Perimenopause and Post-Menopausal and Anxiety

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As it turns out, perimenopause and menopause isn’t just the simple cessation of a bodily function. It’s your brain, your body, and your life transforming into something you’re totally unfamiliar with. You may begin to question your sanity, relationships, hormones, genetics, sex drive, age, food, clothes, underwear, nothing is off limits!

You might suddenly find that your house is covered in Post-it® notes because you can’t grab a memory or a thought. Many women wake up and find packages arriving at their doorsteps filled with essential items bought during your late-night shopping sprees: paring knives (partners, lovers, husbands beware!), food dehydrators, juicers, all-in-one home gyms, weight-loss programs, and magical carpet cleaners due to menopausal insomnia. Or……you might be grumpy, unusually depressed, irritable, anxious, hypersensitive, have erratic mood swings, and feel lonely, yet all you want is to be left alone.  Download my free Menopause Symptoms Chart to help you chart those menopausal symptoms.

According to the North American Menopause Society, “Studies show that mood changes have been observed in up to 23% of peri- and postmenopausal women. Additionally, symptoms of anxiety—tension, nervousness, panic, and worry—are reported more frequently during perimenopause than before it, regardless of whether symptoms of depression are present or not.”

Recently, I have been inundated with emails from women experiencing menopausal anxiety.  I reached out to Naomi Berry, M.C., LPC, a counselor in Scottsdale, Arizona to share some expert advice on anxiety. She says that chronic worrying is a mental and physical habit that can be broken.

Berry says, Anxiety is not always a bad thing and can be healthy when it spurs us to step out of our comfort zone to take risks and live our lives more fully.” 

However, Berry says that worrying can become problematic when you find yourself preoccupied with “what ifs” and worst-case scenarios. Unrelenting doubts and fears can be paralyzing. They can sap your emotional energy, send your anxiety levels soaring, and interfere with your daily life.

Berry explained, “With knowledge, awareness, and practice you can train your brain and body to stay calm in stressful situations. Following the “three C’s” of anxiety management is the key.”

Here are her 3 tips:

  1. CALM YOUR BODY

Your body feels awful when you’re experiencing anxiety. You may have feelings such as nausea, a racing heart and difficulty breathing. When these feelings are left unchecked, they can spiral out of control. Some symptoms of anxiety even resemble the signs of a heart attack. The first step is to recognize that these sensations are normal and simply an automatic physiological response to stress that occurs when the fight/flight/freeze part of our brain is activated. By learning relaxation skills such as diaphragmatic breathing and mindfulness you can gain an increased awareness of your body in the moment. Doing so will allow you to effectively deactivate the fight/flight/freeze response, activate the relaxation response, and enable you to respond calmly to stressful situations. 

I meditate each morning when I get up for 20 minutes. You can read about my experience with TM here. These precious minutes have changed my life.  I have more tips on meditation and mindfulness in this blog.

  1. CORRECT YOUR THINKING

It is not uncommon for people suffering from anxiety to overestimate how dangerous something really is, often jumping to the worst-case scenario. For example, you may not only believe that something bad is going to happen, but that it will be the worst thing ever! You may also underestimate your ability to cope should something bad happen, assuming you will fall apart at the first sign of trouble.

 This type of thinking becomes a lifelong pattern that is so automatic you may not even be completely aware of it. Breaking automatic negative thinking patterns involves retraining your brain and becoming a conscious observer of your thoughts. After all, you are not your thoughts. A thought is just a thought and not necessarily true. You may not always be able to control other people or what happens in life. You can, however, gain better control over your mind, and thus your anxiety, by your ability to choose one thought over another.  

Start by identifying your worrisome thought. Instead of treating the thought as fact, treat it is as a hypothesis you are testing out. Examining and challenging your worry and fear will help you to develop a more balanced, realistic perspective.

  1. CONFRONT YOUR FEARS

Anxiety gets worse when you avoid the sources of your fear. Worrying keeps you trapped in an unproductive cycle. It’s more effective to face those fears head on.

When confronting your fears, it is important to do so gradually. Throwing yourself in the deep end could make matters worse and exacerbate your fears. It is not healthy to take on more than you think you can handle. It is important to establish an environment in which it feels safe to be vulnerable, then work to confront and defuse those worries.

Breaking down your fears into smaller, more manageable pieces can help. For example, if you are single and have a goal of finding a meaningful relationship, you may be afraid you will be alone forever. Instead of wondering how you will ever meet your soulmate, think about how you could make new friends. By focusing on meeting new people, you will increase your odds of reaching your goal without the anxiety and pressure of finding “the one.”

