The Connection Between Menopause And Anxiety
By: Nadia Khan
Updated May 14, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Audrey Kelly, LMFT
Menopause is a mysterious topic. It's something that is not often talked about in public, making it difficult for many women that are experiencing menopause symptoms. Since menopause isn't in the conversation, it's easy for women to question if what they are experiencing is normal. There are a few symptoms that are commonly talked about such as hot flashes and weight gain. But, menopause brings with it a lot of other symptoms that are not often discussed. One of these symptoms is anxiety. Many women don't realize the link between menopause and anxiety.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is something that all people experience at one point or another in life. It can be defined as feeling nervous about something or being worried. Usually, when one feels anxiety, it is due to an upcoming event or something that they know they're going to experience in the future. It's usually tied to a situation where there is the uncertain outcome.
However, anxiety is also part of mental illness. While many people do not like the term mental illness, anxiety is a mental health challenge that many people face. Lots of people experience anxiety in a mild form. But, some people experience crippling anxiety and anxiety attacks that make everyday living difficult.
If you have never experienced anxiety before some of the symptoms can include:
- panic attacks
- shortness of breath
- muscle tension
- heart palpitations
Even if you have experienced these symptoms in the past, the hormonal changes that happen during menopause can make them feel more severe than what you have experienced before.
Are Menopause And Anxiety Normal?
It is not uncommon for women to experience feelings of anxiety during menopause. There are a lot of new experiences that are happening when a woman is going through menopause that can make them feel anxious. Experiencing normal menopausal symptoms such as night sweats and hot flashes can make women feel anxious. It also becomes harder for many women to sleep when they are experiencing menopause, and a lack of sleep can make even a normal situation more difficult to deal with.
Studies have found that menopause can increase the chance that a woman experiences a panic attack. It has been found and is believed that women who have experienced problems with anxiety attacks in the past are more likely to experience attacks during menopause. However, not all women who experience panic attacks during menopause have ever experienced problems with anxiety before. Women who have experienced anxiety before menopause tend to experience it at all new levels during menopause.
How To Handle Anxiety And Menopause?
You handle anxiety the same way regardless of what's causing it. If you have experienced anxiety in the past and found a successful way to deal with it, then this could be what you need to do when you are in menopause and experiencing symptoms of anxiety. Anxiety can be managed if you dedicate time and energy to finding the strategies that work great for you. Here are some things that can help you as you deal with menopause and anxiety.
Sometimes all it takes to deal with anxious thoughts is to get them out of our heads and onto paper. If you are experiencing a lot of thoughts that are making you anxious, start journaling. You can do this through a physical journal, or you can do it through a journaling app on your phone or device. The important thing is to take all of those thoughts that you have been stressing about out of your head.
Reevaluate What's Happening In Your Life
Sometimes we can feel anxious because things are changing, and we don't know what to expect. At the age when most women are experiencing menopause, there are a lot of life changes that are happening. This could include dealing with teenagers, children leaving home, dealing with health concerns from aging parents, and getting close to retirement. All of these changes bring with them different stresses and concerns than what you have had in the past.
It's important that you give yourself a break. Take some of the pressure off of yourself. Remind yourself that you are going through something new in life and things aren't the same as they used to be. Don't put the pressure on yourself to maintain all the things that you did in the past or to feel like it has to look the same way that it did ten or twenty years ago.
Focus On Your Sleep
Everything is harder to handle in life when you are not getting enough sleep. If you are struggling with sleep talk to your doctor to see what options, there are for you. There are some natural remedies that you can use to help relax your mind to fall asleep. And, a pre-sleep journal can also be helpful. This allows you to clear your mind before trying to fall asleep.
Maintain Healthy Life Habits
Maintaining your physical health can play a big role in helping to maintain your mental health. Make sure that you are getting exercise; this is a good way to reduce stress. You will also want to maintain a healthy diet and avoid caffeine and alcohol. Both of these things can worsen the symptoms of anxiety.
Focus On The Positive
If you are feeling anxious, it's going to be easy to think about all the negative things that are happening in your life. However, focusing on these things is only going to increase the levels of anxiety and stress that you are feeling. Instead, try focusing on the positive things. Keep a gratitude list of all the things that you are thankful for to remind yourself when you are in a bad moment. Look for things throughout the day that is positive that is happening around you. Controlling your thoughts goes a long way in being able to control your breathing and levels of anxiety.
The practice of mindfulness is growing in popularity. Mindfulness is a form of meditation that helps you to focus on the current moment. It helps you to be aware of yourself in the present and take your mind off past events or future events. When you practice mindfulness, it will help you to see anything that you are doing that is contributing to your anxiety. It will make you more aware of the tension in your body and what you are doing as a result of it, such as clenching your teeth. Mindfulness will also help you take control of your breathing which can help lower your levels of anxiety.
If you are new to the idea of mindfulness, many apps can help you in the process. Some of these apps are free and will walk you through what mindfulness is and how to begin to practice it in your daily life.
Control Your Breathing
When anxiety begins to build, your breathing changes. If you experience a panic attack a large part of why you've reached that point is because you have lost control of your breath. When you are starting to feel anxious, make sure that you are taking slow breaths. When you have high levels of anxiety it can be hard to take a deep breath, so don't let that stress you out. Instead just focus on slow breathing and concentrate on the in and out. The more you practice, it will become easier to take deeper breaths.
Join A Support Group
Sometimes just knowing that there are others who know what you're going through can be helpful. If you are struggling with anxiety, consider joining a support group of women who are experiencing the same thing. If you meet with these women, they will be able to share with you the things that they have tried that benefit them, and you will be able to do the same for them. The feeling of connection can also go a long way in easing anxiety by knowing that you have a group of women that understand to turn to.
Talk To A Therapist
There are many ways to ease the feelings of anxiety temporarily. However, if you're struggling with menopause and anxiety, it's wise to talk to a therapist. Anxiety and depression can be normal things that women experience during menopause, but if they are left unchecked, they can cause major problems in life.
Anxiety and depression work together as a vicious cycle. The more anxious you become about things, the more depressed you can become, and that depression can lead you to feel more anxious. This continues to cycle around and cause a downward spiral in your life. Anxiety is not something to be taken lightly even if you have experienced it before.
There are many therapists that you can talk to at BetterHelp that provide online services to make it easy and more affordable to get the help that you need. There is no reason that you should have to suffer silently with your anxious thoughts during menopause.