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Take a Pause: Dealing with Menopausal Anxiety

5 min read

Woman Dealing with Menopausal Anxiety

By Pause Well-Aging | November 15, 2022

It’s been estimated that up to 51% of midlife women 40-55 experience anxiety, with some studies saying there’s no difference in anxiety levels across the various stages of menopause and others citing higher rates of anxiety amongst perimenopausal women versus those in the premenopausal stage. This lack of understanding is hardly surprising given every woman’s journey tends to be different, a lack of physician training in this area, and the fact that menopause is still such an underfunded and under-researched area. But here’s what we do know …

What Causes Menopausal Anxiety

For most of us, just turning on the news every day is enough to spark generalized anxiety. However, changing hormone levels, sleep disturbances, and certain factors that tend to accompany the midlife stage are also known triggers.

 

  • Hormones:We all know that hormone levels tend to fluctuate and become imbalanced during menopause.Studies have shown that progesterone levels drop before estrogen levels in perimenopause, and lower progesterone levels in women have been associated with lower life satisfaction and increased anxiety. Estrogen, a hormone found to influence those areas of the brain that regulate mood and behavior, also declines during menopause meaning we lose much of its calming effect on our brain and nervous system which could result in greater feelings of anxiety.
  • Sleep Disturbances:Estrogen declines can trigger hot flashes and night sweats, which is one of the leading causes of poor sleep during menopause and can lead to anxiety around getting to sleep, as well as staying asleep through the night.
  • Predisposition: In a 2013 study amongst women 42-52,findings showed that women who had a predisposition towards being anxious before menopause were likely chronically anxious, and therefore were less affected by anxiety during the menopause transition. Conversely, women with low anxiety pre-menopause were found to be more susceptible to high anxiety during and after the menopausal transition than before. The good news in this particular study was that anxiety levels didn’t vary significantly by menopause stage.
  • Midlife Stressors:For many women, menopause tends to hit right alongside various midlife stressors including: relationship issues, divorce or losing a spouse, the return of grown children to the home or childlessness, concerns about aging parents and caregiving and even career. Physiological and emotional changes that accompany getting older in a youth obsessed society can also be demoralizing. It’s important to recognize and acknowledge life situations that may be contributing to feelings of anxiety, as they are completely normal and almost always have a solution.

Taming Menopausal Anxiety

The good news is that there are a variety of science-backed solutions from CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) to Homeopathic remedies for helping alleviate feelings of anxiety due to menopause.  Here are just a few:

  • Make self-care and rest a priority: As women, we are notoriously guilty for putting everyone else’s needs ahead of our own whether we’re talking about spousal needs, elderly parents or kids. Make sure you take care of yourself during this life stage transition through activities that promote relaxation from forest bathing to yoga, long exhales, spending time with animals or even a detoxifying bath with apple cider vinegar and Epsom salts.
  • CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy): CBT is a brief, non-medical approach that focuses on thelinks between physical symptoms, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Anxious thinking, when we imagine the worst possible outcomes, can both trigger and maintain feelings of anxiety. CBT gives you practical exercises and worksheets that can help you ‘rationalize yourself out’ of irrational thoughts and recognize that you might just be focusing on one view of the situation, which helps reduce the intensity of bodily reactions.
  • Hormone Therapy: Menopausal hormone therapy (previously called HRT or hormone replacement therapy) has been largely misunderstood and unfairly maligned in the treatment of menopausal symptoms. There are two types of MHT: estrogen-progesterone therapy for women who still have their uterus and estrogen therapy for women who have had their uterus removed. These hormones were designed to help control and keep your hormones at a healthy level to keep anxiety at bay. MHT can be incredibly powerful and positively life changing but has been villainized thanks to a now debunked 2002 study conducted by The Women’s Health Initiative. The current position of the North American Menopause Society is that MHT is most appropriate to begin for women under 60 or who are within 10 years of menopause onset and have no contraindications or high-risk health conditions. What we do know is that oral estrogen passes through the liver and stimulates the blood-clotting factors too much, leading to heart attacks while transdermal estrogen (patches) paired with oral progesterone has been shown to have positive health impacts. The key is to find a health provider that is specifically educated in menopause to have an informed discussion. 
  • Cooling Mists: when feelings of anxiety arise, especially those triggered by hot flashes or night sweats, cooling body mists like our Pause Cooling Mist can help calm you in two ways: it can help you feel instantly cooler, evaporating sweat and creating a cooling sensation on the skin to physically calm you along with containing Holy Basil, an adaptogen known to help normalize cortisol levels in the body, while inducing relaxation and reducing feelings of stress.
  • Magnesium:a powerful stress reliever that also regulates cortisol, reduces adrenaline and supports better sleep, magnesium levels tend to drop with age. Taking a supplement like magnesium glycinate can help relieve anxiety alongside a whole other host of benefits that include promoting bone health, maintaining normal health rhythms and even helping manage blood sugar levels. Many health practitioners prescribe a combination of magnesium and taurine supplements, since taurine – an amino acid and neurotransmitter that calms the brain - is naturally depleted by estrogen so women tend to be more deficient than men to begin with.
  • Ashwaganda: an ancient medicinal herb grown in Asia and Africa that has many benefits, most notably reducing anxiety and hot flashes, and promoting better sleep.

There are just some of the solutions out there along with proper nutrition, exercise, etc., with more emerging every day. Since every woman’s journey, physiology and medical history are different, it’s always a good idea to consult a healthcare professional before undertaking any sort of treatment to make sure it’s right for you. This article is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice.

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