No matter how large or small your fears may seem, breaking them down into a more manageable size will help you to slowly step away from your negative patterns and begin moving toward your goals.

Learning to Manage Your Anxiety is Worthwhile

Even if your anxiety isn’t crippling or if you only deal with it occasionally, you can still benefit from learning how to cope with it. The tools for managing anxiety are not difficult to learn and you don’t have to commit to years of therapy. You can learn the techniques relatively quickly and can start benefiting from them right away.

Whether anxiety rules your everyday life or only upsets you now and then, it still takes a toll on your physical and mental health. Anxiety can raise your blood pressure, disrupt your sleep and make you more likely to adopt unhealthy habits.

Learning to manage your anxiety is a worthwhile investment in yourself. Talking with a highly skilled, non-judgmental counselor about your anxiety can help you master the “three C’s”. You’ll learn that your worries don’t have to control your life anymore. You can live with a whole new sense of authenticity, freedom, and peace.

I don’t know about you, but I am feeling calmer already!

My Motto:  Suffering in silence is OUT!  Reaching out is IN!

For more great tips on how to deal with menopause download my free ebook: MENOPAUSE MONDAYS  the Girlfriend’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving During Perimenopause and Menopause.    

Be sure to sign up for my fun YouTube Videos!

After struggling with her own severe menopause symptoms and doing years of research, Ellen resolved to share what she learned from experts and her own trial and error. Her goal was to replace the confusion, embarrassment, and symptoms millions of women go through–before, during, and after menopause–with the medically sound solutions she discovered. Her passion to become a “sister” and confidant to all women fueled Ellen’s first book, Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness. As a result of the overwhelming response from her burgeoning audiences and followers’ requests for empowering information they could trust, Ellen’s weekly blog, Menopause MondaysTM, was born.

  • Gail Schipper

    I want to add a different perspective. While the ideas above may be good to try and helpful for many, if they don’t work, do pursue other options. I’ve been struggling with anxiety that increased dramatically when I started peri-menopause. I blamed all kinds of things: fluctuating progesterone levels, stress, family health issues, personal health issues, etc. In the end nothing worked beyond minor, temporary improvements, until my gynecologist suggested I try Deplin. Turns out I’m one of many people who have trouble metabolizing certain B vitamins. Something about the additional burden of menopause seems to have kicked that issue into warp drive. I’m certainly NOT suggesting that this is the solution for everyone with increased anxiety, I just want to make the point that self-improvement goals (changing thinking patterns, meditating) may not be the answer for you. Give these good ideas a try as they are free and have many additional benefits, but seek other solutions if you don’t find relief!

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Gail. Berry gave us some wonderful options to try. However, if they don’t work one should circle back with their medical practitioner and get the help they need and deserve!

    • I would like a case of Deplin

  • Michele O’Callaghan

    Great post. I swear keeping my anxiety ‘controlled’ can be a full time job somedays. it wanders in and out of my life, but knowing what it is and how to deal with it has made it much more tolerable. I am in control, not my anxiety!

    • So happy that you figured out what works for you.

  • Randie Noell

    For me, early morning–around 4:00 AM!!!!!–anxiety was a huge issue when peri-menopause started. The only good thing that came from it was the fact that it was a BIG signal that there was something definitely wrong and I needed to find medical help–immediately. It started all of a sudden–out of the blue–which didn’t help because not knowing why it was happening made the anxiety worse! At the time, the only thing I could think of doing was to take a long walk down to the lake near my house at 6:30 AM!!!!!!! Walking helped a little–but each morning the anxiety returned. At some point the worst of the craziness abated, but it did not completely go away until I started taking estrogen. As a heads up–when I finally got in to to see my beloved gynecologist, he checked my thyroid levels because sometimes an “off” thyroid can duplicate the anxiety that I was feeling due to a lack of estrogen.

    • Great info, Randie. Thank you for sharing your journey with us!

  • My therapist told me anxiety is most acute in the morning because the endorphins that blast us out of bed also feed into the anxiety. Sort of like a anxiety-microbe eating endorphins getting monstrous! I am 62 and would love to take estrogen again. I stopped years ago, but it would make such a difference. However I now have heart issues so that may not work any more. sigh

  • Sharon Ballard

    I too wake up every night at 3 am crawling out of my skin from anxiety. It has been the worst problem of this “change”. 5 years of insanity, my blood pressure got to stroke level and my potassium was non existent. I ended up in the ER 4 times scared out of my mind. The ER thought I was addicted to Ativan when it was the other issues spazing me out. Thank God my GP retired and I got a new female doctor who specializes in women’s transition. I am on HRT, lowest doses and one 0.5 Ativan in the morning since that is my worst time. What I thought was the worst physical journey really taught me to take care of myself and listen to my body. Also, be my own advocate with the doctors. I am 58 and just in to menopause. Thank you all for sharing. Nice to know I am not in this alone.

