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Anxiety and Menopause

If you're plagued by anxiety and menopause is making itself felt at the same time, try these simple remedies to soothe your worries.

Do you ever feel keyed up and restless? Does your mind chew away relentlessly at anxieties, even if there's nothing you can do about them? Do you ever lie awake worrying about the future?

Anxiety AND menopause are hard to handle at the same time. There can be so many underlying elements contributing to your anxiety. Midlife is often a stressful time, fraught with changes and challenges which take a lot of energy and endurance. Anxiety can certainly be a symptom of stress.

Menopause anxiety

Menopause and anxiety
ŠIstockphoto.com/Brad Killer

What are the symptoms of anxiety? You'll know that you're feeling anxious if:

- you can't settle to anything and feel like a tightly coiled spring

- you're constantly fretting over events in the past, and worrying about the future

- you sometimes feel panicky and nervous

- you suffer from insomnia

- you're scared of putting yourself in situations you might find hard to cope with

- you prefer to avoid other people

- you set yourself up with unrealistic expectations

- you often get an upset tummy or indigestion

- your throat feels tight, or you have episodes of hyperventilating.

Effects of anxiety and menopause

Stress and anxiety can form a circle that's hard to break - being under stress makes you anxious, and feeling anxious causes even more stress.

Stress affects health in many ways. One of the major problems of stress and anxiety in the menopausal years, is that they trigger the release of hormones like cortisol.

This hormone encourages your body to lay down stores of fat around your midriff. That's why it can be so hard to shift menopausal weight gain. And it's an important reason for doing whatever you can to ease your anxiety and feel calmer.

What causes menopause anxiety?

During midlife, not only are your hormones going haywire, you're often under a lot of stress as well.

Anxiety and hormones

According to research by Professor Marie-Annette Brown of the University of Washington's Women's Health Care Clinic, the fluctuating levels of estrogen in menopause can have a severe effect on the amount of serotonin and dopamine in the brain - and that is enough to affect your mood and make you feel anxious and depressed.

Anxiety is one of the warning signs of depression.

Anxiety and midlife stress

It's not just genes and hormones that dictate whether or not you'll suffer from anxiety as you head into your forties and fifties.

Life events that are well-known causes of stress can come to a head during this stage of life, when you could be grappling with all manner of difficult problems. Anxiety is a typical response to stress, and once you're caught in that spiral it can be hard to extricate yourself.

How to relieve anxiety in menopause

Improving hormonal balance

Professor Brown, in her book When Your Body Gets the Blues, suggests a simple regime to tackle lowered serotonin levels, which include getting out into daylight for an hour each day, taking regular moderate exercise, and eating a good diet supplemented with B vitamins, vitamin D and selenium.

When this regime was put to the test in a randomized, placebo-controlled study using women suffering from mild depression, most women found their mood greatly improved and levels of stress and anxiety reduced. They also found it easy to stick to the regime.

Make positive lifestyle changes

Eat a healthy diet in menopause and add both aerobic exercise and strength building exercises into your life.

Try some of the numerous ways to relieve stress and learn how to deal with depression. By calming your mind and body with techniques like these, you can also help to reduce anxiety and worry.

Work on your thought patterns

- You can help to conquer anxiety during the menopause by learning to live more in the present. Practise focusing on the present moment, and letting go of worries about the past and fears for the future. The present is all we have, so don't let it slip by, shrouded in fears about what has been, and what may be yet to come.

- Keep busy. Anxiety has a habit of seeping into your mind whenever you're not occupied, so beat it at its own game by keeping your mind active and full. Embark on projects, take up interests, participate in pleasurable activities that absorb your mind and take you out of yourself.

- Don't blow problems up out of proportion. Try to take a realistic view of whatever is worrying you - ask yourself questions such as:

- How likely is it, that the event I'm worrying about will actually happen? It's common to worry about something that is highly unlikely ever to take place.

- If the event has already happened, try to analyze it realistically. What is the exact nature of the problem? What solutions can you come up with? Which of those solutions is the best? Taking a pragmatic approach to problems helps you to feel in control and keeps anxiety in proportion.

Use these active and mindful approaches to anxiety and menopause, and you'll help to cut down on worrying and reduce the strain on your health from unresolved anxiety.

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