Menopause and anxiety

Menopause and Anxiety

Panic, palpitations and impending doom

Menopause and anxiety can often come hand in hand. Women who have not experienced anxiety before can often find themselves anxious. This in addition causes problems with sleep, our digestion and our sense of wellbeing.

As we career towards menopause, our reproductive hormones can have a huge impact on our emotions. One common feeling I hear many women experience during peri-menopause and menopause is anxiety. The feeling is anxiety can be so overwhelming. The feeling of panic, palpitations and impending doom. Not only can you question yourself and your ability, but you can also lose your self esteem. Anxiety can come in many forms. It can also be a wake up call that something needs attention.

Anxiety is a symptom of an imbalance

Now in Chinese medicine, anxiety is a symptom of an imbalance in our body. It is not something that needs to be suffered. There are many other symptoms that may accompany anxiety. Every woman’s experience is unique and some symptoms they may be experiences are memory loss, lack of clarity, depression as well as fluctuating emotions, rage, irritability, inability to sleep and so on. You are not alone. Many women going through menopause and perimenopause experience this.

When we reach middle age, not only are we dealing with changes to our body, there are also often many changes to other life stressors, such as growing children and ageing parents. This can all have a toll on our health.

Anxiety and the nervous system

If we look at our central nervous system (CNS), it is divided into the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS)and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). These perform functions in the body that we don’t need to think about. They happen automatically, such as breathing and digestion. The parasympathetic nervous system looks after the resting functions such as digestion and lowering our heart beat. The sympathetic system is all about action, movement. If we are exercising we are engaging the SNS. Our heart rate and breathing increases to allow more oxygen in our body.

When we are anxious, we are engaging our SNS and which becomes more active or overactive. This is an imbalance that we need to address.

Menopause and peri-menopause is not a disease

Menopause and peri-menopause are a natural transition from reproductive years to the wise woman. It is not a disease. When you understand the reproductive organs and the effects on the body, you can understand why a decline in them during menopause can create such havoc to our body and emotions.

However not all women or cultures suffer physical and emotional symptoms during this transition. The symptoms that many women go through is a consequence of our modern life where women are so busy. This has a toll on our body and the resources needed to transition through to menopause are just not there. This can be why we don’t have the resilience and all of a sudden we are going through menopause and anxiety at the same time. It is a symptom of depletion.

About your hormones

Progesterone is our calming hormone, so when it reduces it is understandable we can feel stressed, anxious and irritable. Estrogen has an effect on our blood vessels and a lack of it can cause our blood vessels to constrict which may result in that lack of clarity, becoming clumsy as well as stiffness and lack of flexibility in our muscles. As we go through menopause the ovaries production of estrogen and progesterone decrease. However, and this is not often explained, the adrenal glands also secrete progesterone and they take over the role as the ovaries decline.

The problem in our society is by the time we reach menopausal age; our adrenal glands are very depleted because of the stressful life we live. This is one of the reason we may experience menopause and anxiety at the same time. What we need to focus on is managing and reducing stress in our lives. Managing the stress by lifestyle choices. Things like going for walks in nature, having a healthier work life balance, exercising in a way that replenishes the qi of our body – tai chi, yoga, qi gong. Breathing exercises and meditation are beneficial to promoting the relaxation response and calming our heightened state when we feel anxious.

What you can do about menopause and anxiety

But it is not all bad news.  There is a lot you can do to reduce anxiety, help restore hormonal balance and meet menopause with ease and balance. This includes life style changes and stress reduction. Stress has such a significant effect on our body. Short term stress is not detrimental. It is the build up of chronic long term stress that really depletes our nervous system. Through a combination of the above mentioned exercise, lifestyle changes with Chinese medicine, anxiety and other symptoms associated with menopause are reduced.

Acupuncture

Menopause and anxiety can be helped with a course of acupuncture. Acupuncture helps to reduce the sympathetic nervous system and increase the parasympathetic nervous system. Inducing the relaxation response. Acupuncture points are used depending on you as a whole person, so for each woman, the acupuncture points may be different. After acupuncture sessions you often feel calmer and as you continue with treatment that state of calmness lasts longer and longer. The length of treatment usually depends on how long you have been anxious and also the causes of the imbalance – often times it is from a depletion of resources that is many years in the making. 1 course of treatment is 10 sessions. You may or may not need more than 1 course.

Chinese Herbs

Chinese medicine herbal medicine can support the transition to menopause. It is a longevity medicine focused on anti-ageing. That is to keep the body functioning optimally to prevent disease. In menopause and anxiety, there will be a depletion in the bodies resources that needs to be rebuilt and then maintained. You can learn about this here. This is what Chinese herbs will do. Although the anxiety may decrease quickly taking Chinese herbs, the course of treatment may be a couple of months or it may even be 6 months or longer depending on the degree of deficiency your body has. It is aimed at rebuilding your reservoir to reduce anxiety and other symptoms that you experience with menopause.

Chinese medicine treatment is individualized according to what symptoms are being experienced. If you are experiencing anxiety in your perimenopause and menopause years, and are looking for help with symptoms that are effecting your quality of life, please you can book acupuncture and herbal consults at our clinic in Redcliffe. Alternatively herbal consults are available by telehealth.

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