By Jennifer Upton
Last month I was supposed to meet up with a friend for coffee.
She texted me at the last minute, “I can’t come out. I’m too anxious today. There’s just no way I can get on a crowded train.”
“No problem,” I said, “We’ll meet up when you’re feeling more social.”
We all have days like this. But they get more frequent as we journey through perimenopause and into menopause.
Menopause isn’t just physical!
IT’S IN YOUR HEAD
Changes in hormone levels can wreak havoc on mental health causing feelings of
A study shows 58% of women aged 45–55 who were experiencing perimenopause had anxiety symptoms.
There are plenty of things to feel anxious about on a daily basis, but fluctuating hormones make it worse.
“Did I lock the door when I left for work this morning?” becomes “I hope no one breaks in.”
“Why is the traffic so slow?” becomes “If I’m late, my boss will notice, and I won’t get that raise I wanted. If I don’t get the raise, I won’t be able to afford childcare anymore.”
“Will I be late for my doctor appointment?” becomes “I’ll have to re-schedule and ask for more time off work or arrange for child care again.”
“Did I send that email to my boss?” becomes, “If my co-worker beats me to it, then the boss will think I’m slow or forgetful. I’ll be replaced by someone younger.”
To make matters worse, going through perimenopause and menopause comes with new social stress.
MIND-BODY LOOP DE LOOP
Women who are going through menopause may encounter several physical changes that might have an impact on how they feel about themselves, their confidence, and their self-esteem.
Growing older in a culture that emphasizes youth can be quite discouraging.
Women in their mid-life frequently go through changes in self-worth and body image and might begin to reflect on their own mortality and ponder the significance or point of their existence.
Menopause can create an anxiety loop.
An anxiety loop is when we start to feel anxious about feeling anxious.
Our imagination is a wonderful tool that, when used wisely, can solve issues and inspire ingenuity to improve the world.
But when used incorrectly, it is so potent that it can conjure up situations in our minds that make us worry excessively.
This triggers our fight-or-flight reaction on a physical level, alerting the mind that a threat must be there right now.
Because of this, our mind becomes hypervigilant for danger and searches for a reason to justify the discomfort that our bodies are experiencing.
This in turn makes otherwise normal events seem threatening, which further arouses our overall fear and threat response.
And so, the anxiety loop escalates – feeding on itself like a faulty feedback mechanism.
Ways to manage menopause anxiety on your own
Breathe and count to 10!
Give yourself the time and space you need to work through what is a very stressful life change is crucial. It is a significant physical and psychological transition.
Give yourself time to wind down before bed to improve sleep
Exercise regularly even if it’s just a walk around the block
Be patient with yourself. If you don’t feel like meeting up for coffee, communicate how you’re feeling clearly to your friends and family. They can be a great source of support
If you’re having night sweats, keep the room cool
Listen to calming music (I like Dan Gibson’s Solitudes series)
Pamper yourself! Take a hot bath with scented candles or go to the salon or spa
Indulge in a bit of nostalgia
My favorite thing to do when I’m stressed is to watch an old movie I’ve seen before.
Rewatching movies can have a relaxing effect and can help with emotional management, according to researchers Cristel Russell and Sidney Levy.
Simply expressed, this means that since you already know the outcome, you already know how it will affect you emotionally.
Re-watching something might help you feel safe and in control of your emotions, which can be helpful if you’re going through a stressful situation.
If some movies are associated with certain memories, movies can also make you feel nostalgic.
Perhaps you saw them as a child, and seeing them again as an adult allows you to reflect on earlier times.
Holiday films are particularly good for mental health, even in summer!
A recent study found that warmth and comfort are two physical manifestations of nostalgia.
What if I Need More Help?
If you’ve tried everything, but are still struggling, there are many options available for people experiencing anxiety.
Choose one of the many forms of talk therapy
CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy)
Talk to your GP about medication - you may have another form of anxiety exacerbated by perimenopause or menopause such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Talk to your GP about HRT
Remember, the brain and body are continually communicating with one another through signals.
It’s a feedback mechanism made to control our energy systems and adjust to any situation we may face.
So, take that day off and go to the spa.
Watch a movie when you get home and call your best friend.
Most of all, remember, there is no shame in asking for help!
mySysters is an app for women in perimenopause and menopause. Good Housekeeping and Woman’s Day named mySysters the Best App for Women in Perimenopause and a Must Have App for Women.
The information and other content provided in this blog, website or in any linked materials are not intended and should not be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) writer/editor in London. She currently works as a freelance ghostwriter of personal memoirs and writes for several blogs on topics as diverse as film history, punk rock, women’s issues, and international politics. For links to her work, please visit https://www.jennuptonwriter.com or send her a Tweet @Jennxldn
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