Menopause can cause vague yet debilitating anxiety. Some women have panic attacks for the first time
Menopause can cause a lot of women to suffer from debilitating anxiety. Read on to see what My Second Spring readers are saying about their experiences of anxiety and panic attacks at menopause. Physical symptoms like hot flushes and irregular periods are the more commonly known menopause symptoms but the psychological impact of the menopause can be more unfathomable and life-altering. A situation made worse by a lack of knowledge and feelings of isolation. Let’s talk!
Perimenopause can bring on unexpected anxiety and for some women, they will have their first panic attacks. Many women don’t realise that these are very common symptoms of perimenopause.
You may suddenly find yourself having general feelings of nervousness, maybe newfound social anxiety or full-blown panic attacks. Menopausal anxiety is very common and often quite unexpected. This may be a totally new feeling and experience for you or if you have previously suffered from depression or anxiety it may be exacerbated by menopause. In general, women suffer more from anxiety than men and at menopause, anxiety is very often made worse by changing hormone levels. You may find you have hormone imbalances as hormone levels change and adjust at menopause. Many women find that these symptoms come and go and different tools help at different times. It’s a case trial and error. Seek help! And don’t give up trying new solutions.
Listed below is a range of symptoms, which may be associated with the menopause. You may find yourself experiencing some of these symptoms for the first time in your mid-late 40s. Mood changes, anxiety and general feelings of nervousness are some of the most common symptoms of menopause and can be even more undermining than hot flushes or night sweats. These symptoms are often exacerbated by insomnia and fatigue. Loads of fun isn’t it?!
- Mood swings
- Anxiety – everything worries you: your children, parents, partner – the world at large.
- Difficulty coping – small things can feel overwhelming.
- Anxiety about your health
- Social anxiety – not wanting to be with other people
- Panic attacks – often at awful times like on the motorway
- Sudden unexplained fears or phobias
- Confusion – your brain seems to jump at times
- Feelings of helplessness – I can’t do this!
- A lack of confidence – everyone else seems to be coping so much better. Have they noticed that I’m not?
- Feeling invisible – I used to turn the odd head but not today!
Some psychological symptoms may be related to physical changes brought on by the rebalancing of our hormones. Others may be directly associated with hormonal changes that take place during the menopause. Managing physical symptoms can help alleviate some psychological symptoms. For example, hormone surges that wake you at night can cause night sweats and insomnia, and leave you feeling tired, anxious, and vulnerable the next day.
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Readers ask: What is menopause anxiety? Does the menopause make you feel like you’re going crazy?
Menopause anxiety is very common and often one of the most difficult symptoms for us to cope with during the menopause. However, it is important to know that you are not alone on this journey, and talking openly about your anxiety can be very therapeutic. Many of us suddenly feel unable to cope with situations that were never a problem before. We feel overwhelmed by the simple aspects of day-to-day living. This can be frightening and undermine your confidence and you might even think that you are actually going crazy! This thought has regularly crossed my mind. Anxiety is like a build-up of pressure in your mind. It is stating the obvious, but to alleviate this pressure we need to vent the anxiety.
How do you manage your menopausal anxiety? By midlife, you’ll have developed your own wisdom and personal preferences choose help that appeals to your current true self. Here are 15 suggestions for you to consider:
- 1. TALK TO OTHERS. Sharing your feelings and emotions is often the best way to discover that many others are actually feeling the same way. It’s easy to think you are slowly going mad or getting early dementia. Bringing up the subject can be hard and make you feel very vulnerable if you feel you’re the only one not coping. You’ll be surprised how many women are relieved to share this conversation. You can help each other to get to the root of your anxieties by talking. If you don’t feel you have anyone to talk to, please chat with the women on this page. Visit the Comments section below and meet your soul-sisters. You’ll find some great advice here on coping mechanisms.
- 2. EXERCISE EVERY DAY 30 MINS!!. Pick the forms of exercise you really enjoy and do something every day for 30 minutes. This could be walking, running, swimming, cycling, yoga, tai-chi, roller skating or dance – whatever appeals to you. Consistency is the key in helping you burn off some of that nervous energy. Studies have shown that anxiety can be significantly reduced by regular, gentle exercise, so it is well worth making it a part of your daily routine.
