Are you struggling with anxiety? Did you notice that you started experiencing the anxiety around menopause? A connection between the two does exist. So what exactly is the connection between anxiety and menopause? More importantly, I bet you want to know is, how do I find relief?
Unless you’ve experienced extreme anxiety, it’s hard to understand exactly what it feels like. I was once guilty of being one of those people who didn’t understand, couldn’t be sympathetic, or thought, “Just get over it.”
I want to sincerely apologize to anyone in my life who I may have been dismissive to when they were experiencing anxiety. At the age of fifty-six, I experienced my first anxiety attack.
It wasn’t until I had that feeling of, “What the hell is happening to me” did it hit me full in the face. I was experiencing what I now refer to as “that evil monster”.
This kind of anxiety that leaves your heart pounding, your body shaking, and your mind racing with uncontrollable thoughts. I truly thought I was having a heart attack. I couldn’t catch my breath. The feeling in my gut was like when you’re on the downward slope of a roller coaster, but it just would not stop. I couldn’t eat. Sleep eluded me and I could not control my thoughts.
I believe that on some level many women hold anxiety within the confines of their multitasking, nurturing (of everyone but themselves) and worrisome bodies. I am sure that I did for years. It can rear its ugly little head in many different disguises, some of which include ADD, PMS, IBS, M & M’s…oh wait.
According to UCLA psychiatrist and anxiety expert, Dr. Jason Eric Schiffman, who is affiliated with the UCLA Anxiety Disorders Program and
Anxiety.org the connection between hormonal changes and anxiety and panic attacks is strong, especially during the perimenopausal period, where women are more likely to experience the “evil monster”.
Once menopause passes, many women find that their anxiety decreases. There may also be other factors that can contribute to anxiety during menopause, such as an increase in physical symptoms or negative life events.
Sometimes we don’t realize what is happening to us. Often we have no idea just what “anxiety” physically does to our female bodies. This is especially true as we approach middle-age and menopause.
Changing hormones, physical and emotional changes, along with an increase in stress levels can lead to anxiety and depression in some women. The inability to “cope” with stress during the week before a menstrual cycle (PMS) can often lead to feeling more anxious.
There have also been studies linking a decrease in estrogen levels during menopause with cognitive and memory dysfunction and having difficulty concentrating. These can mimic ADD symptoms, or in the case of women who may already have ADD/ADHD, can worsen their symptoms.
Most scientists agree that anxiety contributes to the onset of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), also known as spastic colon. Some of the symptoms include diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gastrointestinal discomfort, and erratic bowel movements. Other factors may contribute to IBS, but anxiety is considered one of the main reasons.
There may also be the added worries of an aging body, caring for our parents, adult children, or both, and the frustration of possibly having friends and family members that can’t understand what you are experiencing and going through.
There were several holistic methods I discovered during my bout with severe anxiety that helped me tremendously. (You can read more about the reasons behind my anxiety and how I overcame it in my book) Here are some of the ways I “got my happy back!”
For me, journaling was a lifesaver. Focusing on and appreciating all of the good in our lives provides us with the ability to open ourselves up to more abundance. If you begin each day by writing down the things that you are grateful for, it sets the tone for your day in the most positive way you could ever imagine.
In the evenings, you may find that in your mind continually goes over all the things you need to do and the worries you can’t let go of. When this happens, take out a pen and paper and write down what you are thankful. You’ll experience a sense of peace and gratitude that can release the anxieties that we are holding on to. Just start by writing down five things you are grateful for. Do it for 30 days and experience the difference it will make in your life.
Supplements are great support for women’s health, especially as it pertains to stress and anxiety. (Be sure to check with your healthcare provider before beginning any supplements)
- Vitamin B Complex: Consists of B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12. These vitamins play an important role in our bodies. Vitamin B1, or thiamine helps with strengthening the body when under stress as well as boosting the immune system. Vitamin B6 is responsible for helping the body make certain hormones and neurotransmitters (chemicals) in the brain, as well as helping to boost immune system functioning. B vitamins are responsible for metabolizing fat and protein, as well as helping the body convert food into glucose. This provides the body with energy. They are also responsible for helping with healthy nervous system functioning
- Fish Oil: Several studies have shown that omega-3 in fish oil helps with mood disorders and depression. Interestingly, according to studies by Joseph Hibbeln, MD, a psychiatrist at the National Institute of Health, depression is on the rise in the United States, possibly due to our health-conscious effort to reduce the amount of saturated fats and cholesterol in our diets. As Americans eat less of the good sources of omega-3, like red meat and eggs, they are increasing their intake of polyunsaturated fats, like soybean, corn and sunflower oils, which are lower in omega-3. (Always check with your healthcare provider before taking a fish oil supplement, as omega-34 may worsen some conditions such as heart disease)
- L-Theanine: This amino acid is found mostly in green and black tea. You can purchase it as a supplement, but should look for those made with Suntheanine. People diagnosed with anxiety have found that it helps by inducing a relaxing effect without causing drowsiness. It is also used to prevent Alzheimer’s disease as well as to lower blood pressure and has been granted GRAS (generally regarded as safe) status by the FDA.
- Chamomile/Lavender Tea: I drink several cups of this tea daily for its soothing effect. There are many other types of herbal teas that can help soothe your anxiety as well, such as passionflower, kava, and peppermint.
