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Menopause and Anxiety
The different stages of menopause result in varied and ranging symptoms. The perimenopause stage is known to change moods and trigger irritability while producing hot flashes and night sweats. The postmenopause stage can result in long-term health issues like osteoporosis due to drop in estrogen levels. But no matter the stage of menopause you are in, one constant exists: stress.
The bad news is that reducing stress in your life won’t erase the unwanted symptoms of menopause. It can’t return your body and mind to their previous states. What reducing stress can do is prevent symptoms from worsening. Stress, tension, and anxiety seem to intensify whatever issues currently present in your life. If your menopause is bad, stress will make it worse. By reducing stress, you can redistribute your energies towards managing menopause directly. Here’s how:
1. Assess Your Stress
How do you know when your stress is high? How can you tell when it is reduced? Many have the physical symptoms of increased muscle tension and rigidity. You might find yourself fidgeting and pacing the room. Mentally, people will feel keyed up or drained of emotional energy. Maybe your mind constantly moves in the direction of worry as you fear the worst will happen. You may not like to consider these symptoms, but paying more attention to them will aid in your endeavors to reduce them. Do your best to separate the symptoms triggered by stress from the symptoms sparked by menopause. Be aware of when and where symptoms overlap.
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2. List the Sources
This may be the most fun you have had in a while. Grab and piece of paper or sit in front of your keyboard, and let it all out. List as many stress contributors as you can. People may be the obvious choice, but list the places, things and situations that build your stress towards its breaking point. Big, small, good and bad, jot down each one.
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3. Identify the Changeable
Now the process gets a bit trickier. Start by creating a new list, this time with just the stress contributors you have control over. These are the ones that you can change and modify if you wish. Beware, though. People with high levels of stress falsely believe that they can change things that they cannot. Some things are unchangeable, and it’s okay. An example of a changeable stress for you could be your dirty car.
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4. Work Towards Change
You have done well to identify the changeable stressors in your life. Now, do something about them. Start with something small, since the larger contributors are likely harder to change. In the example of the dirty car causing stress, wash it. If you are physically unable to wash it, ask someone to do it for you. This may seem overly simple, but many stressors are this easy to resolve. For more complex stressors, sit down to think of options and develop a plan of action. After you act, evaluate your performance to appreciate the results. Scratching items off your list will build feelings of power and control while reducing stress.
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5. Identify the Unchangeable
Everything still on your list from step 2 is unchangeable. This means that whether you like it or not, there is nothing you can do or say to make the situation better. Perhaps you even put something on your “changeable” list that has been impossible to resolve. Consider moving it to your “unchangeable” list. Saying that something is unchangeable does not have to be a negative. There is some level of liberation in noting that you cannot control some aspects of life.
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6. Work Towards Avoidance or Acceptance
When the stressor is unchangeable, your options are more limited. Here, you can either avoid or accept. Both have their benefits and their drawbacks. Avoidance is very easy to accomplish in many situations, but if you overindulge in avoidance, you will be quite lonely and isolated from the world. Acceptance is a great skill to master, but it can be challenging in some situations. For example, avoiding family members can be nearly impossible around the holidays, so acceptance must be the goal. On the other hand, a stressful coworker can be avoided by eating lunch at a different time or taking another route to the bathroom.
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7. Practice Great Self-Care
Now that you have focused time and effort on reducing and managing the negatives in your life, you can focus on adding the positives. Self-care is a natural starting point. During the stages of menopause, it may seem that your body is against you, but try to make yourself the priority. Start by making appropriate diet choices, allowing enough time to receive the rest you need each night and exercising more often. These three things will improve your physical health and boost your energy throughout the day. More importantly, the influence of improved self-care on your emotional health is unbelievably positive. Your moods will be more stable as your stress moves to the background.
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8. Build New and Strengthen Established Relationships
You need supports in your life. Supports act like a cushion softening the impact of stress and anxiety. Take an honest look at the supports in your life to see where improvements can be made. Some of your relationships may have reached their peak and are on the decline. Other relationships may be on the rise. In either case, use your best assertive communication with all of the relationships in your life. Letting people know what you think, how you are feeling and what you would like from them is a great way to know where you stand with people. Healthy relationships are ones built on mutual trust and respect. Honesty is imperative.
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9. Have Fun
If supports soften the impact of anxiety, fun counteracts anxiety altogether. Having fun, as long as it is healthy and appropriate, will remove the stress from your life. Whenever stress grows too high and strong, shifting your focus and energies in a completely different direction will give you a fresh perspective to better address and resolve your stressors later. For now, do the things you like with the people you like. Try new activities and go new places to expand your horizons and sources of happiness.
Read more about menopause and anxiety over at NewLifeOutlook.