Anxiety and the emotional turmoil of the menopause


Eileen Durward
@EileenDurward


04 January 2016

Read the full video transcript below

Today's topic

Hello, and welcome to my weekly video blog. And today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I’m going to be talking about anxiety. This is a huge issue in the menopause, and we get many women emailing and contacting us about it. It’s one of those really horrible, distressing symptoms, mainly because it can suddenly arrive very, very quickly. You can be a very calm, collected, organized person, and suddenly just get hit with anxiety, or even panic attacks.

The problem with anxiety is that it actually includes other symptoms as well. So you can get things like low mood, you can worry, you can get fears, you can even get depression and feelings of paranoia. It can also include physical symptoms, so you can end up with palpitations, you can end up with shortness of breath, sometimes even dizziness as well. And it can affect your sleep too. This is actually really quite a big one.

So what I thought I would do is just go into these symptoms a little bit more in-depth, and then look at ways in which you can possibly help yourself.

Now, the reason why this happens, normally, is fallen oestrogen. Oestrogen is your happy hormone, it helps to keep your mood up. So when your estrogen starts to fall in the perimenopause and the menopause itself, then one of the main symptoms is things like anxiety.

Low mood

Let’s look at low mood. This is something that can creep up on you, or, again, it can happen very, very quickly. You can be a very positive, very outgoing person, and then suddenly, you find that you’re very introspective. You get very moody, very irritated, you might find that you feel very pessimistic as well, so not very nice symptoms at all.

Feeling worried

You can also get general worry, and a lot of women say, “I started to worry about everything now, things that never used to bother me.” You can worry about little things, about being late from work. You can worry about your job and what’s going on. You can also worry about bigger things.

It’s amazing how many women say, “I’m starting to worry about what’s happening in the world. I’m looking at what’s going on outside my life, and I’m not sleeping because I feel very, very fearful for the future.”

This can also affect your sleep, as I said before. And the problem is that if you start to worry, then you go to bed at night already worrying about things. You can lie awake for ages, tossing and turning, worrying about things that are probably never going to happen anyway, which is one thing to actually remember.

The problem then is that if you’re not sleeping well, if you’re already in a state of anxiety, that can then trigger night sweats or night flushes. The problem there is you even get less good sleep, and you wake up the next morning in a state of anxiety, and you’re starting the day in that particular mood. When that happens, when your nervous system is already stressed because of poor sleep and anxiety, that can actually make your other menopause symptoms worse as well. So it’s a really important one to try and get to grips with.

The fear!

There can also be feelings of fear, and they can be really deep-seated fears as well. Not just about your general life, but we’re also at a point where we’re entering a new life. And a lot of women say to me, “I don’t know what’s going on. I can’t plan for anything. I don’t know what’s going to happen,” and there can be a real fear of the future here. There’s also the fear of your personal looks and your body image as well, because this is the point when you might start to notice a few wrinkles and other things changing. So you fear that your looks may be going, you might not be attractive anymore, which is a really big issue for a lot of women.

There’s also the fear for relationships. Unfortunately, in the menopause, when women are experiencing a lot of turmoil, their partners don’t often understand what’s going on, and that can lead to arguments and disquiet. So a lot of women are fearing for the health and the state of their relationships. We’re also in an era where a lot of women in menopausal age, they’re looking at what’s going to happen to their jobs, are they going to get promotion, are they going to be made redundant. So there’s a lot of fears there going on underneath all the time as well.

Depression

We’ve also got depression, and this can often appear with the menopause. Now, for some women, the hormonal fall can be really quite severe that can lead to real depression. It can also lead to feelings of paranoia as well. I do get some women contacting me about that, saying, “I feel as if everybody’s talking about me, they’re criticizing me, and they’re talking about me behind my back.” Now, things like depression and paranoia, because these are often called by a very swift or deep fall of oestrogen, it is really important to get these checked out by your doctors, rather than trying to see to them to yourself.

Palpitations

The physical symptoms, one of the most distressing physical symptoms is palpitations, and that can really, honestly feel like you’re having a heart attack. I know that was one of the things I suffered from, and it gave me a really big fright.

We know that falling oestrogen can affect the nervous system. That, in turn, can actually very quickly trigger palpitations, sometimes just absolutely out of nowhere. But we also know that falling oestrogen can affect the electrical system of the heart. Sometimes you feel you get two heartbeats very, very close together, or you get very rapid heartbeats, and sometimes it can even feel as if your heart has missed a beat.

A lot of women will go their doctors, very sensibly, about this to get it checked. Everything will come back normal, and if that’s the case, then this is definitely hormone and possibly anxiety related as well.

