Sometimes, the worst part about the emotional side effects of the menopause is that you’ll feel like you’re losing your mind…
…even though nothing in your life is technically going ‘wrong’ or even though there’s a lot to be grateful for. While you don’t need a reason to feel anxious, it’s completely understandable if you do. This time of life can be a scary one, with plenty of changes occurring (including the menopause), it can be overwhelming trying to put together all the puzzle pieces of your life. With that in mind, let’s look at the different types of anxiety that most of us face.
Relationships can be a great source for support. You’d expect your partner to be caring, understanding, and helpful. And often, they are. So many women have written in (whether it’s regarding anxiety, depression, loss of libido, vaginal dryness, or any and everything else) commenting that they’re grateful for having a supportive husband or partner. Yet, many women don’t, and even if they do, that sometimes doesn’t stop the anxiety from spiralling. Whether you’ve been together for a few months, a few years, or a few decades, your mind can race with doubt. Are they losing interest? Would they rather be with someone younger? Am I holding them back from happiness? Are my mood swings too much? Am I actually the protagonist of some cliché 1990s romcom about a man who cheats on his wife with his secretary? Am I the secretary???
Stop yourself there. Trust is important in a relationship, and although high anxiety makes trusting someone very difficult, especially if you have friends or past experiences of being cheated on or left, it’s important to hold on to it. If a person isn’t giving you any reason not to trust them, then trust them. Believe that your partner is there to support you just like you would be there to support them. They aren’t your therapist (so be careful not to treat them like one) but you can absolutely rely on them for comfort and help. Just be open and clear about how you feel and what the menopause does.
If you have kids, there’s no need to explain the millions of ways you could worry about them. But because the menopause amplifies anxiety, these worries can become overwhelming. They range from concerns over whether they’ll be fine taking the bus to school without you, to the bigger questions such as what the future holds for them. Change is often an inducer of anxiety, and when our children grow from being babies, to kids, to teenagers, to young adults and beyond, there are so many changes that happen in their lives and in your relationship with them.
But let’s not forget The Sandwich Effect, which highlights how at this age, many women are in- between caring for their kids and their parents. When the health, finances, and happiness of one or both parents becomes your responsibility, you need to start balancing the worries of two generations.
These are all big things to think about, and it’d be too easy to say, “just don’t worry about it!”. Yet, something has to be done. For starters, be organised – the more you already have in place to take care of both your children and your parents (medical files, emergency contacts, weekly scheduled check, and such) the easier it’ll be for you. Second, as always, don’t be afraid to have open dialogue with you family. Let your children know that you’d really appreciate a text when they get to school so you know they’re OK. Being clear about what your expectations are and why can set a reasonable standard, giving your mind a bit of a break from worrying from time to time.
Normally, it would be sound advice to tell someone to take a break from their responsibilities and see their friends to unwind and vent. But social anxiety can often cause that safe space of release to seem intimidating and unwelcoming. Simply meeting up with friends, going out to dinners, or attending the end of year holiday office party can be overbearing. We all know that friendships take commitment and care, but when your mind stops yourself from giving that commitment and care, it can be all the more worrying that you might lose that foundation.
That said, your friends will be forgiving, and many of them might be going through the same thing you are. True friends are not there to judge you, but to understand you. If getting out of bed feels like too much sometimes, then start with just a few texts here and there to let them know you appreciate their friendship and support. If big dinner parties are too much, invite a friend over for tea instead. Little efforts can do a lot more than you might think!
Financial and Career Anxiety
While we’re striving to create more measures in the workplace to accommodate the menopause, in many cases there currently aren’t those measures. Often, managers might not be understanding or tolerant, and there have been examples of women losing their jobs because of how severe their symptoms are. Even if you have a tolerating manager, our symptoms can get in the way of our everyday work tasks, and so we might be a bit slower at responding to emails or may run a little bit late for a meeting. Even those these little mistakes might not amount to much, they can feel like the end. There can be so many fears about losing a job, or not advancing in your career, because of the menopause.
Beyond this, any financial stress can wreak havoc on our anxiety. As highlighted in our article The Cost of the Menopause, it’s easy to get caught up in how expensive treatments and remedies can be, on top of our regular spending for our families, our meals, our home, and more.
Above all, know that you do have rights in the workplace, such that you cannot be discriminated against because of your gender or medical conditions, including the menopause. You have the right to speak to your employer about your needs, and many managers are understanding (not all, but don’t let the stigma around the menopause stop you from getting what you deserve). Be on top of your finances, even if it takes a whole brutal day to sort out a budget plan. It can be difficult calculating how much you have, how much you owe, and how much you will owe, but the better you understand the truth of your financial assets, the better off you’ll be in the long-run (and the less you’ll worry).
So, what’s the solution?
Sometimes, it’s important to simply recognise the source of the anxiety and face it. We highlighted a little bit of advice for dealing with anxiety, in our aptly named article Dealing with Anxiety, though before even tackling that, come to grips with your anxiety. You might even find that in most aspect of your life, you have no anxiety. Figuring out what really triggers your mind into a frenzy is an essential step to tackling your anxiety. Sometimes, the things we’re most anxious about are more than valid (a serious illness in the family, for example) but that doesn’t mean we have to let this anxiety control or freeze us.