Full Episode Transcript
Well, hello my friend and welcome to the podcast. October is Menopause Awareness Month so I want to kick off Menopause Awareness Month with episode 45 and it is all about menopause and anxiety. I am so appreciative of the growing conversations that we’re having around menopause In our communities and around the world.
And there are a lot of women going through menopause. We are a large proportion of the population. And one of the significant symptoms that arise for many women during perimenopause and menopause is anxiety. Anxiety. I want to go into that topic today, and it will offer some help and some assistance if you’re experiencing anxiety and you’re in midlife, you’re perimenopausal, then this is going to be helpful for you.
If you’re not quite there yet, then it’ll bring some better understanding. I think it’s really, you know, there’s conversations we’re destigmatizing menopause
There’s another challenge that we experience in life which has some stigma around it as well and that is anxiety. And so I wanted to really open up around anxiety, what the hell’s going on, why does it show up in perimenopause, what can we do about it, do we just have to suffer through it?
Join me for the next little while and we’ll dive deep and come up with some solutions
on the subject of menopause related anxiety.
Rightio. So, anxiety and menopause. To be clear, it’s anxiety and perimenopause and menopause. So perimenopause being that period of time where you’ve got the hormonal fluctuations prior to your very last menstrual cycle. Menopause is actually the one year anniversary of when you had your last period and post menopause technically is the time after that, but I’m just going to say menopause for ease of language in the episode today.
So, anxiety is really common in menopause. In midlife, and there was a survey recently, just a couple of years ago, done of, of 2, 000 women,
age between 46 and 60, in the UK, and 50 percent of those women reported experiencing anxiety. And of course, we know with anxiety, we can have symptoms of anxiety, we can have anxious feelings and thoughts and bodily responses, physical symptoms, and there is also diagnosed anxiety disorders.
So what happens with anxiety in perimenopause is that it can either just hit you really quickly where you don’t know what’s hit you and you’ve got these symptoms of anxiety or it can be like a slow creep and many women sort of don’t make the connection. that this might be menopause related anxiety, they just kind of think, I’m not coping like I used to.
Or I’m not wanting to socialize like I used to. I feel more nervous than I used to. But that connection isn’t being made.
And for that reason, it’s actually really, difficult to recognize how prevalent it is. There are other stats that say 1 in 4 women going through menopause experience anxiety and panic attacks. That survey that I just quoted previously reported 50 percent of women who were surveyed reported symptoms of anxiety.
it doesn’t The anxiety symptoms that show up in perimenopause don’t discriminate as to whether you’ve experienced anxiety in the past or not. So you might never have had anxiety and it can show up. Or you might have had an experience of, or some, living with some of the symptoms of anxiety and you might notice that it has become worse in your 40s or in that perimenopause time.
So we know that when we go through perimenopause, we do experience changes in mood, right? We’ve got the hormonal fluctuations of perimenopause with that decline in estrogen.
So with those falling estrogen levels, the way our brain functions, changes, and studies have shown that estrogen is linked to levels of serotonin, commonly referred to as the happy hormone, currently, in our brain. And there’s further evidence that estrogen levels are also linked to cortisol levels, the stress hormone.
So when estrogen levels drop, cortisol levels rise. Of course, it’s really likely that there’s all sorts of other connections and hormonal and brain chemical factors going on. Your beautiful brain and nervous system is a super multilayered complex system and science understands some of it, but not all of it.
So, anxiety can be experienced as physical symptoms, including fast heart rate, heart palpitations, feeling of sickness or nausea, shaking or tremors, sweating, dry mouth, chest pain, headaches, rapid breathing, and panic attacks. And there’s definitely a connection with hot flushes, there’s a whole… Uh, chain reaction that goes on that causes the body to experience a wash of anxiety at that time as well.
But many women I talk to have this low level of pretty much ever present anxiety that shows up in perimenopause.
So we can see there that there are the physical factors.
That contribute, but of course we have life and family changes for many women in perimenopause. Their children are now teenagers and going through their own sometimes rocky transitions as well. There is more pressure coming from There may be more pressure coming from the workplace within your career and many women in midlife, you know, look around themselves and we think, I used to be able to cope with this.
I used to have a handle on this and I’m just not dealing with it anymore. I don’t have the vitality and it’s all gotten away on me. That’s a really, really normal experience. in perimenopause and more broadly in midlife. Another area that it can show up in, an anxiety pattern can show up, is around social anxiety.
And so for a lot of women I talk to, their willingness and capacity and resilience in terms of, in terms of Being social, being out and about in the world, socializing, reduces and they actually notice an increase in social anxiety. And that also is really common in perimenopause.
And I think it’s really helpful to know how this can show up and the symptoms and The chain reactions that happen in our system and why it’s happening, so that it de stigmatizes our experience of menopause and any experience of anxiety that we might have in menopause. For
some women, once they’re through perimenopause, they’re out the other side, they’re in that post menopausal. Stage of life, their hormones will have stabilized. And when the hormones stabilize and you’re not having that up and down of estrogen and other hormones, then many women do notice that the anxiety symptoms do settle down.
But what if they don’t? And, what if, like me, you have a very long window, years and years and years, seemingly, it felt like, of perimenopause? What can you do about it?
So for some women, they experience anxiety in perimenopause, menopause, and they don’t need treatment. They might look to lifestyle changes. Maybe some exercise that is better suited to this stage of life. Maybe there are breaks in our stressful busy day. We start taking some time out and some more rest.
Maybe we learn to meditate or practice mindfulness. Maybe we just start to really commit to ourselves and give ourselves some time out and bring some joy into our lives. For some women that’s going to be enough. For others… That is not quite going to be enough. And I think it’s such a, I just think it’s a good idea to get help, support, sooner rather than later.
You know, like, why struggle for years and years with sometimes debilitating anxiety in perimenopause when there is actually help there for us? That can help us to turn down the volume of those symptoms and actually start living our life as we want to live it and enjoying our life again. And so it’s not my place, it’s out of the scope of my practice to talk about what sort of, um, natural remedies are available for, menopause related anxiety, but there, there’s, there’s a lot that can help.
So you could talk to your naturopath, a naturopath. You could talk to a nutritionist. You could talk to an acupuncturist or a traditional Chinese medicine person who is, I think it’s really important that they’re up to date. With research around menopause and hormonal changes that happen. Because the research is…
The research is changing all the time. And what was true, you know, 20 years ago, there was that now debunked study, that hormone replacement therapy was dangerous for women, that completely changed the landscape for… women in perimenopause in terms of what support they could access and hormone replacement therapy was pretty much off the table for so many women or it was it had this perception that it was really dangerous.
Well that research has been proven to be faulty It is not considered to be accurate and hasn’t been for a while. However, the fear that was that was connected with that research, still permeates our conversations and perspectives today. So it is really, I think it’s really useful to be able to advocate for ourselves around whatever interventions we’re looking for and So there’s the, you know, there’s the lifestyle interventions.
Some of those are mentioned. There’s the nutrition sort of interventions, the food, maybe the supplements that we put in our mouth or don’t consume. I know for me coffee has been A little bit of a trigger for bodily anxiety, not so much in my mind and my thinking, but over time, if I had coffee for a long period of time, pretty much every day, I would just notice this creeping in of this bodily sort of anxiety.
And then when I cut the caffeine out, mostly, for the most part, I’m not super rigid with these things. I cut that out and it just went away. It just disappeared. So there are, you know, there’s supports that we can give ourselves, but I think it’s really, really important to know our body and to listen to our body and to be able to trust our body.
And then there’s, so there’s the, um, the naturopathic support for anxiety can be really helpful for some women. You can talk to your doctor, HRT, or menopausal hormone therapy is… An effective treatment for menopause related anxiety, because if the anxiety has been caused by the hormonal decline, then the body identical hormone replacement therapy is going to, is just going to be helpful in that regard.
Some doctors do still prescribe. The usual anti anxiety, uh, the usual anxiety medication, which of course can be helpful in some circumstances.
But I think if we’re going to our doctor, and we know within ourselves that we have, we’re in perimenopause, right? We’ve got the symptoms. As far as I’m aware, there is no definitive, There is a blood test that can be done that tells us we’re in perimenopause. There is blood tests that can be done that tells us we’re postmenopausal, but not in perimenopause.
So it is based on our symptoms. And if we’re going to our doctor and we’re experiencing anxiety, and we think that it is related to perimenopause, then it is really important to advocate for ourselves.
I reckon it’s just so important to be able to look at the different options that are available to us and not have that closed down. You know, if, if natural medicine or herbal medicine is right for you, then you need to be empowered to choose that. If body identical hormone replacement therapy is right for you.
and you feel good about that, then you need to be able to choose to have that. I have heard from many women that they’re, they’re just given anxiety medication and they, they are trying to advocate for themselves that You know, they think, well the anxiety’s here because of the perimenopausal hormonal fluctuations, then why am I being given just the anxiety meds when I actually want the HRT?
So I do think it’s really important that we have a doctor that, a GP that understands us, and understands perimenopausal, and that understands the, um, Up to date research around it. And if you’re not happy with what your GP is offering you in support for the anxiety that you’re experiencing then you can if you can afford it, of course I understand it can be expensive to go down this route but there are uh specifically trained if There are doctors that are trained specifically with menopause and you will definitely have a different experience and you can just Google, Google them.
There’s um, there’s some, there’s plenty in New Zealand, there’s some in New Plymouth. You can Google them and you will generally have a different, so you can Google them if you’re just not happy with what’s happening for you with Um, with getting the treatment that you, you want or having the options that you’re looking for.
And another big piece that can be really helpful is some form of talk therapy, either the deep dive subconscious NLP work that I do with clients or general good counseling and psychotherapy. I know it’s not sexy, and I know it’s not the new wave, but it really can make a difference over time if you’re working with a good therapist.
I think for me that going through that time, talk therapy would have been helpful, but I also needed the, um, the physical support for my body. Uh, because if it’s all, if it’s all rooted in the physical or say the majority of what’s going on is rooted in the physical, then talk therapy or mindset work is going to have less impact.
But if we support both the physical and the mental, you’ve got a really winning combination there.
And look, the other piece is that if you are experiencing anxiety, and I know I went through a time where I had increased anxiety, and first of all, I didn’t really know what was going on. Like, why was I feeling more socially anxious? I didn’t have an answer for that. Why when I was, you know, why at different times?
of the day was I feeling dizzy or slightly like I was going to fall over or I was more sort of predisposed to anxiety and I didn’t understand that it was connected to the hormonal shifts of perimenopause. So understanding that for ourselves is so empowering, so empowering, it, it takes it away from. And of course we never, I don’t, I just don’t think we should ever be doing this, but often with things like anxiety and low mood, we, there’s a level of self blame.
There’s a level of, you know, if I was better, I wouldn’t be experiencing this. And with any mental health issues, we want to remove that from. from our internal dialogue because it’s just not helpful. It’s really not helpful and Anxiety, low mood, they’re far, far, far more nuanced than that, right? And particularly with perimenopause
Let’s, let’s just understand If I’ve got menopause related anxiety The vast majority of it is coming from the hormonal fluctuation in perimenopause and the decline through menopause.
And then the next piece is, what do I need to do to support myself through this phase? Through this experience. I do not think, especially in this menopausal time, I do not think pushing through works. And I have seen for many, many women. We might try at the start of perimenopause, and often, you know, we’re in perimenopause kind of before we realise it.
We try and push through. We try and do things the way we’ve always done them. But our body is going through such a transition that it’s just not having it. Pushing through no longer works. And so things have to change. And I feel for you women in the workplace, if your workplace doesn’t have an understanding of what’s going on in perimenopause.
Because from my experience and talking with women,
It’s very difficult to push ourselves through because there’s this expectation that we have to carry on the way we’ve always been when we’re going through perimenopause. My God, our body is going through such a big change. We need to give it the love and the support and the nurture that it needs. All of that nurture we’ve been sending out into the world.
Previously, we’re now going through this change and this reset. And it’s required that we have to start nurturing ourselves. And that we get support where we haven’t had it before. And as much as you might have an understanding partner, And a supportive partner, if they don’t know or understand about menopause, they might not get it.
They might think, well, if you’re tired, if you’re stressed, you need to do more exercise. You need to do more cardio. You just need to push through and get going. Well, in perimenopause. Your body is most greatly supported by rest,
nourishment, and that can include exercise for sure, but it’s not going to be the kind of exercise that is completely draining you and burning you out because your, your brain and body is going through this
breaking down of the old connections. And they’re going to get rebuilt up. They are going to get rebuilt up.
But while that
rock and roll and change is happening in the brain and the connections and all of that change is happening in the body. What we most need is support, nurture, rest and nourishment. And so. So, if you’re having an experience of anxiety, if you’ve got anxiety symptoms showing up, if they are inhibiting you significantly for any longer than 10 to 14 days, it’s a really good idea and actually I think it’s imperative that you see your health professional.
Call in that support, because it’s very hard to support ourselves when we’re going through that experience.
And lastly, I think it’s so important that we talk to our friends about it, that we talk to our community, that we talk to our partners about what’s going on, about the increase in anxiety, that we have those conversations, first of all for ourselves. So that we’re heard, so that we are transparent, so that we don’t feel like we have to hide this from other people, and secondly, so that the other woman and the other people in your life have an understanding that this happens to many, many, many women, and I think this goes a long way to destigmatize Our, you know, our experience, our mental health journey through perimenopause
and menopause. I hope this has been helpful, enlightening, inspiring. I’d love to hear from you. What is your takeaway from today’s episode? Has it been helpful? Has it stimulated you to talk to your health professional? To start getting some support on board or to nurture yourself and prioritize rest and nourishment.
It does get better if you’re in the thick of it. It does get better on the other side of menopause for sure. I see my friends now who are. Going through perimenopause and I’ve sort of forgotten a lot of what went on. That’s maybe one of the bonuses of the menopause brain. And, but I see for my friends, you know, what they’re going through in perimenopause and I see how tough it is and how they are like, I feel like they’ve kind of run into a brick wall.
It’s like, what the hell? I was just going along fine, and suddenly I can’t be doing these things that I used to be able to do. And, I can’t take that away from them, for them, of course. But I think having those conversations can be helpful to really normalize our experience through perimenopause.
So that’s us for today’s episode.
I’m getting pretty excited about the midlife upgrade course. We’re going to be releasing the new enrollment. Shortly. If you want to find out when the doors open, I am still going to be taking small groups, so we had a small group with a pilot round, and I loved it so much, really incredible connection with that group, I’m going to keep the group small again.
If you’re interested in joining us and we do cover things like stress, anxiety and overwhelm in the course, we go into it in more detail and more depth and offer more support. If you’re interested in finding out more about it and hearing when the doors open, just jump onto my website. meagancare. co. nz forward slash waitlist, pop your name and email on the waitlist and you’ll be the first to know about the midlife upgrade course.
Okay my friend, have a beautiful week, take good care of yourself and I’ll talk to you real soon. Bye for now.