People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.
— Abraham Lincoln
In the years leading to menopause, women know that they will probably experience hot flushes, night sweats, difficulty sleeping, and other physical symptoms of menopause. However, many are surprised by the mood swings, depression, low mood, and debilitating anxiety.
Yet, perimenopause anxiety is very common and can persist during and after menopause.
If you are experience anxiety, you need to know that you are not alone. There is a significant number of women experiencing the same emotional changes.
Hormonal changes, along with the common stressors in life create the perfect storm for perimenopause anxiety. In this blog post, we’ll explore the why and more importantly, how to feel better.
Why does perimenopause cause anxiety?
Before perimenopause, progesterone helped to control the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. But as progesterone levels decrease, women have more cortisol to overwhelm their nervous system.
In particular, cortisol levels tend to be higher than usual in the morning creating perimenopause morning anxiety. However, these feelings of anxiety might persist thought the day.
Moreover, cortisol can also increase in the middle of the night causing women to fully wake up. The result is the disruption of sleep which makes anxiety worst.
Additionally, perimenopausal women can have many stressors in life such as taking care of older parents, their own family, and professional careers.
No wonder why anxiety is so common in the years leading to menopause!
50 natural ways to cope with perimenopause anxiety
Coping with anxiety occurs at different levels. First, you need to cope with anxiety while is occurring, but you also need to make medium and long-term changes.
The good news is that there are many things you can do to improve anxiety, mood changes, and other symptoms of perimenopause.
Keep reading to find ways to improve the unwelcomed anxiety in the short, medium, and long term.
Quick tips for coping with perimenopause anxiety
Take a deep breath
Deep breathing is one of the most basic techniques for coping with anxiety. It has a rapid and dramatic effect on stress levels, even if done for just a few minutes. As a result, experts often recommend this technique when someone seems overly anxious, tense, or experiences panic attacks.
Body scan meditation
When anxiety hits, take a few minutes to do a body scan meditation.
Starting with the top of your head, think about how that part of your body feels. If you have any tension there, try to gently shift it using your mind. Then, slowly move on to the rest of your body, spending as much time as you need to before moving on to your next stop.
You can do this anywhere, at any time. If you want guidance, check this mindful body scan video by Therapy In a Nutshell.
Follow the 3-3-3 rule
Often anxiety is related to the past or the future, so you can cope with anxiety by coming back to the present moment.
This rule works like this:
- Look around and name 3 things that you see
- Name 3 sounds you can hear
- Touch 3 parts of your body
Now breathe and keep going with your day.
Stand up straight
According to psychologist Tamar Chansky, Ph.D., when we are anxious we protect our upper body, where our heart and lungs are , by hunching over.
To remind your body that you are not in danger, stand up, pull your shoulders back, plant your feet evenly and widely apart, open your chest. Then take a deep breath. (1)
Use calming essential oils
Essential oils can help you to cope when anxiety hits. If you’re feeling anxious, try using a scent that helps you to relax.
For example, lavender is known for reducing anxiety – but many other oils may be more effective depending on what type of anxiety you have and your personal preferences.
Feeling overwhelmed with life? Write down your priorities
If the amount of things you need to do during the day gives you anxiety, take a minute to write a list of everything you need to do. Then prioritize, organize, and delegate.
Also, please know that you can leave things undone. The house does not need to be perfect all the time; your mental sanity is far more important.
Write down your thoughts
By putting your thoughts in black and white, you can have a better perspective. Or you can simply feel better by expressing your thoughts.
Question your thoughts
Do you find yourself replaying in your head, again and again, a fight you had? Or do you find yourself often thinking about your financial or emotional issues?
Is that helping to solve your problems? Or it is just giving you anxiety?
I am not saying that the problems are not real or that you deserve to get into fights. What I am saying is this: if a thought is not serving you, let it go.