Shallow breathing

When you’re anxious or worried, you also tend to do a lot of shallow breathing. Now, shallow breathing will affect the nervous system and vice versa, which can then trigger flushes. Shallow breathing can also make you lightheaded, it can cause dizziness, it can cause fuzzy-headedness, you can lose your concentration. It can affect your memory as well. So, this is quite a big one too, and I’ll go into that in a little bit more detail later on.

How your diet can help you

So what can you do about helping yourself with anxiety and the other symptoms that I’ve mentioned? Diet is really important here. Unfortunately, again, it’s the usual culprits. We’ve got coffee, tea, alcohol, processed foods, high salt, and high sugar foods. These all rev up your nervous system. And if your nervous system is already under stress from daily life, from the menopause, and you’ve got anxiety on top of that, then revving it up even more can trigger the palpitations, the anxiety attacks, the panic attacks as well. So really try to keep those at a minimum.

Make sure you’re eating well. Eat little and often, because low blood sugar levels can actually trigger anxiety attacks as well, so don’t go long periods without eating anything. Have healthy snacks, such as your nuts and seeds and your dried fruits. These are really great, because they’re also high in magnesium. Magnesium is your happy mineral. It keeps your mood level, it helps you to sleep, it helps to relax you. So this is a great bundle of lots and lots of nutrients in these foods.

We’ve got water. Again, we know that dehydration can affect the nervous system, so dehydration can trigger your panic attacks, your anxiety, possibly the palpitations as well. And for those of you who joined me last week, hopefully, you’ve been trying to add in the extra water every day, and I’m hoping you’re finding that’s making a real difference.

Helpful supplements and herbs

We can also look at supplements and herbs for helping with anxiety. Now, if you find that your estrogen is really fluctuating, if your mood tends to go up and down, if the anxiety tends to come and go a lot, then you might find a phytoestrogen supplement such as Menopause Support helpful. This also has magnesium in it, so it’s going to help to keep your mood up that little bit as well. You can look at anxiety-reducing herbs, such as Stress Relief Daytime. You’ve also got oats, you’ve got passion flower, you’ve got valerian as well. All of these herbs are very gentle, they don’t make you groggy, but they can just help to calm and steady your nervous system.

Calming and relaxing

You can also look at things that you can do to help the anxiety. Now, you can look at acupuncture can be absolutely great for calming anxiety. Yoga is another one to do, because it helps to relax you, and it helps with the deep breathing as well. The other thing, which is mega, mega important, and I’m always going on about, is having some me time every day.

They have actually found in studies, which I’m really pleased to have this confirmed, that 30 minutes a day of proper relaxation, or meditation, or mild mindfulness, can actually calm the nervous system and can reduce symptoms within about four or five days. So this is a really important one to do. You need to shut yourself away for about half an hour, listen to some really nice music, or just be in a nice state of calm, and this can help very quickly. So allow yourself the time to do this, because it’s very, very important. Although, I know that from the majority of women, this is actually probably going to be the hardest thing for you to do.

Your homework for this week

Now, the other thing is deep breathing. This is what I would like you to practice for next week, just three or four deep breaths, very slowly at a time. There’s no excuse not to try this. You can do it while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil, if you’re in a traffic jam, if you’re waiting at the bus stop, if you’re waiting at the supermarket queue. So this is something you can try half a dozen times a day, if you can.

Now, just one little word of warning here. Anxiety, and stress, and depression, and all these other symptoms as well, if you find that they are really affecting your daily life, if you’re not getting better, if you try these things and find that they don’t help, it’s so important that you go and see the doctor. We actually can’t believe how many of you menopausal women actually suffer for weeks and months at a time. This is something that can be sorted. So if this is you, then please promise me that you will go and just get this checked out by the doctor.

Now, I hope you found this helpful. If you have any questions at all on this or anything else, please do get in touch. I’m really looking forward to you joining me next week for another edition of A.Vogel Talks Menopause.

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  • Anne's photo avatar
    Anne — 12.05.2017 08:27
    Hi Im 62 and sailed through the Menopause.However every year had to take st johns wort for SAD. It worked in a couple of days.Since January ive had anxiety wth all of the symptoms you described in your video. Tried quiet life 3 times and made me feel a lot worse. Now taking Vitamin D , Multi vitamin , slow release, Efamol omega 3 and Acidophilus at night. Considered taking Calcium Magnesium and zinc Combined tablet .Do you think this would help orwould Menopause support be better.Been to the doctor and was offered anti depressants . would rather not go down the chemical route.Thank you

    Reply

    • eileen's photo avatar
      eileen — 12.05.2017 14:07
      Hi Anne Would you mind telling me when your periods stopped? If you like you can email me direct if you would prefer a private reply. Eileen@bioforce.co.uk

      Reply

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