Friend, are you feeling anxiety for the first time in your life? Are things stressing you out that never bothered you before? Is sleep something you only dream about? Girl, you are not alone. A 2020 study in Brazil found that 58% of women 45-55 who were experiencing perimenopause had anxiety symptoms. And 40-50 percent experience sleep issues like insomnia. (Medical News Today)
The cause, you ask? It may be hormonal imbalances and the forgotten hormone, progesterone. Read on, because in this post, I'm filling you in on progesterone and sharing some great lifestyle tips that may help if your heart and mind is racing.
Progesterone not only thins the uterine lining after ovulation, it also calms the brain, reducing anxiety and promoting sleep. AHA!
And when you stop ovulating, BOOM! Bye, Bye Progesterone. Unlike Estrogen, which our bodies continue to make after menopause( just less and lower quality), you loose almost all progesterone. I had no idea about this! My doctor didn't mention it either, even when I complained of what felt like panic attacks with my heart racing and anxiety about driving and being in public places, that I had never had before my late 40's.
So what's a girl to do?
In addition to almost no progesterone, one of the biggest players in all of this is the vagus nerve, a cranial nerve that communicates directly from the brain to the body. I like to think of it as the stress "reset"button. So especially during the menopause journey, we must find ways to soothe the autonomic nervous system and help it to be more resilient, tapping into the parasympathetic half of itself. (This is the part that is associated with the feel good hormone, oxytocin and the neurotransmitter that slows breathing, pulse and alertness.)
Enough of the sciencey stuff, let's get to the strategies. I'm listing the ones that I have tried and had some success with (remember, we all have a unique midlife experience, so trial and error may be the key to finding what works for you).
Get Green Exercise and Morning light. Take a hike or a walk. Open all the shades and doors.
Do Yoga that includes raising your hands over your head and forward folds, so 1/2 sun salutations and extended mountain poses are great.
Reduce caffeine and alcohol. Both stimulate the nervous system instead of soothing it, and soothing it is our goal, remember?
After checking with your doctor, try magnesium which calms the brain by supporting, GABA, the brain's main calming neurotransmitter, or melatonin if anxiety is affecting your sleep.
I'm curious, which one will you try? Remember, most of the symptoms you are experiencing are temporary, however, you won't be ovulating ever again, therefore, no progesterone, sister! So the anxiety and sleeplessness may continue to be an issue even after your menopause transition. The key, having strategies to soothe the nervous system.
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Registered Yoga Teacher, Menopause Doula, health and wellness explorer, self care expert focused on empowering women over forty with tools for loving the midlife journey