- 3. FOCUS ON YOUR BREATHING. When you feel overwhelmed take a few minutes to calm your breathing. Breathe in deeply and count to 7, hold for 2 and then breathe out counting to 11. After a few, deep relaxing breaths, your body and mind can slow down and your thoughts can become much clearer.
- 4. ME-TIME. So much of our energy is devoted to what’s going on around us be that work, family or caring for others. It is very necessary to take time-out for yourself. Take even 10 minutes each day when you escape to your bedroom, or the garden and hide from the world: relax, reflect or keep a journal. Try to work this up to longer stretches and then half days and then short breaks away with friends. It’s key to staying social, interested and interesting. So many women prioritise others for so long that they forget how to care for themselves. Here’s your permission to look after yourself. Believe me, everyone will benefit.
- 5. MEDITATION AND MINDFULNESS. Use meditation to focus, to quieten the mind, and to become present in the moment. Mindfulness can create feelings of wellbeing and relaxation, lower our blood pressure and heart rate and can reduce menopausal anxiety and stress.
- 6. PRACTICE YOGA. Certain combinations of poses can help reduce anxiety and leave you feeling stronger and more relaxed.
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- 7. CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), this is a very effective and well-proven tool to help relieve anxiety. CBT offers a practical, hands-on tool that can be incorporated into your daily habits with immediate effect. Alternatively, you can visit a qualified therapist.
- 8. KEEP SOCIAL. As we age our social circle can shrink and this in itself can heighten anxiety, it is imperative to say yes to all social invites, to keep a broad circle of friends and to seek new friends when the opportunity arises. The most important preventative or help for anxiety is to keep social – if you take one tip away from reading this let that be it. You know that 30 minutes of exercise you’re doing every day? Some of it should be with others – what’s not to like about a walk and a chat. Developing new friendships around activity is less pressurised than sitting facing each other one-to-one over coffee or tea. etc.
- 9. TRY TO RESOLVE PAST ISSUES. Menopause can be a time for forgiveness, healing, and compassion. Whether you need to seek out professional help or can come to terms with these issues yourself, try your best to let go, forgive, and move on. Start by being compassionate with yourself. Life is too short to hold grudges or put up with being unfairly treated by others – the only person you are hurting is yourself.
- 10. TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR. By keeping an open dialogue and developing a good relationship with your doctor, you may be better able to manage the physical causes of your menopause anxiety. Consider asking about hormone replacement therapy (HRT). While some women are not comfortable with the pills or creams, HRT has made a big difference to others. If you are not comfortable discussing your options with your doctor this may be a time to find a new GP. Seek out a GP who has expertise or experience of the menopause.
- 11. MONITOR YOUR DIET. How many cups of coffee or caffeinated drinks are you drinking every day? Try cutting back to see if caffeine triggers your anxiety and nervousness. Have a blood test to see if you need to add any supplements to your diet. For example, you may be short of Magnesium – nature’s tranquiliser, or B Vitamins that give you energy. Certain foods contain natural ingredients that might provide relief for your symptoms. Herbal tea, such as chamomile, is known for its calming properties. Oatmeal has a calming effect on the nervous system.
- 12. LOOK AT YOUR ALCOHOL INTAKE. Alcohol is a depressant and we can often use it as a crutch to lessen our feelings of anxiety, thereby exacerbating the problem.
- 13. READ MY SECOND SPRING’S TREATMENTS and LIFESTYLE sections to see the wealth of different supports out there for you at menopause. This could be nutrition, herbal and homeopathic remedies. Your homeopath can also prescribe remedies, which help with anxiety.
- 14. EDUCATE YOURSELF. As the saying goes – ‘knowledge is power’. Learn more about your symptoms so that you can make wise decisions about what’s best for your mind and body. Keeping a journal can provide great insights into what we are really thinking and feeling. This may help you to discover whether psychological factors may be contributing to your physical symptoms.
- 15. SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP. from your GP, a counsellor, a psychologist, or a support group such as Aware or Mental Health Ireland. In the meantime, you may like to keep some herbal rescue remedy nearby and squirt or chew it help you feel more grounded.