The years around menopause can be a very busy time in women’s lives. You may be dealing with young adult children, ageing parents, work pressures and supporting your partner at the same time as experiencing menopause symptoms. All of this can lead to feelings of stress, overwhelm and ultimately, menopause burnout.
It is generally recognised now that a significant percentage of women experience anxiety at menopause. It’s no wonder with everything that is going on.
When you feel anxious your body releases hormones called cortisol and adrenaline. Prolonged periods of anxiety can lead to symptoms such as poor sleep, higher blood pressure, headaches, weight gain and a suppressed immune system leading to more infections.
There are important steps you can take to deal with this anxiety. Here are my nine top tips:
1 Don’t ignore the symptoms
This is the most important piece of advice. Your body is telling you to look after yourself before you burn out and are no good to anyone, particularly yourself. Acknowledge what you are feeling and experiencing. It may be uncomfortable but your body is alerting you to pay attention. Ignoring it will not make it go away.
2 Take action
Work out the triggers that are giving rise to the feelings. It may be helpful to keep a symptom diary so that you can identify a pattern. Once you know what your anxiety triggers you can take action to deal with them.
In any situation you have four options called the four A’s. Can you alter the situation? Can you adapt to the situation? Can you avoid it? If you can’t do any of these, can you accept it?
3 Talk to friends
Being able to talk to a trusted friend can be the start of dealing with the issues. You’re not asking them to solve your problems. You just want an opportunity to speak openly, without being judged. Saying what’s worrying you out loud can give you a different perspective. Face-to-face conversations that include a hug and a laugh are the best.
4 Seek help at work
More employers recognise now that stress and anxiety have a negative impact on employee performance. Whether it is your work situation or your personal circumstances that is giving rise to what you are experiencing you can seek support from your employer.
Ask yourself these questions: Do you feel comfortable talking to your line manager? Is there a welfare officer or a Trade Union representative you can approach? Does your employer have a workplace menopause policy in place? Are there reasonable adjustments you could ask your employer to make to help you through this time?
5 Take care of yourself
There are lots of small things self-care things you can do that will make a difference.
Firstly, make sure you are eating a healthy diet and avoiding those sugary foods that will cause mood swings. Secondly, make time to treat yourself to something you enjoy, such as a luxurious bath, a manicure or a creative hobby. Thirdly, practice some form of relaxation. A few minutes of mindfulness, meditation or relaxation breathing during the day can make all the difference.
Exercise is very important for your emotional health as well as your physical health. This doesn’t have to mean a trip to the gym, unless you enjoy that. It could be having a walk, dancing around your living room or gardening. If you have time to attend an exercise class you will have the added benefit of being among other people.
7 Avoid unhealthy habits
When you are experiencing symptoms of stress it can be easy to turn to unhealthy habits such as smoking, drinking alcohol, and overeating. Those habits are not going to help you in the long term, they are only going to make your symptoms worse. If you are having problems controlling these habits, it’s important to seek help.
8 Prioritise your time
Time management is not just for work and it’s definitely not just about having a ‘to do’ list. Making adjustments to the way you organise your time can help you feel more in control and able to handle pressure.
Make a list of tasks you have to do. Be realistic about what you can achieve. Prioritise your list by deciding what is important and what is urgent and do these first. If a task is not important or urgent, schedule it for another day.
9 Learn to say ‘No’
Women are not very good at saying ’no’ even if they are already overloaded.
If you can’t help or you just don’t have the time or energy, say a polite ’no’ as soon as possible and stick to it. You are not obligated and you don’t have to explain why. You may suggest a helpful alternative but you don’t have to.
Only spend your time, energy and money on the most important things.