Anxiety. It’s a word we hear in our vocabulary so often these days, but when it is in direct conjunction with your perimenopause and menopause symptoms, it can be extremely overwhelming, debilitating and distressing.
Working as a health coach, I understand that this is a symptom that many women share, however, often is the case that women express a real surprise at the phenomenal ‘level’ of anxiety that they experience, and how that manifests. I’ve spoken to clients that have been in high positions in giant corporate companies, that have expressed a feeling of being totally ‘lost’ having been someone that was very sure, someone that was very confident, they have been almost reduced to having to sign off work or reduce to a role with far less responsibility.
Stress and anxiety can be two of the most common physiological symptoms associated with perimenopause and menopause. As oestrogen falls, so too, does the mood enhancing hormone serotonin at the same time cortisol (which is the primary stress hormone) increases. If you add this with hot flushes, joint aches, pains, self-esteem reduction and general low mood - It’s a cocktail you definitely wouldn’t want to order!
So how does anxiety look? How does it feel? I think it’s fair to say that anybody reading this who has experienced any level of anxiety will affiliate with feelings of tenseness, nervousness, having difficulty concentrating, maybe feelings of panic or dread, and certainly not being able to cope with even small, normal daily activities. Perhaps one of the most scary feelings of anxiety is hyperventilation and/or an extremely rapid heart rate. I myself has spoken to many women who have experienced this ‘heart thumping’ in their chest, even to the extent that some women have described feelings of terror, thinking they were actually experiencing a heart attack. If you’ve experienced anxiety before, then often that can be heightened by the dropping hormones that you have during perimenopause and menopause. However, if you’ve not had much experience with anxiety and all of a sudden it envelops your world, it can be very distressing, and you can feel very alone.
I also wanted to talk briefly about opposites, because of course when you are feeling anxious, the tendency for us women is to find a control mechanism or something that we believe will help us. If you are feeling anxious correlated with a low mood, it’s quite likely that you will reach for crisps, chocolate, and another fatty fast foods. It is also a common trait that women who are experiencing anxiety will reach for alcohol to ‘numb the edges’ as such. Equally, if you are feeling anxious, the last thing you really want to do is go out and get fresh air and exercise. Your propensity might well be to curl up on the sofa, put a duvet over you and just shut the world away.
Well, all of the above, as you probably already know, is the worst thing you could do in each case. No, I’m not saying the odd chocolate bar, glass of wine and a cosy night in isn’t a wonderful way to make yourself feel better. However, everything in moderation - doing any of these in extreme really won’t help you at all.
Anxiety can really be helped by healthy lifestyle shift. It is important to consider your exercise, your nutrition and your diet. Make sure that you have loads of beautiful fresh vegetables, keep the carbs on the low and watch your alcohol intake, as well as your caffeine intake, (both of which can increase anxiety). Exercise will help you no matter how gentle it is. Getting outside clearing your mind, going for a walk, going for a swim, doing that yoga class or pilates session - will always reduce your anxiety levels, introducing levels of serotonin (the happy hormone) back into your body.
Mindfulness is another word that is very much used in society now. We are much more aware of how important it is to look after our mental health, mental health and anxiety go hand-in-hand. Make sure you find the time to focus on yourself. Find your own coping mechanisms that help you in certain ‘trigger’ situations. Maybe it’s writing lists, maybe it’s writing a journal, maybe it’s just making notes on your phone - but whatever it is - make sure you’re conscious awareness understands what it is that makes your anxiety even worse and also note what makes it feel better.
If you need to hear it today – you are doing great. It may not feel like it – but you are.
I promise you - you are NOT on your own, so please reach out in the forum. So many of us are there finding how to cope and also helping each other. Sometimes just talking might be all you need to do to feel a level of relief.
Sending a hug 😊
Love Angeline 🦋 x
Angeline Davies is a Fully Qualified Health Coach Specialising in Perimenopause and Menopause.
Accredited By The PCI and The Royal College of General Practitioners.