Mondays back at work are always a pain. But this week I didn’t just have Monday blues. They were midnight blue – you know, that trendy Farrow & Ball shade that’s almost black but still blue enough that you fork out a ridiculous amount of money for a tin of paint. That’s menopausal anxiety.
It attacks when you least expect it. I’d gone home after work on Friday happy enough, having mentally checked off everything I’d done to make sure it was okay.
Come 3am on Monday, however, and my paranoia and anxiety levels about my stories had gone off the scale. By 7.30am, I was in tears applying mascara, with a deep lump in my stomach that felt as if I wanted to be sick but couldn’t. I shook going into work and it took several hours before I started to feel a little better.
My doom and gloom attitude reminded me of only one person: Kevin the Teenager. There’s that wonderful sketch where Kevin is counting off the seconds until his 13th birthday, but then, on the stroke of midnight, his hormones change and he’s transformed from a lovely schoolboy to – horror of horrors – a teenager.
Hormonal ups and downs are accepted when you’re that age, as the oestrogen and testosterone levels fluctuate wildly and your emotions go rocking and rolling. But menopausal women are also experiencing the same thing. And then we have this thing called life playing its part, too, with work, or children, or elderly parents, or your relationships all needing our attention. So really, it’s no surprise that we can find ourselves on the same dance floor as the Kevins of this world.
So what can you do when the black dog comes yapping at your heels? Here’s some ways of coping with menopausal anxiety:
Yes, I hear you groaning. But research suggests exercise may have a role to play in the treatment of anxiety. At the very least doing something different may help take your mind off your fears.
Nor do you have to be out there giving it full pelt. Mondays are a 12-hour day for me with little time for any break, but this week I had a meeting so I factored in a 20-minute walk to get some sunshine and be around people.
Yoga is also one of my go-tos when I’m feeling lost. I’ve spoken before about Chas Rough and Yogamazing (I should be on commision, the number of people I’ve told about him) but the last few minutes of his classes, when you’re lying on the mat and resting, are some of the most magic moments of the session.
But the one form of exercise I must get back into for helping my menopausal anxiety is jogging. After a bad day at the office, I used to go out for a 5km run (run being the generic term; quicker-than-a-snail shuffle is more me) and forget about everything. Good old C25K will get you there if you’re just starting out.
I have a taxi driver to thank for helping me meditate. I jumped into a taxi with one of the women after filming the BBC’s Wake Up to the Menopause and we got chatting to the driver, who was very interested in our experience with menopause. It turns out that he was a firm believer in meditation and would go on retreats in Scotland.
Now I’d tried mediating before, but my brain would wander off. And then I’d start feeling crap because I was so crap at meditating, so I gave up.
“You just haven’t trained your mind,” said the taxi driver. “Acknowledge the thought and then get back to the meditation. In time, your brain will learn it has to keep meditating and the stray thoughts will get less and less.”
He was right.
Meditation helps slow your brain when it’s racing at a zillion miles per hour and can really calm anxiety.
Speak to people
This isn’t always easy, I know. At heart, I’m quite a shy person who has learnt to control her social anxiety (most of the time). But telling people how I feel – too scary. The control freak in me likes to manage everything, including people’s perceptions of me (which I know is impossible), so showing my emotions when I’m feeling down is not something I tend to do.
Except on Monday, I tweeted about how I was feeling and the response was incredible. So many people shared messages of support and good wishes, or told me they were feeling the same way or had just got over feeling the same way. I felt very honoured that they cared enough to get in touch and it also made me feel less alone.
Saying that I had a dose of menopausal anxiety really helped ease the burden and allowed me to start thinking about why I felt that way. Plus it allowed me to see that it was only a feeling and that it would pass.
So please, talk to someone.
When it comes to choosing a spot to live as I tackle menopausal anxiety, I’ve done well. Canterbury is surrounded by beautiful countryside and a gorgeous picturesque river runs through the city centre.
That’s my favourite place to go when I feel down. The sound of water always relaxes and soothes me, while seeing it flow and move is almost hypnotic. I love to look for the fish, too, and the squabbles between the ducks are always good for a smile. Hey, I even grinned at seeing a water rat swimming to the bank the other day.
I’m lucky to have nature at my front door, but you don’t have to leave your home to get the benefits. It’s been shown that just picturing nature in your mind, really focussing on the colours and smells, the sounds and what you can feel, can help ease anxiety.
Or come and visit Canterbury…
I can’t put it any better:
Sex releases all sorts of feel-good hormones and chemicals that can help boost your wellbeing. During sex, you’re bombarded with endorphins and dopamine, that work to boost your mood and make you feel closer to your partner. The rise in these hormones also helps reduce your levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
If you don’t have a partner, or they’re not around, a Rampant Rabbit can work just as well. Or so a pal says…
When we lived in Spain, wild lavender used to grow by the convent opposite our home and the smell was divine. I used to feel so content when I walked by.
That’s no surprise. Research shows that the scent of lavender could help calm anxiety. Try rubbing lavender oil on your pulse points so the scent stays with you all day.
For me, however, it’s basil that lifts me up. Holy basil has long been used in herbal medicine systems and has been shown to have some role to play in our wellbeing. But I just like any basil, to be honest. I find the smell relaxing and it really helps calm me down.
Having someone touch you can be a great pick-me-up anyway. Add in the pressing, rubbing and squeezing of a massage and you’re onto an anti-anxiety must-do.
Massage can help relax your body and give you valuable me-time (there’s not much you can do while lying on a bed with a towel around you!) Click here to read about more benefits of massage.
Write it down
Earlier this year, I went to see Jon Ronson (hero!) speaking and he talked about being hit by the biggest dose of anxiety ever while recording a podcast about the porn industry (The Butterfly Effect and I highly recommend it).
Talking about this with my family after the show, I wondered if it was because he wasn’t writing down the story and instead, was speaking it. You see, writing for me is the biggest therapy I have. It lets me release my thoughts and feelings in a way my control freak doesn’t like me to.
There are many ways you can do it, too. From writing to a friend (I miss letters) to keeping a daily journal, they’re all good ways of getting it – whatever it is – out.
Hey, even a to-do list can help at times.
What do you do to help when menopausal anxiety hits? I’m always after new strategies. Leave me a comment below and let me know.
If you are feeling anxious and alone, remember that you’re not. The Samaritans are always there to help. You can call free any time of day or night on 116 123, or visit them in a local branch, write to them or send an email. Visit the Samaritans for more information. Please don’t suffer alone x
If you’ve enjoyed this, please like and subscribe and share with your friends.