Journal / Menopause

Anxiety and menopause

2 Aug, 2023

Did you know that up to 69% of us will experience anxiety during menopause?
Yet, in research undertaken in the UK in 2021, only 12% of us in menopause recognised that anxiety can be a symptom of menopause.

2 Aug, 2023

Not knowing often makes the distress surrounding this symptom worse. It bleeds into imposter syndrome, a feeling of overwhelm - and a sense that we are no longer the person we were before.

Most of us stumble into perimenopause with very little awareness of the breadth of symptoms associated with this stage of life. And the institutions and experts we turn to are often under-informed too. This may, in part, explain the high percentage of women that report being offered antidepressants as a first response to perimenopause.

Although it is important to recognise that a number of big life events often collide at the very point our bodies are biochemically transitioning, the reduced resilience to external stressors we often feel is also the result of hormone fluctuations.

Why do we often feel more anxious in menopause?

Sex hormone fluctuations: Oestrogen and progesterone fluctuations and decline impact many different neurotransmitters including serotonin and dopamine, which in turn, dampens our ability to feel joy and pleasure.

Poor sleep: A poor night’s sleep leads to increased cortisol production - which in turn, leads to feelings of anxiety. In turn, knowing that we’ve lost sleep is in itself an external stressor, leading to a vicious cycle where anxiety creates anxiety. Finally cortisol upsets blood sugar balance and insulin resistance..which, you guessed it impacts sleep.

Blood sugar imbalance: When we are feeling stressed, our bodies don’t differentiate between the tiger outside the cave and the modern world. It signals for energy to escape the threat, which means we often turn to ultra processed food to calm our nerves. High, ‘factory’ sugars, low fibre content and poor nutrient density impacts blood sugar.

Gut microbiota diversity: We’ve all read about the gut/brain axis. Menopause can disrupt our gut microbiota which in turn is linked to increased inflammation and low mood and anxiety.

It is also true that, if you’ve struggled with anxiety prior to menopause, you may be more prone to experiencing anxiety as your body shifts to Part 2.

What can we do to increase our resilience in midlife?

Speak to your doctor: If you’re feeling anxious, it’s critical that you speak to your doctor first and receive a medical perspective on the support you may need to return your body and mind to balance.

Prioritise rest: Sleep is not always available to us in the way it was before our menopause transition. But there are many ways we can achieve rest. Rather than just focus on sleep hygiene - consider other tools that may help you feel re-energised. Yoga Nidra can be a wonderful way to replenish. Check out Insight Timer for some great, free guided practices.

Breathe deep: One of the swiftest ways to support our bodies when we experience anxiety, is to introduce a daily breathwork practice. Just 10 minutes a day can be enough to give you the ‘tool’ to turn to in the moment when anxiety or stress hits. Check out our breathwork Masterclass, with the wonderful Melike Hussein of Breathzone London HERE.

Focus on the gut: The great thing about food is that it can have a significant impact on how we feel. We hold control in our hands (literally!) for what we put on our plates in midlife. Look to anti-inflammatory food and a diet rich in probiotics and prebiotics, increase fibre intake and decrease your intake of ultra-processed foods.

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