The physical symptoms of anxiety

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Eileen Durward
Menopause Advisor
@EileenDurward
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14 August 2017

Read the full video transcript below

Today's topic

Hello and welcome to my weekly video blog. And today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I'm going to be discussing the physical symptoms of anxiety.

Now, anxiety for us is number 3 on the list of top 10 menopause symptoms. The majority of women going through the menopause will experience it at some point. It's a horrible one because it can just suddenly appear in your life seemingly with no reason at all. You can get the symptoms very quickly. They can go on and on and on as well. And it can start to affect your daily life.

So today, what I thought I would do is go over why this can happen. And sometimes when you understand why it's happening, it gives you a greater understanding of the symptoms. And also, it makes it easier for you to try and fix it yourself. 

Flight or fight?

So, what exactly goes on here with anxiety? I'm sure all of you have heard of the flight-or-fight scenario. And unfortunately, when our hormones start to change in the menopause, our nervous system is basically dragged in, kicking and screaming, whether it likes it or not.

So, our nervous system becomes much more jumpy, much more edgy, much more reactive. And it will start this flight-or-fight scenario at the drop of a hat. It could be something simple, like you can't find your car keys and you can't find your socks or your shoes, or you're late for work, or you miss the bus, or somebody toots their horn at you while you're in the car. All these things which are seemingly unimportant can very quickly set your nervous system off. And that then leads to a cascade of symptoms. 

So in the flight-or-fight scenario which our ancestors developed, if you like, to save our lives, so in the days of the cavemen, flight-or-fight scenario, that is exactly what it was. You were faced with severe danger that could threaten your life and the body would react very quickly to that. So, you would end up either having to fight or run away, or to hide, or do something to save your life.

The problem is today, that we still haven't got that under control. And in the menopause, this flight-or-fight scenario can be triggered very, very easily because our nervous system is that much more jumpy. And these are the things that happen. 

What are the symptoms?

Once your nervous system is triggered, just by something simple like going, "I can't find my car keys," there is a whole cascade of symptoms.

Blood rush

Number one, the blood will rush to your brain, to your muscles, to your heart, and to your lungs, and it will disappear or nearly, it will move away from your digestive system. And that's very often you get that - your brain goes into overtime. You get all these thoughts. You can't stop thinking. And very often, this happens just as you're trying to get off to sleep. Your heart speeds up because the body thinks it's in this flight-or-fight situation that's going to affect your life.

Palpitations

So, you start to get the palpitations. Your heart will start to beat very, very fast. Your breathing will start to get fast. And very often, it will be shallow breathing.

Dizziness, brain fog, fatigue and sweating

And that's not good for you because if you do a lot of shallow breathing, you can end up getting dizziness and brain fog and fatigue. You start to sweat because the body is in this flight-or-fight situation. It doesn't want to heat up. So, the body will start to sweat in order to keep everything nice and cool. Your blood pressure goes up because all the blood is suddenly shifting away from the digestive system to the places in the body where it's needed. 

So, you can see just these particular symptoms, they're very much like menopause symptoms, like the brain going into overtime, the palpitations, the sweating, blood pressure, which is really common in the menopause. But if you don't get your blood pressure checked, you don't actually realize that you got any particular problem. So, when you get to this scenario of these particular symptoms, it can be a combination of your nervous system going into overdrive and also menopausal symptoms as well. And it can be very difficult to differentiate between them, and this can make it a lot more difficult to treat or to deal with. 

What can you do?

But what can you do to sort this? As I said before, it's not an easy one. This is something you have to work out because your nervous system is practically permanently in panic mode. And it takes quite a lot of work and effort to get everything to calm down. 

Water

So, the most important things, number one, water. This is fabulous for these anxiety and panic attacks. And the problem here is that dehydration will stress your nervous system. It will make it worse. So, just dehydration on its own will create a real vicious cycle of stressed nervous system. You're getting more hot flushes or sweats which will lead to more dehydration and so on. So, drinking plenty of water during the day is a fabulous one.

And I know for me, there's been times if I felt an anxiety attack coming on, it's just to drink a big glass of water. And sometimes, that's enough just to calm everything down. I was really quite surprised the first time I tried that. I didn't think it would work quite so quickly.

Watch your diet

You must really try and avoid caffeine and your fizzy drinks, and your high salt and sugar foods because these rev your nervous system up even more. And this is the last thing you want to do. So, try and keep those really to a minimum, if you can.

Magnesium

You need loads of magnesium. And remember, magnesium is great for absolutely everything in the menopause. But your nervous system eats up magnesium when it's in this flight-or-fight situation. Have plenty of B vits as well because they're really calming and yet your adrenals love a nice dose of extra B vitamins.

AvenaCalm and Passiflora Complex

You could look at herbs such as our AvenaCalm and Passiflora Complex. These tend to work quite quickly at just helping to take the edge off anxiety. And the longer you take them, the more benefit you will get with both of them. 

Deep breaths

You can learn to do deep, slow breathing. Again, if you find that you're getting sort of panic attacks or anxiety attacks, if you feel one coming on, if you get into the deep breathing, that can very often help to make you feel a bit more in control. Takes a little bit of practice but, eventually, it just becomes second nature. The minute you feel yourself agitated, take a good few deep breaths.

Acupuncture

You could look at acupuncture. This is a wonderful one for calming the nervous system. And I know for me, it was the thing at the end of the day that worked the best for when I had the anxiety.

Lifestyle

Look at your lifestyle. You know, I usually say as women today going through the menopause, we're always on the go. We're running around, probably, like idiots most of the time trying to do too much. And our nervous system just thinks this is us in another panic mode.

So, look at what you're doing in your lifestyle. Try and figure out if there's things you don't need to do. Try and figure out if you can add in a little bit of relaxation every day. That's wonderful for helping to calm the nervous system down. Just 30 minutes me time once a day can work wonders in helping to get this really under control.

Keep a diary

Do the diary. I love diaries because very often they can really throw up what's going on behind all this. So, if you're getting regular anxiety attacks or panic attacks, every day make sure that you're writing down what you're eating, what you're doing, how you're feeling. And you might find after a week or two that there's very specific things that are setting off the anxiety or panic attacks. And that could be worth its weight in gold because you then know where to start to try and fix it.

Go to your doctor

The other really important thing here is the anxiety and panic attacks can go very deep for some women. It can be extremely…you can just be really, really unhappy with it. It can cause an awful lot of issues. So, it's really important if you feel that your anxiety or your panic attacks is affecting your daily life to the point where you can't function, you might feel that you don't want to go out, that you can't cope at work, you can't cope with your relationships. If it gets to that stage, then please see your doctor because there are things that they can give you, maybe even just temporarily, just to help you through this.

And it's really important because if you don't fix it, then your nervous system starts to get weaker and weaker. And at that point, that can start to make your menopause symptoms worse. So, you can end up almost going into a downward spiral. So, it's really important that if you feel you're not coping, just go and see your doctor or a complementary therapist if you want to go down that route. 

So, I hope that's given you a little bit of insight into physical symptoms of anxiety. And as I said at the beginning, this is one the majority of women will experience this at some point in the menopause. And if you can be prepared for it, then it's going to be much easier for you to cope with. So anyway, I will see you next week for another edition of "A.Vogel Talks Menopause."

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