Given the events of the past year, it’s natural that anxiety levels are pretty high for most people. And while 2021 is finally here, sadly COVID-19 hasn’t yet gone away. Combine that with Christmas, the new lockdown restrictions, and even Brexit, and it’s a difficult and worrying time for all. On top of this, if you are experiencing menopause, the likelihood is that your anxiety levels may be sky rocketing. Don’t despair: no matter how bad things may feel, there are some simple things you can do to understand and handle anxiety, and the COVID-19 vaccine represents a really positive step back towards some kind of normality for all of us
So what is menopause related anxiety?
We understand that sometimes the emotional side effects of menopause can make even the most balanced and optimistic of us feel like we’re losing our minds for no reason – even if logic tells us there’s nothing to worry about. Anxiety is one of the most common of the 34 recognised symptoms of the menopause, and there is a sound biological reason why you’re feeling this way, as well a number of additional life stage stressors which can coincide to make you feel completely overwhelmed.
Your relationship with your partner can and should be a great source of support. You’d hope your partner would be 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 some other menopause issue) commenting that they’re grateful for having a supportive husband or partner. Despite this, for many women this doesn’t stop relationship anxiety from spiralling during menopause. Regardless of whether you’ve been together for a few months or a few decades, your mind can race with doubt. Are they losing interest? Would they rather be with someone younger? Do they still fancy me even if I’m a bit tubbier then I used to be? Are my mood swings too much to handle?
Stop yourself there. Trust is vital in a relationship and although anxiety can make trusting someone difficult (especially if someone has betrayed your trust in the past) it’s important to hold onto it. If your partner isn’t giving you any reason not to trust them, then trust them. Being able to rely on them for comfort, understanding and help will allay some of your anxieties around the menopause.
If you have kids, you don’t need us to tell you how much you worry about them. When the menopause comes along to amplify your anxiety, your natural concerns for your children can become overwhelming. You may find yourself fretting over whether they’ll be fine taking the bus to school without you or pondering the bigger questions such as what the future holds for them. Change of any sort can be a big catalyst for anxiety and as your children grow through their teenage years into young adulthood the changes that happen in their lives, such as exams and leaving home can also have a huge impact on your own anxiety levels.
And let’s not forget The Sandwich Effect, which affects so many women of menopausal age who find themselves caring for their parents as well as their children. When the health, finances, and happiness of one or both parents becomes your responsibility, you may find yourself balancing the worries of two generations whilst trying to cope with your own major life changes.
With so much household detail to think about, and ample reasons to feel anxious, often the key to keeping calm is to be organised. Firstly, the more structure you have in place to take care of both your children and your parents (medical files, emergency contacts, weekly scheduled check, etc)- the easier it’ll be for you. Second, don’t be afraid to have open dialogue with your 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 you’re asking helps them to understand, and will give your mind a bit of a break from worrying – at least about some things.
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 when social anxiety strikes, it can make even that simple pleasure feel intimidating and scary. Simply meeting up with friends, going out for dinner, or attending the office party can seem overwhelming. Chances are, 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 even 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 feel too intimidating, why not invite a friend over for tea instead?
Financial and career anxiety
Leaving aside the huge job and money anxieties caused by the COVID-19 situation, this period in a woman’s life can bring huge challenges in the workplace. Whilst MegsMenopause is campaigning for change in the workplace to accommodate the menopause, often there are no formal measures in place to support women through this change.
Often, managers are ignorant of the effects of the menopause, and women experience a lack of tolerance and understanding for their situation. In the very worst of cases, women have quit work or even lost their jobs due to the effects of menopause. Anxiety can cause productivity to drop and mistakes to creep in where before, you were the model of efficiency. Without the understanding of colleagues and bosses, this can lead to higher levels of anxiety, and perhaps even fear of losing your job – as well as eroding your self confidence.
Menopause and work performance
If you find menopause anxiety is affecting your performance, seek the support of your manager or HR representative early. Simple changes such as flexible working and occupational assessments can help to make work place anxiety easier to deal with. If support is not forthcoming, do remember that you have clear rights regarding employment and that you cannot be discriminated 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 will be understanding if you explain your situation to them (not all, but don’t let the stigma around the menopause stop you from getting what you deserve)
Hand in hand with work anxiety is the issue of financial worries. The last thing you want to do if you’re feeling anxious about money is to sit down and work out your finances – but you can’t address the anxiety if you don’t actually know the size of the problem. Get 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 where you can save, but simply taking control of your financial situation no matter how dire, will help you worry less about it.
In addition, you may be concerned about the cost of treating your menopause symptoms. 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. Research is key here – know your rights regarding prescription costs – is a pre-paid certificate more cost effective for you? Can you claim additional financial support?
So what’s the solution to menopausal anxiety?
The first step of course is to figure out what triggers your anxiety. Sometimes it can be as simple as looking at the source of your anxiety and evaluating whether it’s really worth worrying about. If it does, take steps to deal with it. If not – just park it. Our article Dealing with Anxiety, is a good source of advice and tips for taking those first steps.
In addition, HRT and alternative treatments such as CBD, magnesium supplements and herbal teas can help to get your anxiety under control, and techniques such as meditation and breathing exercises can also help.