It can feel like a hurricane in your mind that comes all of a sudden with no warning, or a constant ringing in your ear that you can’t seem to shake off. While it’s extremely common during the menopause, it shouldn’t be ignored. For menopausal women, anxiety is caused by imbalanced hormones, but can be worsened when experiencing other symptoms like depression, insomnia, and night sweats.
Of course, everyone suffers from a bit of anxiety now and then, but chronic and high anxiety are completely different. You may start worrying about things you never worried about or things that seem completely irrational to worry about. Thoughts like: “My kid is 5 minutes late, something terrible must have happened!” or “I have a headache, maybe it’s a brain tumour!” or “I misspelled a word in an email, surely they’ll sack me for incompetence!” are classic examples of anxiety that has exceeded normal levels. The menopause is hard enough to deal with without having to constantly worry about your life, your family, your work, your friends, your health, and all the symptoms you’re experiencing.
Living with a pacing mind and racing heart is not sustainable; especially if you’ve started experiencing panic attacks, or if your anxieties are stopping you from doing the things you would normally find easy or enjoyable, like seeing friends, travelling, or other every day activities.
So, what can you do about it?
Well, many women find relief in HRT, but of course, that’s not an option for some. Likewise, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has been effectively used to help ease anxiety and stress in menopausal women. According to Women’s Health Concern, CBT focuses on the ‘links between physical symptoms, thoughts, feelings, and behaviours’, examining how the way we think affects how we feel and what we do. There are plenty of CBT exercises online to help self-guide yourself through therapy, although CBT is most effective with a therapist. Finally, some doctors may try to prescribe antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication. While this may seem like the easiest option, it is typically not recommended by menopause specialists, as we’ve outlined in our article Antidepressants and the Menopause. Nonetheless, if these options don’t sound right for you, there are some important tips and tricks to remember next time to start feeling anxious.
Talking to someone will help you see your worries from a different perspective, allowing you to realise that your anxieties are often falsely intensified in your mind.
Firstly, breathe. Take a moment and take a long, deep breath. This isn’t just cliché advice, it’s clinical! Deep breathing increases the oxygen supply to your brain, stimulating your nervous system which induces a state of calmness. When you’re taking a moment to deep breathe, take control of your thoughts. Try to think of anything positive, reminding yourself that you hold the power, not your anxiety. Taking this moment will help prevent the unnecessary self-sabotaging spiral of overthinking. Additionally, try evoking thoughts that are empowering and calming, even if it feels a bit forced at first.
Secondly, get rid of the unnecessary clutter in your life. This is can be literal or metaphorical. Minimalism attracts a sense of peace and abides by the saying ‘Quality Over Quantity’ – obtaining less materials in your home (and work place) is a fantastic start, as it helps you to focus on essentials you really need, giving you a sense of happiness and living for less, as opposed to having too many unnecessary material possessions leading to the behavioural attributes of a hoarder. Think about it: after a long hardworking day, we ALL deserve to come back to an orderly home, and it can do absolute wonders for your mental state. You’ll begin experience clarity, ease and, as mentioned earlier, peace!
Thirdly, get busy. Do something that makes you happy, outside of work, family, and friends. It’s essential to prioritize your mental health if you’re suffering from anxiety, and to do that you need to create time for yourself, in a meaningful way (not just sat watching Netflix)! Whether that’s picking up a new hobby, gardening, a new project, needlepointing, exercising (which we highly recommend!), praying, focusing on spiritual things, meditation, or listening to music. Anything that will help channel your thoughts into a more productive focus will allow you to avoid the constant feeling of anxiety.
Finally, talk to someone! This is a very important stage, as most times our thoughts are very rarely reality. Therefore, taking time to talk to someone about it can help break down your thought process. Talking to someone will help you see your worries from a different perspective, allowing you to realise that your anxieties are often falsely intensified in your mind.
Understand that in this instance, your anxieties are driven by the menopause, not reality.
Anxiety is almost always accompanied by FEAR and FEAR can be broken down as False Evidence Appearing Real. When you are in an anxious and fearful state, your mind tends to spiral into simultaneous negative thoughts of the famous twins “I Can’t” and “What If”. The more you talk it out, the more you’ll be able to differentiate between your thoughts and your reality.
If you’re not too comfortable talking it all out just yet, then start by writing it out! Expressive ‘journaling’ is a brilliant tool and very simple: just jot down your thoughts, worries and ideas that may be constantly running around your mind all day. Invest in your own special notebook that can act as your own personal stress management tool to declutter your mind. Then when you’re ready, start sharing these thoughts with someone you trust!
Even though we all face fears and worries, it’s important to think about how to effectively control those thoughts before they escalate into a negative emotional and physical state that leaves you physically uncomfortable. Understand that in this instance, your anxieties are driven by the menopause, not reality. Above all, never let these anxieties stop you from living your life to the full. It may not feel like something that is treatable, but it 100% is. You deserve to live a worry-free life!