When you think about hormones and menopause it’s probably oestrogen that comes to mind first. You’ll have read that low levels of oestrogen are at the root of all your menopause symptoms.

Well yes your oestrogen levels are dropping although it’s the relative levels compared to progesterone that’s really important. But for now I want you to forget about oestrogen.

If you’re desperate to get a good nights sleep so you’re not slumped over your desk mid afternoon; if you’re determined to shift that menopause weight gain so your work clothes fit comfortably again; and if your career depends on you breaking through the brain fog so you’re as mentally sharp as you were pre menopause it’s cortisol you need to get under control.

What is cortisol?

Cortisol is your main stress hormone. When your cortisol levels are balanced you’re generally upbeat – you don’t recoil in horror from a stressful situation, you feel like you can work it out. You focus on the problems you can address not the ones you can’t. At night it takes you about 20 minutes to fall asleep and you wake up most mornings feeling refreshed and ready to embrace whatever the day brings.

Your body is designed to release cortisol when your mind perceives you to be in a stressful situation.

Your adrenal glands pump out cortisol to get you into fight or flight mode.

This ancient response is designed to help you deal with a clear and present stress or danger such as an attack by a neighboring tribe or dangerous animal. The release of your stress hormones gives you the energy to run or to stand and fight.

Fortunately these aren’t typical problems for most of us these days. Yet your fight or flight response still gets triggered.

Modern day stresses are very different. They’re made up of certain foods, caffeine, emails, traffic jams, stroppy teenagers, annoying colleagues, dodgy wifi signals, toxins in your skincare products and even the way in which you exercise.

Menopause itself is a form of stress on the body.

But here’s the thing, modern day stress isn’t just different from 10,000 years ago it’s unrelenting. So instead of cortisol being produced when you actually need it, your body starts to produce it more often.

Managing cortisol

High levels of cortisol is the most common hormone imbalance in women over the age of 40 but it’s also one of the easiest to address.

You see whilst we can’t avoid stress in the 21st century you can learn how to manage it.

And when you learn to manage stress, your cortisol levels balance out and your menopause symptoms fade.