Do you feel tense and jittery…like you’re plugged into an electrical socket?
You wake up feeling this way and carry nervous tension around with you all day. Things you would normally just brush off wriggle away in your mind. You wish you could just stop fretting and feel normal again.
If you’re feeling constantly on edge and irritable, you may be dealing with anxiety – along with one in four other women in the perimenopause and menopause.
Dr Dawn Harper, a family physician and TV doctor says: “Anxiety is such an underestimated symptom of the menopause, yet women often don't realise it is a sign.”
A big clue is when your mind overacts to normal everyday events; things that usually wouldn’t worry you do your head in. You may also feel like you don’t want to go out or socialise with your friends, preferring to bunker down on your own at home instead.
But what causes anxiety in the menopause? Like mood swings and low mood, anxiety is created by fluctuating and dropping levels of oestrogen. Oestrogen is the gatekeeper for other chemical activity in your brain, like the production of happiness hormone serotonin.
So it’s no wonder we can feel more ‘glass half empty’ as our bodies chip away at our oestrogen levels.
It’s not nice to feel this way. However, you can overcome anxiety in the menopause and give your general wellbeing a shot in the arm at the same time.
You’ll be surprised just how effective home remedies can be when it comes to treating anxiety. You may think you know the following top tips already – but how many of them are you actually doing to help yourself?
You heard me, put that venti double-shot mochaccino down.
Caffeine can make us more jumpy than a dog full of fleas. So if you’re feeling anxious it makes sense to avoid this stimulant.
If you can’t bear the thought of giving up your daily dose of caffeinated beverage, consider drinking a pint of water before every cup of coffee. Then gradually either cut down or swap to decaf.
TALK TO SOMEONE
Yes, we understand that you might be in hermit mode… but absolutely explain how you feel to those close to you. Then you are not bottling things up and they can understand how they can help.
It can also be very freeing, and extremely therapeutic, to have some sessions with a talking therapist like a counsellor. Someone skilled in helping people with mental health concerns, who is there to listen, not judge or have any preconceptions about you. You will be able to rant about whatever you want, without the fear of worrying anyone or hurting their feelings.
Take a look at www.bacp.org.uk to find a qualified therapist near you. Anyone worth their salt will have a no-obligation chat with you before booking any sessions.
FRANKIE SAYS RELAX
Mindful techniques like yoga, meditation and breathing exercises have been used for donkeys years to counteract anxiety.
Tai Chi in the park when it’s fine? Online yoga class when it’s soggy outside? Or make the most of the plethora of apps available these days. Just ten minutes a day could make all the difference to your noodle.
Also, see our advice on how to deal with mood swings.
DO YOUR HERBAL HOMEWORK
Herbal remedies can really help, but it’s important to remember that they can have different effects on different people.
Rhodiola may reduce stress and pump up energy levels to help lift anxiety and fatigue, while St John’s Wort can improve the psychological and physical symptoms of menopause including hot flushes, low mood, anxiety, low sex drive and fatigue.
It’s trendy to turn to CBD oil and products to treat anxiety. But it's vital you know your stuff and buy a product based on 'Whole Plant Extract' and compare the actual levels of CBD in milligrams (mg) in the product.
Whatever you choose to try, don’t just grab something off a shelf. Make sure you get some advice from your GP or a pharmacist – especially if you are taking prescribed medications that might interact with herbal remedies.
TRY SOME TOUCH
Massages aren’t just for spa trips. Performed regularly, they can really help alleviate anxiety.
The same goes for reflexology. Anything that taps into the body’s sympathetic nerve system and helps us to relax and rebalance will go a long way to untangling your mind.
Take a deep breath, book yourself a treatment, and then gently coax yourself out of the house. We promise the reward will be worth the effort.
TREAT YOURSELF WELL
We know you’ve heard it all before, not least on this site, but the way you feed yourself and live your life has a profound effect on how anxious you feel.
If you eat nutritious foods, get enough sleep and balance work and play, your body has a much better chance of poking unpleasant menopausal symptoms like anxiety in the eye.
What can you tweak that means you give yourself the best chance to be well – in both your body and your mind?
HINTS AND TIPS FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO SUPPORT SOMEONE THEY THINK MAY BE ENTERING OR IN MENOPAUSE
It may be tricky to adapt when someone swaps from being chilled to becoming anxious. Here’s how you can help them as they ride the waves of hormonal anxiety.
OUR ADVICE TO THEM
In terms of self-care, we’ve recommended that they avoid stimulants like caffeine, eats well, gets decent sleep, exercises and keeps talking (perhaps to a friend, relative, partner or counsellor). They could also pick up some relaxation techniques.
GO WITH THE FLOW
You might notice her anxiety often strike at times when you’ve got plans. The truth is going to social events may be more stressful than usual, as the pressure of keeping up appearances when you’re not feeling like yourself is hard work.
Be prepared for plans to change at short notice and try not to put them under any pressure, even if it means you are missing out as well.
TALK ABOUT IT
If your relationship is feeling the effects of the menopause too, it IS okay to talk about it.
Giving them a safe space to open up about what they are going through will strengthen your understanding of the emotional and physical changes they are dealing with and enable you to overcome some of those challenges together.
Regular exercise is a key tool for managing anxiety during the perimenopause and menopause.
Combining something you want to do (spend time together) along with something you need to do (exercise) can be a real game changer.
Partnering up to go for a walk, swim or to the gym is also more likely to help you both stay motivated.
ENCOURAGE THEM TO SPEAK TO A DOCTOR
If anxiety is putting serious strain on your relationship, it’s been going on a while or seems to be getting worse, gently encourage them to speak to a GP. You could even offer to go to the appointment with them to show your support.
GET SOME SUPPORT
If you are at a loss as to what to say or do – it may be the right time to draft in the A-Team.
No, we’re not suggesting you helicopter B.A. Baracus into your back garden… just talk to a mate who’s coped with a similar situation, ask occupational health if you’re at work, or enlist professional help in the form of couples counselling. You don’t have to figure it all out on your own.
SUGGEST A SUPPLEMENT
Some people find rhodiola or CBD supplements particularly useful for managing anxiety.
Why not gently ask if they have tried anything like that? Remind them to check in with their doctor before they start taking anything.
If you’re worried about anxiety, you should see your GP who can discuss your symptoms in the context of the menopause.
If you'd like more information, we have put some further references below for you: