October is Menopause Awareness Month and the 18th October marks World Menopause Day. For this occasion, I asked my wonderful friend and colleague, Lynda Allison from The Menopause Boutique to write a guest blog about how anxiety affects women with menopause.
Lynda is very passionate about helping women deal with and overcome the 34 symptoms of menopause. She has put together a Hampshire based Panel of Experts, called ‘Hampshire Ladies, ask the experts’ to help women with just that. I am very pleased to announce that she invited me to be her Mental Fitness expert which I gratefully accepted.
Please welcome Lynda’s guest blog: Anxiety in Menopause.
Mention the word menopause and most people think of hot flushes, mood swings, and maybe fatigue, but less familiar is the onset of anxiety which around half of us will experience during this time.
Anxiety is one of the most underestimated symptoms of the menopause and it can take many women by surprise, it often creeps up during the early years of the perimenopause. The hormonal fluctuations that take place during this phase leave many women suddenly experiencing a loss of confidence or a sense of anxiety, even when this has never previously been an issue.
Anxiety is a general feeling of unease that can cause you to feel worried or fearful, and the symptoms can range from mild to severe.
Women seeking anxiety treatment can choose from among three approaches: (1) Lifestyle changes, (2) Alternative medicine, and (3) Medications.
The first level of treatment consists of making healthier lifestyle adjustments, which can bring tremendous benefits in treating anxiety.
Phytoestrogens exert weak oestrogenic effects in the body, which can help reduce anxiety, depression, and other menopause symptoms by promoting hormonal balance – e.g. soya, oats, flaxseed, sesame seeds, broccoli.
Magnesium helps regulate the function of neurotransmitters, like serotonin, which controls mood. Its deficiency has been shown to increase the risk of developing anxiety-related behaviours and depression. Found in nuts, seeds, spinach, avocado, leafy greens.
Zinc is a nutrient needed for proper brain function, including stress management and mood regulation. Its low levels have been linked to anxiety as well as other mental health disorders, like depression. Found in eggs, oysters, asparagus, cashew nuts and pumpkin seeds.
Omega-3 fatty acids have shown to help regulate mood-controlling neurotransmitters, reduce inflammation, and ease anxiety symptoms. Found in salmon, walnuts, flaxseed and olive oil.
The effects of regular physical activity on mental health are bountiful. It not only helps release stress and promote relaxation, but also improves mood and overall outlook on life. In fact, exercise has been shown as effective as antidepressant medication for treating mild to moderate anxiety and depression.
Alternative approaches to how to treat anxiety encompass a wide variety of options, of which the most popular ones are herbal supplements. They are not only the easiest regimens to follow, but some of the most effective ones since supplements address the underlying root of menopause anxiety, hormonal imbalance.
Combining lifestyle adjustments with herbal supplements is often the most holistic and lasting approach to restoring hormonal balance and treating anxiety during menopause. However, women with severe anxiety may need a more conventional treatment, including medications and therapy.
There are two types of conventional anxiety treatments available to help women with severe anxiety.
Psychotherapeutic options for generalized anxiety disorder treatment can be highly beneficial, although they do require a significant time commitment. They are usually recommended before prescription medications and come in two main types:
Anxiolytics, or anti-anxiety medications, are usually prescribed when psychotherapy has not brought the desired results. They can also be used in conjunction with psychotherapy. However, we must remember that the majority of medications work by alleviating anxiety symptoms, not treating the underlying cause.
The three levels of anxiety disorder treatment discussed above are not mutually exclusive. Women may find that some approaches might be more beneficial at various stages of the menopausal transition than others. Nevertheless, many opt to combine lifestyle changes with herbal supplements for optimal, risk-free results the natural way.
On top of a healthy diet and exercise, some lifestyle tips aimed at relaxing the mind and generating good, positive feelings. Some of the best recommendations for anxiety treatment are as follows:
With all the internal and external changes occurring to menopausal women, it is no surprise that anxiety and depression are common symptoms. Implementing simple lifestyle changes, however, means that the distressing psychological and physical symptoms should decrease, leading to a better sense of overall wellbeing.
Lynda Allison – Nutritional Therapist