ANXIETY AND MENOPAUSE
Anxiety is one of the most common menopausal symptoms I see in my clinic. It can be hugely debilitating, made worse by the fact it can appear to come out of nowhere, with no obvious trigger. It can happen to women who have no history of anxiety and equally to those who do. This feeling of being out of control and not knowing how to deal with the symptoms further increases anxiety levels.
I find it can be helpful to understand the cause of this type of anxiety, which will hopefully reassure you that you are not going mad and put you back in control – which in itself helps to reduce anxiety!
In Traditional Chinese Medicine the menopause is viewed as a natural occurrence, it is not an illness. It is caused by a natural decline in a substance called Yin.
Yin is one of the most important types of fluids found in the body and helps to maintain health. If you imagine the richness of various fluids ranging from water to clotted cream, Yin is the clotted cream! Throughout your life you naturally expend Yin through work, stress, menstruation, giving birth and general day to day living. When Yin naturally becomes deficient it can give rise to a number of symptoms – the majority of which are commonly associated with menopausal symptoms such as insomnia, hot flushes and dryness.
This natural deficiency of Yin can also cause anxiety. Chinese texts explain that Yin deficiency results in an energetic imbalance in the Heart, which literally means the energy in this area is not moving as freely as it should – a bit like a traffic jam. This is why you might sometimes feel tightness in your chest or may experience palpitations when you feel anxious. Therefore, this type of anxiety has a physical root, not emotional, and by focusing on nourishing Yin these feelings of anxiety can be reduced.
5 tips to manage and reduce anxiety:
- ensure you have 8 hours sleep per night. Yin is nourished during the night, therefore, sufficient sleep will help reduce anxiety
- incorporate some foods that nourish Yin into your diet on a daily basis. These include: grains (millet, barley and wheat if tolerated, rice, quinoa), legumes (black beans, kidney beans, mung beans, beetroot), fruit (grapes, blackberry, raspberry, mulberry, banana, watermelon), meat (oyster, sardine, beef, chicken) and if you tolerate dairy (milk, yogurt, sheep’s cheese)
- eliminate refined sugar and caffeine from your diet as these foods cause fluctuations to your blood sugar and insulin levels, which can significantly increase feelings of anxiety
- try a course of Acupuncture treatment. Studies have shown acupuncture to be effective in managing and reducing menopause-related anxiety
- Acupressure – which allows you to treat yourself wherever you are. The point to massage is called ‘P6’ which is more commonly known as the travel sickness point. In addition to its ability to reduce nausea it also moves the energy in the chest and Heart, immediately reducing symptoms of anxiety. This point is hugely effective and can be used for all types of anxiety, not just menopausal. To find this acupressure point:
- Position your left hand so that your fingers are pointing up and your palm is facing you.
- Place the first 3 fingers of your right hand across your left wrist. Immediately below the 3 fingers place the tip of your thumb in the middle of the two tendons you will feel running down the centre of your arm. P-6 is in the middle of these two tendons.
- Use your thumb or forefinger to press on this point for 2 to 3 minutes in a circular motion. Be firm, but there is no need to press so hard that it hurts
- You can repeat this process on either wrist as often as you wish
- Recent studies show that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is also effective at treating Menopausal anxiety
- spend 10-15 minutes per day practising Mindfulness. Focusing on your breath nourishes Yin and allows the energy in your chest to move freely, thus reducing the symptoms of anxiety. I would highly recommend an App tailored specifically to Menopause called Clarity.
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