- Probiotics: Recent studies show a direct connection with your gut bacteria and your brain. Researchers have found evidence that a balance of your gut bacteria may do more for your mood than any other contributing factor. Taking a good probiotic as well as consuming probiotic foods will do wonders for your anxiety and depression. Some great probiotic foods are fermented veggies (such as sauerkraut, pickles, and kimchi), Kefir (a kind of liquid yogurt drink), and kombucha tea.
- Magnesium: Low levels of magnesium in the body can lead to anxiety. There are so many benefits to taking a magnesium supplement. This supplement helps keep your blood pressure normal as well as keeps your bones strong. If you use PPIs (proton pump inhibitors) for the treatment of acid reflux, such as Nexium, Prilosec or Prevacid, chances are your magnesium levels may be affected.
I recommend using the very popular CALM by Natural Vitality, which is a powder you mix with warm or hot water for a soothing drink so it is great before bedtime. It is made from magnesium citrate and magnesium ascorbate and can act as a laxative, so be sure to follow the directions and start with a small amount, building up to the recommended dosage.
Another type of magnesium I like is the High Absorption 100% Chelated Magnesium by Doctor’s Best. This does not have a laxative effect. It comes in pill form. This is elemental magnesium chelated with amino acids glycine and lysine. Either type of magnesium supplement is beneficial.
Remove Sources of Anxiety
To help further with your symptoms, reduce or remove the following list of items that can cause or exacerbate anxiety:
a. Caffeine: This stimulant can trigger your fight-or-flight response, which can make anxiety worse and trigger an anxiety attack.
b. Wine/Alcohol: You may turn to a glass of wine or other alcoholic beverages to “soothe” your daily stress or nervousness, however, increased consumption of alcohol could actually increase your anxiety.
c. News programs: Of course you want to stay informed about what is occurring in the world, however, by limiting your exposure to the abundance of negative media we are bombarded with on a daily basis during times of extreme stress and anxiety in your own personal world, you can reduce the effects it will have on your personal health. I am not suggesting you discontinue listening to the news, just reducing it to a comfortable bearable level.
d. Too much computer and/or device time: This is linked to an increase in anxiety and depression, especially if you are using more than one device at a time.
Improve Your Mood
Ready to improve your mood and reduce anxiety.? Then you need to get out and move! Exercise helps to reduce anxiety and improves your mood! Just twenty minutes of exercise when you are feeling anxious can do wonders!
Try breathing exercises and meditation to reduce your stress and anxiety levels. My favorite breathing exercise is the 4-7-8 Breath. created by Dr. Andrew Weil, one of my instructors in school. I remember him saying something to the effect of, “If you don’t remember anything else I tell you today, remember this breathing exercise.”
I have used this exercise with numerous clients and have been told that it has helped tremendously with their sleep and anxiety. One of my clients said she can’t even get through the whole series without falling asleep.
The technique is really quite simple.
- First, you breathe out all of the air in your lungs through your mouth.
- Next, breathe in for a count of four through your nose, with your tongue placed behind your front teeth.
- Hold the breath for a count of seven.
- Breathe out through your mouth for a count of eight.
- Do four sets of these at each sitting.
The first few times you may feel a bit dizzy, which is normal. Commit to doing the breathing exercise at least twice per day, once in the morning and once just before bed. The effects are cumulative you’ll begin to feel more relaxed quickly. Oh, and you can use this method during the day if you are feeling especially anxious or stressed.
The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.
Meditation is a fantastic stress reliever. There are both physical and mental benefits of using meditation. The physical benefits include reducing blood pressure, improves energy levels, reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Mindfulness practice helps to decrease inflammation and chronic conditions. Meditation can also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and premature death.
More importantly for you, meditation also helps treat menopausal symptoms! The fact remains that menopause stress can make us old! It can contribute to osteoporosis, the loss of skin elasticity, memory loss, and weight gain.
By calming our mind and heart, you can reduce those menopausal symptoms and find some happiness! Meditation will most definitely help you get your happy back!
I want you to concentrate on changing your mindset. You can’t live a positive life with a negative mind. Believe that you can fix this. You can! Surround yourself with positive influences; people who lift you up, books and audio that inspire you.
You’ll find suggestions and activities that bring you joy and fulfillment in the resource guide of my book, The Magic of Menopause: A Holistic Guide to Get Your Happy Back!
You are a strong woman; one who can overcome what life throws at her. It’s essential to focus on self-care, but believe me, it’s worth it! You can overcome your anxiety and depression and get your happy back!
Lorraine Miano discovered her passion of offering menopause advocacy, support and resources to women in all phases of menopause through health coaching, proper nutrition and preventive lifestyle choices. She received her certifications as a Health Coach and hormone health expert from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
She has been able to help even more women by writing and publishing her first book, The Magic of Menopause: A Holistic Guide to Get Your Happy Back! The book helps guide women through the struggles they face as they begin menopause and helps tackle the daily changes such as balancing hormones holistically, getting a better night’s sleep and reducing or eliminating hot flashes, to name a few.
Lorraine loves to encourage her clients with her mantra “Menopause is NOT an ending! IT IS a new beginning!”