Kaleidoscopes Butterfly

Mindfully Menopausing

3 Feb 2023

Juliet Firstbrook Standing on hill with a lake in the background

“Anxiety exhaustion… let me just write that down.”

That’s how my former boss responded when I fed back to her my doctor’s diagnosis.

I was actually experiencing the Peri-Menopause and had been completely misdiagnosed. I was prescribed sleeping tablets and told they would help.

I regularly described my symptoms to my doctor: exhaustion, aches and pains, hot flushes, anxiety and a general feeling of unwellness, yet it took three years for anyone to even mention the Menopause. In fact, it was Davina McCall’s documentary which finally prompted me to ASK for treatment.

Anxiety was the symptom that crept up on me like a slow, stalking shadow and I had absolutely no idea that it was an indication of the Menopause. My heart would pound as I drove to work and sometimes, just the thought of leaving the house or making a phone call, would trigger it.

I finally discovered that my anxiety was due to changes in my brain, due to falling oestrogen levels and a reduction of serotonin. I wasn’t losing the plot.

Approximately fifty percent of women going through the stages of Menopause experience anxiety and, as you may know, it is debilitating.

However, anxiety is not a mental illness.
You are not weak, abnormal, or going out of your mind.
Anxiety is a lack of confidence in our own ability to handle our bodily sensations.

Our symptoms are real, but they’re not due to any physical illness.
Our body is simply in ‘Fear Response Mode’ and we may experience:

These are all perfectly normal reactions and essential for self-protection when we are in real danger. We live in far safer times these days but our mind is constantly on the lookout for potential threats.
The latest research on anxiety describes ‘healing’, rather than ‘managing’ it. This is entirely possible with our commitment to these responses to anxious thoughts and feelings:

  1. Notice the ‘What if?’ thought and respond with an ‘And??!!
    Acknowledging a thought and diffusing it can immediately bring our anxiety down a notch. For example:
    Thought: “What if I get ill?!
    Response: “And?! I’ll receive treatment and support”.
    We can always find a retort to all our worrying thoughts.

  2. Allow your physical feelings to work their way through your body.
    They are only caused by energy and the same sensations we experience when very excited. It’s only our perception that makes them a problem for us. We naturally want to avoid uncomfortable feelings in our body, and it’s counterintuitive to allow them to be there, but the more that we accept them, the quicker they will dissipate.
    Dr Claire Weekes said, “Give up fearing these sensations. Recovery lies in the midst of all the sensations you dread most”.
    Anxiety is not simply a fear of specific situations, it’s a dread of feeling the uncomfortable sensations that we felt when we were previously in that situation.

  3. If you can’t accept the sensation, which may be challenging during a panic attack, then face it head on and yell,
    “COME ON, PANIC! Give it your best shot!”
    Your body is designed to handle this energetic response to fear, and you will not cause yourself any harm. I did this once in a hospital waiting room and silently said to my nervous, shaking legs:
    “Is that the BEST you can do? Surely you can shake more than that?!”
    Intensifying the sensation in my legs made it disappear, like magic!

  4. As your feelings of anxiety start to calm down, take action to occupy yourself with an activity.
    This isn’t as a distraction, it’s just a way to move forward as your nervous system calms down.
    Resisting anxious feelings is like fighting waves in the sea – we run into even more difficulty.
    When we stop splashing about and allow the wave to support us, we bob up and down with ease.

The biggest hurdle stopping us healing our anxiety is our resistance to it.
When we can accept it, we heal ourselves of it.

YOU can heal yourself!