Anxiety often gets worse during menopause. Even if you have never found anxiety to be an issue before, you may start to notice it more during menopause. If you are looking for ways to reduce anxiety and stress in your life then keep reading.
What causes anxiety?
Before I start, I just want to note that this article is not intended to be medical advice. If you feel you are suffering from anxiety checking with your physician is a good idea. Changes in mood can have many causes and should not be ignored.
Anxiety is our reaction to stress. Increased anxiety has many causes during menopause. The changes in hormone levels is one culprit, especially during perimenopause where levels are fluctuating. There are other reasons for higher anxiety levels during the time of menopause. Women may be anxious about the occurrence of menopause and the loss of fertility. Changes in life situations, like children leaving home, can also increase levels of anxiety.
While I have never had a full on panic attack, I definitely have many symptoms of anxiety. This has gotten worse since I started perimenopause. Aside from changing hormones I have had the stress of starting a new career and worrying about how my teenage sons will cope with adulthood. I have found that the following ways are useful in dealing with anxiety.
Consequences of stress and anxiety
Anxiety can trigger a stress response in your body. A stress response leads to increased cortisol levels, which can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, and gastrointestinal disorders if this becomes chronic. In menopausal women anxiety can also trigger hot flashes. Higher levels of stress are also associated with weight gain which is something most of us want to avoid.
Now that you understand why you want to keep anxiety under control, here are five ways that can help to reduce anxiety.
Exercise has been shown to reduce stress levels and stabilize mood. It produces endorphins that make us feel better. And exercise can also improve sleep which helps to reduce anxiety. Even a 10 minute walk can relieve feelings of anxiety for several hours.
Mindfulness is being aware of the present moment. It can be used as part of a formal meditation practice (which I will discuss next) or as simply a way of approaching life.It is useful in helping with anxiety because by being mindful we can notice how we are reacting to a particular situation. mindful.org suggests a simple practice called STOP to do when you notice that you are anxious about something. (Stop what you are doing, Take a breath, Observe how you are reacting and Proceed.)
Meditation can take many forms including mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction is an 8 week program that is aimed at reducing stress through a daily meditation practice and through incorporating mindfulness in your everyday life. I participated in an online version of that program with good results. (See my experience here) . Other forms of meditation include controlling the breath. If you’ve ever relaxed after taking a deep breath, you know how that can work.
Meditation has been shown in studies to reduce the effects of stress and anxiety. People who practice meditation are more aware of how they are reacting and have the tools to change the reaction. Meditation has been shown to actually change the brain.
Being in nature
Research has shown that being in nature reduces stress and anxiety. So head to a nearby park and meditate or find a natural pathway and go for a walk.
Reduce or eliminate caffeine
For many of us our morning cup of coffee of tea is a must. But if you suffer from anxiety, caffeine can make the symptoms of anxiety worse. Caffeine can cause you to feel jittery, increase heart rate and make you feel panicked.
As I mentioned earlier this article is not intended to be medical advice, but hopefully can provide information for women who are finding that anxiety and stress are starting to cause issues with their health and well being. To start making healthy changes that will make menopause and the symptoms more bearable, join the Healthy Changes Program.