In a relatively recent international study of thirteen thousand people conducted by Cigna, 84% of the respondents believed they suffered from stress, with 13% of them describing themselves unable to manage. And that was before COVID-19 hit us! The Cigna survey found that women didn’t feel supported, with only half saying their employers had any wellbeing packages in place. According to Forbes, many women were already at breaking point because of workplace stress, and again that was before COVID-19. But home life can also be a significant cause of stress.
Other surveys show that almost three-quarters of women suffer stress. The Kaiser Family Foundation study also found that it’s likely to have a negative effect on mental health as levels of women’s stress hormone cortisol failed to fall at the end of the day. Stress is even further magnified at the time of the menopause, when women sometimes feel there are clinging on by their fingernails, juggling both work and family life as well as feeling overwhelmed by symptoms.
Even without COVID-19 in the air, there is no doubt that stress makes menopause symptoms far worse. Rushing around, being under pressure to meet a deadline or attend a meeting, worrying whether you’ll melt in public, or dealing with a difficult family situation, not to mention rushing around to get ready for Christmas, can bring on a hot flush. Also, your usual coping skills may be significantly reduced in menopause because of poor sleep disrupted by night sweats, among other factors.
Stress causes hormonal changes in the body, including elevated levels of cortisol, a steroid hormone produced in the adrenal glands. Cortisol production is a component of the fight-or-flight mechanism in our autonomic nervous system that revs up our body in response to a threat. In the long term, elevated cortisol levels can cause many symptoms similar to menopause symptoms, including brain fog, fatigue, anxiety, low mood, even depression, an increase in belly fat, and, in extreme cases, chronic inflammation.
With this in mind, I want to tell you six ways that you can bust through the stress you’re feeling.
Try relaxation: The first thing to do is stand back and do a bit of relaxation. You can use apps such as Pzizz or Headspace to help you with this. Just take yourself off into a room and do some meditation to help yourself feel calmer. Make this a daily ritual to help keep you cool and rewire your brain.
Take herbs to help: There are also some adaptogenic herbs to feel calmer, such as Rhodiola, Ashwagandha, Holy Basil that come in pills or drops. Don’t take them all at once, but you can try to experiment with different ones to see what helps.
Nourish your body: Taking multivitamins and minerals is essential because you need to replenish your stores regularly. We know that during the menopause, women very often have low levels of essential nutrients, and you need to boost those through your diet as well. Eating a wholesome diet is very important, eating little and often, so you receive a constant supply of right nutrients going through to your brain and nervous system, helping to provide the much needed ‘midlife refuel’.
Get up and get going: Exercise is a great stress buster. If you’re feeling stressed, get up and get moving, go for a run, dance, try yoga, go hiking, take a class at your gym, swim. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you’re getting your feel-good hormones rushing around your system.
Laugh: Laughter is so important to bring some joy into your life. In fact, Laughter Yoga is a form of exercise that promotes the use of laughter to release stress. The idea is to laugh for no reason, faking it until it becomes real. If that doesn’t appeal to you, how about going to see a friend, watch a funny movie or just do something that makes you laugh.
Sleep: The other thing that helps with stress is making sure that you’re getting enough sleep. I know that’s sometimes difficult when you’re going through the menopause, so if you do find it hard to sleep, you can maybe take some valerian in the night to help you relax or try the Pzizz app, aimed explicitly at sleep.
If you would like help with your stress and anxiety – why not try my five-day programme which will provide advice and help to reduce your symptoms and get back to feeling like your old self again.
Are you feeling demotivated?
Have you lost your mojo?
Are you feeling tired and achy or old before your time?
Are you scared because you can't think straight or lose track of what you were saying mid sentence?
Have you put so much weight on and your clothes are tight?