Anxiety and Stress? Time for a Change!

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Do anxiety, stress and worry continually knock at your door like unwelcome houseguests?  We’re at that time in our lives when caring for ailing parents, raising children, and working full-time are on a collision course.  Mix in menopausal hormones, stir and you’ve got a recipe for stress-induced depression! However, psychiatrist Dr. Harry Croft, principal researcher at Clinical Trials of Texas, says putting yourself first is critical in restoring a healthy mind-body balance.

First and foremost, it’s not your imagination that life is rockier than it used to be.  Dr. Croft says twice as many women than men suffer from depression and menopause can be the tipping point between waking up with a smile and pulling the covers over your head!

Even the various stages of menopause can affect your mental wellbeing.  A recent study cited by the National Institute of Health uncovered significant differences between peri and post-menopausal women in terms of vitality and quality of life.  Two control groups of each age range were scored on anxiety, depression, and quality of life and the differences between the two groups was dramatic.  Considering you spend one-third of your life in the peri and post-menopausal years, it’s a good time to sit up and take notice.

“Stress and menopause can make for an endless anxiety-riddled loop, requiring women to examine whether their current approach to managing their health is really working.  For example, low estrogen can make you feel crummy and you won’t function as well.  Throw in lack of sleep due to insomnia or waking in the middle of the night and boom—you’re super stressed. Because of that stress women may recognize depression, anxiety, and turn to self-medicating through alcohol consumption.  There is a huge rise of alcohol abuse in older folks because they don’t have to get a prescription to drink.  Many women closet drink and tell themselves it helps them relax, but might not recognize that they’re drinking because of stress.  Also, women build up a tolerance to the effects of liquor and then have to drink more to feel good.  Now, if they go to their doctor complaining they can’t sleep and doc writes a script for a sleeping pill, then that can be a troubling mix,” explained Dr. Croft.

Dr. Croft says a much smarter approach is to have a menopausal specialist run a hormonal panel.  Balancing menopausal hormones is an important first step to feeling better. Often, women find that hormone replacement therapy as recommended by their specialist is enough to get them in top shape.  If there is a need for further evaluation by a psychiatrist who might prescribe antidepressants, those meds work more effectively once hormonal levels are closer to normal, especially estrogen.

“These two specialists are critical at this stage of life,” explains Dr. Croft.  “A women’s gynecologist might just prescribe a pill and not consider that there could be deeper mental health issues involved.  Because studies now show that depression is twice as high in women and extra life expectations at this time of life can be unrealistic. It is good to mobilize into action -whether it’s just balancing the hormones, changing nutrition and exercise habits, or looking into antidepressants,” says Dr. Croft.

There are some simple, positive steps you can take right now to improve your quality of life.  We hear it time and again, but exercise is a critical component of a good, healthy lifestyle.   Many of us complain here about lack of time, but scientists have published new studies that show short bursts of intensive exercise, taking 10 minutes are less, are enough to get the job done by dramatically increasing oxygen consumption.  If you feel the need for something a little less dramatic, yoga is always an excellent alternative and can be modified to comply with any fitness level.  Even better news:  yoga actually improves sleep efficiency, as shown in a recent study.  Turns out, that is critical, too.

“The biggest thing to control is sleep,” says Dr. Croft.  “Not just getting to sleep, but maintaining uninterrupted sleep.  If women keep waking up, they won’t feel rested and stress will pop up again.”

“Depression in menopausal women is very common,” says Dr. Croft.  “Clinging to unrealistic life expectations that you can manage everything and everyone doesn’t make any sense and can damage your health.  Take care of yourself, first.”

Doctor’s orders!

Suffering in Silence is Out!  Reaching Out is In!

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.

  • Connie

    How does a person find a good doctor that specializes in hormone therapy? We have An insurance that doesn’t do natural hormone stuff. Any advice for Colorado?

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Glad you asked Connie. Search: Dear Ellen – how do I find A menopause Specialist on my homepage for some helpful tips. If your doctor prescribes HRT (which I am on and feel GREAT!) it is good for you to understand that there is bioidentical HRT that is FDA approved. Your insurance should cover it. If you need testosterone cream – that you might have to pay for our of pocket. To date, you need to get this cream is only made at a compounding pharmacy. Good Luck! Keep me posted!

    • Ellen Dolgen
  • Thanks this is a very encouraging article. But there is not a lot one can do without a job and you do suffer in silence.

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Sarah,check out the Affordable Care site to see if you can get help with insurance so that you can find a good menopause specialist and get the help you need and deserve.

  • Nancy Hill (@Nerthus)

    Stress and depression are so linked, and this is such a vulnerable age. Not everyone can afford medical specialists, and I had to fight insurance companies and jump so many hurdles just to see a therapist. Lack of oxygen and sleep interruption almost killed me. Breathing and release is something we can do for ourselves, for free.

    • Ellen Dolgen

      So true, Nancy. It is important to know now with the Affordable Care Act- many women can access healthcare. In addition, Planned Parenthood is a place for women to go for their healthcare needs.

  • You bring up a pretty much swept under the rug point Ellen — when we feel off we tend to self medicate. Not judging but we all do it. We want to feel normal and grasp for those things that might pull us out of the feeling that we are out of control emotionally! Excellent piece!

    • Sa;ybra

      I haven’t turned to drinking …my self medication is eating…Thank you for this article..

      • Ellen Dolgen

        Try to grab fresh fruit and veggies instead of sugar infused carbs. You will feel better.

    • Ellen Dolgen

      So true, Ruth. The trick is to grab or do something positive to sooth us.

  • Thanks for giving me a great reason to sleep in tomorrow! I’m going for 9 hours.

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Go for it, Roz!

  • cindy bobst

    how do you know when you done with menpause what next

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Cindy, you are in menopause when you have not had a period for 12 consecutive months. Next,you are in post menopause the rest of your life.

  • I feel fortunate that I had very very few menopausal issues. Very few.

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Hold onto those genes, Carol!

  • Amen!

    • Ellen Dolgen


  • This is really good information to know and I appreciate you writing about it!

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Thanks, Bonnie….The more we know the better equipped we are to base our health care on fact instead of fear! Here’s to good health!

  • simona

    Thank you for this article, very interesting.

    • Ellen Dolgen

      I happy you found it helpful, Simona.

  • Anita

    Hi Ellen!

    I knew a hot flash would rear its ugly head when something warm or hot would touch my skin. So, every time I would go to an outdoor event in the sun….a major hot flash would arrive. Then I would get a panic attack….It was a no brainer…so then I decided not to go anywhere where it would be warm…NOT GOOD>
    I was so convinced the heat brought on the flash….maybe, but I recently went to a resort spa in the mountains….got a massage and the therapist smacks a hot towel on my neck. NO HOT FLASH…..why?
    I was relaxed…the stress was gone. Stress totally causes hot flashes and in turn the flash caused the panic attack.
    So, now I frequent the spa…you don’t have to spend millions for a massage or facial or whatever calms you….it works!!!
    Thanks Ellen for all your help. I am a much happier 50 year old!

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Anita, thanks for sharing your story with us!