good Witch of Compassion into her place. Your mind is still powerful. Your contributions are still meaningful. You just need some extra breathing space for your mind right now, that's all.