Updated: Nov 8
Menopause is a tumultuous journey that brings a cascade of changes for women. Amidst the myriad of symptoms, anxiety emerges as a common symptom for many women. While occasional anxiety is a part of life, menopausal anxiety can be an entirely different beast.
It's essential to recognise that these intensified feelings may be closely tied to the significant hormonal shifts taking place within your body.
Anxiety manifests differently in everyone, but common symptoms include:
Shortness of breath
Elevated blood pressure
Overwhelming sense of impending doom.
Hormones are like dominoes – when one wobbles, it can topple the others. This affects mood-regulating chemicals like serotonin, GABA, and dopamine, which are pivotal in anxiety.
This blog will explain some factors contributing to anxiety during menopause.
If this is not for you, please go to the bottom for the simple strategies to help.
1. Oestrogen and Mood:
During perimenopause, oestrogen, in particular, fluctuates– up, down, and sideways. But it's not just about your menstrual cycle; it also wields influence over neurotransmitters in your brain, particularly serotonin. You can think of serotonin as the "feel-good" neurotransmitter because it significantly impacts your overall well-being. When oestrogen takes a dip, so does serotonin, which can leave you feeling off-kilter and more susceptible to anxiety.
2. Progesterone's Role and the GABA Connection:
Progesterone, another key player, helps balance oestrogen's effects and influences neurotransmitters like serotonin. It's also closely tied to GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), your brain's calming agent. When GABA levels are sufficient, it helps you stay calm and composed. When progesterone levels drop, GABA production can decrease. With fewer "brakes" on your brain, you might feel more anxious and jittery.
3. Oestrogen, Histamine, and Anxiety:
Interestingly, oestrogen also has an intricate relationship with histamine. Histamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain; its balance is essential for mood regulation and this can include anxiety. When oestrogen levels are high, they can affect how your body manages histamine.
High levels of histamine can lead to increased feelings of anxiety and restlessness.
This is why some women undergoing perimenopause may experience heightened anxiety as oestrogen levels fluctuate.
4. Cortisol and the Stress Factor:
Stress is another significant player in the anxiety game during and after perimenopause. When stressed, cortisol (your body's stress hormone) surges. While this response is helpful in acute situations, chronic stress can lead to consistently elevated cortisol levels.
One of the ways cortisol impacts anxiety is through its influence on blood sugar levels. Cortisol usually raises blood sugar levels to give you quick energy. However, chronic stress leads to too much cortisol, which can mean persistently high blood sugar. High blood sugar can mimic anxiety symptoms, like jitteriness and a racing heart.
This can be especially challenging when hormonal fluctuations are already impacting mood and well-being.
5. Sleep Struggles and Anxiety:
The physical aspects of menopause can also take a toll on anxiety. Menopause frequently brings with it a host of sleep disturbances. Hormonal shifts can result in night sweats, restless legs, and an increased frequency of waking up during the night, often to visit the bathroom.
Undisturbed sleep plays a vital role in sustaining emotional equilibrium. When sleep patterns are disrupted, it's not uncommon for anxiety to make an unwelcome appearance.
6. Life Changes and Stress:
Perimenopause tends to show up at the most inopportune moments.
No shit Sherlock I hear you say…
It often coincides with a whirlwind of responsibilities and emotional challenges, each distinct in its own way. These may include :
caring for aging parents
managing demanding careers
coping with the emotional aftermath of surgeries
facing early menopause
navigating the complexities of parenting teenagers
or dealing with various health concerns
Furthermore, menopause serves as a poignant reminder of the relentless march of time and the unalterable transformations it brings. This transitional phase frequently stirs up emotions of doubt and anxiety, leaving us pondering the uncertainties ahead.
Managing Anxiety and Nurturing Your Well-Being
The intricate dance of hormonal fluctuations, sleep disturbances, stress, and anxiety can feel like a formidable challenge. While hormonal changes are inevitable, there are proactive steps you can take to effectively manage anxiety. Supporting yourself requires an individualised and often multi-faceted approach.
1. Prioritise Sleep:
Create a bedtime routine that promotes better sleep, such as limiting caffeine and screen time before bed.
2. Regular Exercise:
Engaging in physical activity can significantly reduce anxiety. Choose activities you genuinely enjoy, whether it's a leisurely walk, yoga, or dancing in the comfort of your living room. Yoga, in particular, combines movement with breath awareness and can be a valuable tool for self-care.
3. Healthy Eating:
Maintaining a balanced diet can help stabilise your mood. Focus on whole, nourishing foods and stay adequately hydrated.
Limiting caffeine, which can intensify jitteriness and anxious thoughts, is advisable. If you can't eliminate it entirely, restrict your intake to a couple of cups per day, always consume with food (protein and fats – not a doughnut!), and never after midday.
Similarly, consider moderating alcohol consumption – the odd glass may be fine for you – only you can judge this.
If considering supplements, it's valuable to focus on specific nutrients and ingredients that can aid in managing anxiety. Magnesium glycinate, for instance, plays a pivotal role in soothing the nervous system, contributing to a sense of calm. Additionally, vitamin B6 is essential as it supports the production of neurotransmitters like GABA and serotonin, both vital for regulating mood and anxiety. Please do stick to the recommended doses and check with a healthcare professional if you are on regular medications. You can always message me - am happy to help.
4. Stress Management:
Make stress reduction a part of your daily routine. Try things such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or mindfulness.
Deep breathing exercises can rapidly lower your heart rate and clarify your thoughts. At the same time, meditation provides a fresh perspective on life's challenges. Be aware of situations that trigger anxiety and negative emotions; either steer clear or develop strategies to nurture yourself during such moments.
5. Seek Support:
Never hesitate to contact friends, family, or a mental health professional if anxiety overwhelms you. If you're finding it difficult to cope, consider discussing hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or other medications with a healthcare provider if it aligns with your preferences and needs.
Effectively managing anxiety during menopause entails looking at your current life style, and incorporating an assortment of stress-relief techniques into your daily routine. It's crucial to proceed at a pace that suits you without adding undue pressure.
Understanding the intricate interplay of hormonal fluctuations, sleep disturbances, and life stressors contributing to these feelings can help you know that you are not going mad, losing the plot and this won't last for ever.
As your hormones gradually stabilise and your body has the opportunity to adapt, these symptoms should naturally diminish over time. With the right strategies and support, you can navigate it confidently and more easily.
Remember that seeking professional assistance is a valuable option if necessary; you don't have to endure this journey alone.
I'm here to provide unwavering support to women at any stage of their menopause journey who may be grappling with anxiety.
I focus on personalised strategies to address your specific needs and circumstances.
Together, we can explore dietary adjustments, lifestyle modifications, and stress-management techniques tailored to your unique situation.
You can regain control over your well-being and embark on a path towards greater calm and confidence.
Feel free to reach out if you need guidance, help staying consistent, or are concerned about other issues you might be facing.
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