    • You hit it on the nose- we must become our own best health advocate! Thx 4 sharing your story❤️

  • Yes, anxiety is a biggie. It’s one of the reasons I did a downloadable audio for anxiety as part of my offerings. As you know my business is women-focused and so much of what I offer is aimed right at women in your target age group, too. So many times doctors let us reach for a pill instead of using more organic and natural ways to handle anxiety. Kudos to you for raising the curtain on these important issues and suggesting solutions

  • Great information Ellen and resources. I went to lunch a few months back with a couple of friends. One I don’t see often and now I remember why. She is full of anxiety and it is contagious. The 2 work together and what 25 years ago may be described as drama is now full blown anxiety.I had to use some bad language and almost slapped them to agree to think about getting some help! I think anxiety can hide under denial.

    • That is a good point, Haralee. We are often in denial. And………because of it………..we are denying ourselves joy and happiness. I am a big believer in getting help!

  • Anxiety is such a killer – I haven’t had an escalation but I’m always keeping an eye on how I’m feeling and how stressed I am in new situations – I find I tend to play safe more these days though – sad but true.

    • Nothing sad about that………….its is fine to make adjustments that help us be more successful in our daily lives.

  • Lois Alter Mark

    I had no idea anxiety was related to menopause in any way but I guess that makes sense. The power of hormones – for better or worse – is amazing.

    • Our hormones and ovaries are linked to every system in our body! They are the fuel that basically run our bodies. For better or worse as you put it! HaHa!

  • Rachel

    I’m having really bad heart palpitations and anxiety. I’m 48 and my gyno says she never heard of heart palps happening in perimenopause. Wanted to put me on the depo shot or bcp. Time to get a new gyno. Any suggestions to help with the anxiety and heart palps and how to get threw all this? I feel helpless.

    • Rachel, I am sorry you are dealing with so much. When your estrogen levels drop it can cause symptoms such as high blood pressure, heart palpitations, and hypertension just to name a few. There are other health issues such as being hyper- thyroid that can cause heart palpitations. So please get checked out! It is very important to understand why YOU are having those heart palpitations and anxiety so that you can be treated properly. I have some tips here on how to find a Menopause Specialist: http://ellendolgen.com/resources/find-a-menopause-specialist/. A menopause specialist will be up on the latest information and studies so that they can create an individual program to fit your health needs. Take good care of you! Be your own best health advocate and don’t give up until you are comfortable that you are getting the help that you need and deserve.

      • Rachel

        Thanks. I have had all the heart tests and they all came back negative. Do you know if any of those specialists on your list are a Kaiser doctor? I have Kaiser and can’t afford to go elsewhere.

        • I do not believe any of these doctors are Kaiser doctors. Perhaps reach out to Kaiser and ask for them to provide you with a list of their Gynelcologist’s that specialize menopause.

  • ABuckeye

    My anxiety is more doom and gloom than anything else. I tend to go from wanting to fight anyone, espically a stranger and physically, to wanting to end my life. I see no point in putting one foot in front of the other. At home I feel like a housekeeper/maid/cook and at work I feel a trained dog could do my job. It doesn’t help that my daughter is graduating high school this year- my baby – and off to college soon. My oldest daughter now lives 14 hours away with her fiancé and is grown. My partner has his own health problems too. Our intimate life is less than non existent. I feel totally useless.
    In addition to the menopause symptoms, I also have fibroids and uterine cysts. I have been on several birth control pills and just reciently has the depo shot. None of it is helping! I have had a total of about 10 blood, clot, discharge days in over 3 months! Can’t take much more of this! Any and all suggestions are welcome. I can’t spend much more time wondering when I can stop being. It’s tearing me and my family apart.

    • I am so sorry that you are going through so much – and all at the same time. Please download my free eBook and read it cover to cover. I think there is a lot of helpful information in there for you. The key one is to find the right Menopause Specialist to help you with your health. (Chapter 13) Once you feel better- you will be able to deal much better with the other areas in your life that might need tweaking. Here is the page to download: http://ellendolgen.com/menopause-book/

  • attiya abdul wahab

    I found a good collections of products for improving the symptoms of meopause https://www.herbalbless.com/collections/menopause

    • I have no way of vetting these products, but thanks for sharing things that have helped you on your journey.

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