Why am I suddenly so anxious?!?
Sadly, anxiety is a common symptom during the perimenopause and menopause years. This symptom can spring from absolutely nowhere and occur independently from other symptoms, though it is more commonly seen with hot flushes.
Anxiety can manifest itself in a number of different ways. These can be feelings of nervousness or butterflies in your stomach and irritability. We can experience physical tension sometimes accompanied by a racing heart. A sensation of panic or dread are common too with or/and a sense of unexplained foreboding. Many women can feel out of control and generally worried or just not themselves. This can be really alarming, especially for women who have never experienced anxiety or mood issues in the past but it is equally unpleasant for those who have.
What causes anxiety?
The cause is the fluctuations in female hormones (especially a drop in progesterone in perimenopause) as well as the relationships/ratios between hormones. Changes in the levels of progesterone and oestrogen and the effects on their functions jobs in the body, can alter mood-regulating hormones, namely serotonin and dopamine. At the same time, increases in cortisol can exacerbate anxiety. Mild heart palpitations can be caused by a drop in progesterone and can be helped nutritionally however if they last more than a few minutes, a trip to the doctor will be necessary to rule out other issues potentially related to the thyroid or cardiovascular system.
How can I improve feelings of anxiety?
Poor dietary choices can affect your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and can make feelings of anxiety worse. It is important to have protein at every meal and avoid blood sugar spikes created by simple carbohydrates such as breads and baked goods. Caffeine is especially unhelpful when it comes to anxiety and it also reduces GABA, the calming brain chemical. Don’t skimp on the carbs! These are needed to make GABA and additionally, progesterone so a good amount of complex carbs, for example, root veg and beans are important. Vitamin B6, Lemon balm and L Theanine are nutrients that have been shown to help. Vitamin B6 is important in the formation of serotonin. CoQ10 improves brain function for postmenopausal women and has lots of other health benefits for this age group so it’s worth giving it a go.
Let’s not forget our adrenal glands!
Our adrenal glands have a lot of work to do in perimenopause and menopause. Changes in blood sugar regulation as well as having to take over the job of the ovaries (in producing hormones) can put them under real pressure. Lowering caffeine intake and dealing with stress are really important at this time. The nutrient vitamin C greatly supports adrenal function. These strategies in turn can improve mild heart palpitations. Supplementing magnesium can have beneficial effects on heart palpitations too.
Reducing stress is key to managing anxiety. A morning and evening routine of meditation and gentle exercise such as yoga can be very beneficial. Breath-work is an incredibly powerful tool as it stimulates the vagus nerve into releasing calming chemicals. Having regular baths with Epsom salts (that contain magnesium) are also an important part of a self-care routine.
The good news
The good news is that diet and lifestyle can have a positive effect on anxiety and not only that, but it appears to dissipate post-menopause. Be sure to ask for help if you need it. Regularly employ the strategies above and do visit the doctor if the feelings become unmanageable.
At our next retreat, we practice these management strategies. Not only is this a wonderfully relaxing experience but also includes take-home strategies for both your diet and physical and mental routines. Our schedule includes meditation, yoga and breath-work plus nutrition workshops and fantastically tasty and healthy meals. Have a look at the retreats page for more info.
Do contact me directly if you want to discuss your individual health circumstances. firstname.lastname@example.org
Don’t miss the Early Bird Offer on our Women’s Wellbeing Retreat Feb 4th 2023