Relaxing in a spaAre you between your late 30s and your 50s and feeling more anxious – or anxious more often?

Anxiety is one of the most commonly reported – and often one of the first – symptoms of perimenopause (the years leading up to menopause). Many women with chronic low-level anxiety find it worsens around this time of life, while others who’ve never had anxiety issues suddenly find themselves struggling to cope with normal activities. Panic attacks, social phobias, feelings of not coping and that you’re going “crazy” (you’re not!) are common.

Women are more than twice as likely as men to experience anxiety (especially before our periods and during perimenopause and menopause). Anxious women are also more likely to suffer symptoms like hot flushes!

Lifestyle changes CAN help, especially if your symptoms are mild to moderate. Here are three top tips. We’ll look at another three in Part 2 next week:

Nutrition: the basics apply here – eat real, whole foods rather than processed, refined sugary foods; that means plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grains, nuts and seeds and oily fish. Drink plenty of water and cut down (or eliminate) alcohol and caffeine, including chocolate and green tea. Fermented foods may help with social anxiety and plant-based diets have also been shown to help alleviate anxiety and depression.

Physical activity: Aim for 30-60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity every day, and remember to build up slowly. Read my blog post on exercise for more tips

Sleep: Try to get 7-9 hours of quality sleep a night. Disrupted sleep is a sign of perimenopause so if falling or staying asleep is difficult try cutting down or eliminating caffeine, turn off the TV/screen-based devices a couple of hours before bed and establish a wind-down routine including hot Epsom salts baths, deep breathing, gentle yoga or listening to a guided meditation when you get into bed.

Three action points

  1. If anxiety is affecting your day-to-day life see an appropriate health professional such as a GP*, counsellor, naturopath or dietitian/nutritionist (especially if you have gut issues). *An integrative medicine GP will take a more holistic view of your health.
  2. Set a goal to make ONE change this week; it could be committing to daily exercise, cutting down on caffeine or turning off the TV earlier and reading a book.
  3. Don’t try to make too many changes at once! Take small steps and introduce another lifestyle change when you feel ready.