Fact check thoughts
Let’s go a step further and truly question if what you are thinking is real. For example, you might be thinking about a worst-case scenario, but when you break down the situation you might realize that the worst-case scenario is so unlikely to happen that it is not worth stressing about.
Name your emotion
Look inside yourself and name your emotion. By honoring your feelings, you can move forward.
Remember, any feeling you have is a valid one.
Find a distraction
Sometimes just finding a distraction can get you out of that anxious mood. You can watch a funny video, talk to someone about random things, or do something active. Really just do anything that takes your mind out of thinking.
Talk to a friend
Talk to a friend about what is causing your anxiety, or talk about life. Either way, you will feel better after spending time with a friend.
Listen to uplifting music
Find your favorite playlist and turn on the volume! It does not matter if you are working, driving, or cleaning; uplifting music will elevate your spirit.
Dance to happy music
An upgrade of the tip above! Dancing will give you the distraction you need to get rid of your anxiety.
Remember that everything is temporary
Life will move on. It does not matter how dark it seems at a particular moment.
Watch a funny video
Those cat and baby videos work!
Listen to an audiobook or podcast
Choose one that is purely fictional; the idea is to get your mind out of real life.
Be gentle with yourself
Talk to you the same way you would talk to a little kid, be loving and gentle. You deserve to treat yourself with love and compassion. Remember you are going through a lot of hormone changes and it is going to take some time to adjust.
Medium and long term solutions for perimenopause anxiety
Learn to delegate
Need more time to take care of your mental and physical health? Then you need to delegate tasks to others. Whether at work or at home, let others do their part.
There is time for anything you want or need to do but is not enough time to do everything. So, every week think about what needs to get done at work and at home. Then prioritize and remove all the tasks that are not leading you to the life you want to live.
Eat foods that boost your mental health
An overall well-balanced diet plays an essential role in your health. A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, proteins, and carbohydrates is essential for mental health.
Furthermore, foods high in omega 3, fiber, and vitamin B play specific roles in mental health. To learn more, check this article about brain foods that boost your mood (2).
Improve your gut health
Research shows that the gut microbiome is linked to anxiety. Unfortunately, dysbiosis and inflammation are common in today’s society, leading to increased anxiety and depression (3).
Drink less coffee
Coffee is a stimulant, and the effects are similar to those of a frightening event. Thus, coffee can put your body in a more anxious mode.
Furthermore, caffeine can interfere with your ability to sleep, further increasing your anxiety levels.
Drink less alcohol
Alcohol changes the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, which could lead to increased anxiety. In some cases, people may feel even more anxious after the effects of the alcohol wear off.
Alcohol-induced anxiety can last for up to 16 hours after drinking, or it may persist for an entire day post-drinking (4)
Exercise can reduce anxiety by releasing endorphins, reducing stress hormones, and promoting a sense of wellbeing.
Exercise for 30 minutes every day to reduce anxiety and increase your overall quality of life.
A recent study showed that people who meditate enjoy better mental health than those who don’t (5). And meditation is known to promote feelings of self-awareness and reduce stress levels.
People who practice yoga seem to have a lower rate of depression than those who don’t. Yoga is great because it works your body and your mind.
Move more throughout the day
Be active, enjoy life, move around. The day will be better as you move around more.
A good night sleep
Getting enough sleep is essential for mental health.
A good night’s sleep can help you decrease anxiety by several mechanisms of action, but regulating your hormone levels is one of the most important ones.
The quality and quantity of sleep are essential is one of the most effective treatments for most perimenopausal symptoms, including anxiety.
Create a supportive environment
Surround yourself with those who understand and love you. Also, if you need, find a support group to help you cope with your anxiety better.
Change your thought pattern
Research shows that we can change the route our thoughts go in our brains. So there is no need to continue with the same thought pattern that leads to anxiety (5).
Know that your feelings are not facts
There are always different perspectives, so even when you see your life as dark, there is another perspective that you can take.
Honor your feelings but mentally step aside and see your life and your problems from a different perspective. You might realize you are better than you think.
