The transition to menopause isn’t always easy. This natural evolution in a woman’s life usually starts in a woman’s 40s but can occur in one’s 30s as well. Known as perimenopause, it’s the time in life when a woman’s ovaries progressively begin producing less estrogen.
One of the very first signs of perimenopause is increased anxiety. In fact, perimenopause and anxiety go hand in hand. You see, hormones during perimenopause are all over the place. At one moment, a woman experiencing perimenopause can have huge hormone swells simply to be followed by dramatic hormonal crashes. It’s these crashes that precipitate anxiety during perimenopause…and it’s what makes a woman tend to feel crazy during this time.
How Perimenopause and Anxiety Are Connected
Not only are many women unaware that they’re entering perimenopause but many are unaware of the myriad of hormonal changes that goes with it. Perimenopause and the anxiety that often accompanies it affect many women, many of whom may never have experienced anxiety before.
So what about perimenopause is sending middle-aged women into a panic? A lot of it has to do with hormones that are creating havoc within our bodies.
Hormones, Perimenopause, and Anxiety
The angst we all felt as teenagers was due to a dramatic change in our hormone levels. Fast forward a few decades, and we’re faced with a different kind of hormonal anguish. Fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone (the ovarian hormones) can definitely have a negative effect on a woman’s mental well-being.
Ovarian hormones (namely estrogen, progesterone, and the building components of which they’re made) are known to be natural “anxiolytics,” which means they intermingle with the receptors in your brain that help you cope with stress and keep your mood even. Their levels fluctuate, which happens dramatically during perimenopause, and anxiety is often a result.
Life Changes, Perimenopause, and Anxiety
Perimenopause and the associated anxiety are also often caused by the many stressful life changes that tend to happen to women around this time. Getting older doesn’t always mean we get to kick back and enjoy the prelude to the golden years. Life can get stressful at this point in a woman’s life. From aging parents who need to be taken care of to changes with children and spouses, the time of perimenopause usually offers quite a few challenges on top of erratic hormones.
Anxiety and Stress Only Increase Perimenopause and Anxiety
As if the stress of perimenopause wasn’t enough to begin with, dealing with stress and anxiety during perimenopause can actually make anxiety worse. If you experience stress (as many women in this age range do), it can cause your perimenopause symptoms worsen, which, in turn, causes more anxiety. Understanding the symptoms of perimenopause can make it easier to identify what’s going on with your body, which can make you feel less stressed about the changes taking place.
Symptoms of perimenopause include:
- Hot flashes (anxiety usually comes before this)
- Difficulty sleeping
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Mood swings
- Anxiety and depression
- Decreased sex drive
- Longer time between periods
- Vaginal dryness
- Need to urinate more frequently
Perimenopause can last anywhere from four years (the average) up to a decade. Perimenopause ends after a woman hasn’t had her period for 12 months straight. This is when a woman enters the time of her life known as menopause.
Menopause and Anxiety
As if experiencing perimenopause for 3-10 years wasn’t bad enough, it’s simply the prelude of what’s to come. Menopause is a huge transition in a woman’s life, and perimenopause and the anxiety associated with it are simply a glimpse of what’s to come.
Menopausal women often experience anxiety and panic due to the dramatic hormonal changes that continue to take place within their bodies. When estrogen diminishes from a woman’s system, anxiety often becomes the norm even when there is no prior history of anxiety in the past.
Lower levels of estrogen can cause sleep problems and memory loss, both of which can easily trigger anxiety. Also, the simple fact that a woman has hit the age of menopause is reason for many women to become anxious in itself. Symptoms of menopause include:
- Hot flashes
- Pain during intercourse
- Vaginal dryness
- Night sweats
- Panic and anxiety
How to Cope with Perimenopause and Anxiety
If you’re experiencing perimenopause and anxiety, which often accompanies it, there are ways to alleviate your symptoms. Anxiety is something that plagues millions of people, and there are countless ways to effectively overcome and manage it.
Knowing you’re not alone can do wonders to ease your troubled mind. Many women who have perimenopause often experience anxiety. Talking to other women who have experienced perimenopause and anxiety along with it is a great way to get your feelings out in the open.
Diet and exercise also play a huge role in helping manage anxiety. By cutting out things like refined sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes, you’ll be doing wonders to cut out the anxiety you might be feeling. Foods you can add to your diet that help ease anxiety include:
- Chamomile tea
- Kava tea
- Dark chocolate
- Leafy greens
- Fish rich in omega-3s
If you’re in the midst of perimenopause and anxiety has got you in its grips, getting out and getting some exercise will honestly do wonders for your mood. A 20-minute walk is a great way to curb anxiety, and hitting the gym can only help. Getting out in nature, whether at the park, in the woods, or taking a stroll on the beach, will help calm anxiety and relax your mind.
Engaging in things that help stimulate your mind is also an excellent way to shift your thought process so you aren’t consumed with the thoughts that are making you anxious. Try reading a good book, watching a documentary, or engaging in a crossword puzzle. Not only will these activities help with anxiety, but they can be great for the memory loss associated with perimenopause and menopause as well.
Are you a woman experiencing perimenopause and anxiety along with it? Have you gone through perimenopause and found ways that help you manage the way you feel? We’d love to hear about what you did in the comments below.