Let go what does not longer serve you
While this is a quick fix for immediate anxiety, the practice of letting go of what no longer serves you can help you live a happier life.
Let go the past, unhealthy relationships, unhelpful thoughts and feelings, and anything that interferes between you and your mental well-being.
Be mindful of everything you do; this means being present in everything you do. For example, if you are with your family, forget about work and be there with them. If you are eating, focus on the meal and the sensations in your body. Just be in the present moment.
Anxiety is often related to the past and the future. Mindfulness brings you to the present.
Accept what you cannot change
Acceptance is a key factor in reducing anxiety. Life is what it is, and it does not matter if you accept it or not. By accepting what you cannot change, you can move forward and create a better life.
Create a life that makes you happy
After you accept what you cannot change, it is time to change what you can. Create a life that is worth living.
Reiki and other alternative healing methods
Many alternative treatments have proof that they can help with anxiety. Reiki, in specific, is a practice that promotes relaxation, reduces anxiety and stress, and promotes a positive mental state through healing energy.
There are reiki practitioners that can help you heal in a private or group setting. The Cleveland Clinic also has suggestions for self-treatment (6).
Take time off
Women tend to be on the go all the time, without ever taking time for themselves. Taking an hour, a day, or a weekend to enjoy life can help decrease anxiety. This can make you a better person for your family, friends, clients or employer.
Take a vacation
Get away from your usual route and experience something new.
Get involved in your community
“More compassionate mind, more sense of concern for other’s well-being, is the source of happiness.”
When you get involved in your community and help others, you become less concern about your own problems and likely less anxious.
Once you know what triggers anxiety, you can do something about it. A great way to identify triggers is to keep a journal.
Establish self-care routines
Consider establishing routines of things that are calming, relaxing, or decrease anxiety.
For example, establishing a time and place to work out will make it more likely for you to do it regularly (7).
Take charge of your finances
Finances are a common source of stress for many. Consider creating and following a budget, negotiating a better salary, finding a better-paid job, or a getting a side hustle.
Declutter your home
Less is more. Keep it simple.
Declutter your life
Remove the activities that don’t bring you joy or help you move forward in life. So many times women spend their precious time doing busy work. Sit down and decide what stays in your life and what goes away.
Wake up 15 minutes earlier
Perimenopause morning activity is real! But simple changes, like waking up 15 minutes earlier, can do wonders for you.
Reduce the amount of time you spend on your phone
Often, women say that they don’t have time to work out or take time for themselves, yet they spend hours on their phones. By making small adjustments to the daily life routine you can find time to do what you need to nourish your soul.
By putting the phone down, you might find the time to do what you need to do to reduce perimenopause anxiety.
Research shows that gratitude can improve mental health, including anxiety. So, be grateful every day. A great way to get into the habit is to take a picture, every day, of something that you are grateful for. Then, if you want, you can post it on social media with the hashtag #100happydays. This will spread the practice of gratitude.
Seek professional health
Find a therapist
A therapist can help you reduce your anxiety symptoms by using a variety of tools, including cognitive behavioral therapy, a therapy modality that has proven to be effective in the treatment of many health issues, including high anxiety.
Seeing a therapist is good at any time, but it is especially important if you are experiencing high levels of anxiety.
Talk to your doctor about managing physical causes of anxiety
Rule of any physical causes of anxiety, including the need for hormone replacement therapy. While there are many lifestyle changes to decrease anxiety some women experience psychological symptoms beyond what can be treated naturally.
Perimenopause anxiety is common and is due to hormonal fluctuations and life stressors. However, you still have control over it.
Dr. Su-Nui Escobar is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist in Miami, FL. She is passionate about helping women over 40 live their best lives through healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle. Su-Nui is a doctor in clinical nutrition, able to translate complicated evidence-based science into practical advice. Su-Nui’s charisma and warmth have made her a frequent guest on Hispanic popular morning television shows.