My experience with anxiety during menopause | Nicola De Burlet

My experience with anxiety during menopause | Nicola De Burlet

Menopause anxiety snuck up on me, infiltrating my daily life gradually like a vine creeping up a tree in a David Attenborough program. 

I work in PR and have worked for international fashion and beauty brands for most of my career. I now run my own agency, The PR Studio. Alongside my business partner Sarah, I manage PR for various skincare, spa and fragrance brands. I am married, I have a son, 2 stepsons and I also lecture part time at Solent university to students in PR and marketing. I do the odd bit of over-40’s modelling, write for a local magazine on midlife (you can find me at @silverstylepages on Instagram) where I chat all things style, beauty and menopause.  Suffice to say, I keep busy - which is why anxiety slipped into my life slowly…

Menopause and anxiety symptoms

I gradually became aware of my anxiety in the mornings. I would usually wake up positive , excited to get going.  This had now turned to a negative cloud of dread.  I started to question, “what is going to get thrown at me today?” I shrugged it off at first.

It got harder and harder to shake off and I was dreading starting the day. Procrastination had never been my thing but it was becoming a familiar habit. I got to a point where I was wondering if I was actually bad at my job – a job I had been doing very successfully for over 25 years?! I was forgetting things and dropping the ball. The brain fog and anxiety were a vicious cycle. I booked in to see my GP and cried on her shoulder.  She diagnosed me with postnatal depression and wanted to prescribe me antidepressants. I was 49 and my son was 10.

I got a second opinion.

I went to see a gynaecologist who took one look at my blood results and told me my oestrogen was low and I was peri-menopausal. Low oestrogen is known to affect brain function and research has shown that in menopause we can see a 30% drop in our brain energy. This can result in memory issues, sleep interruption and body temperature regulation issues. AKA hot flashes. I was also alarmed to learn that 2/3 of dementia sufferers are women  which can be linked to low oestrogen. 

There’s a great video on how menopause affects the brain here.

Will menopause anxiety go away?

There are no quick fixes for menopausal symptoms and it’s a 360 wellness journey. You must listen to your body and make sure you get good advice from those qualified to give it. 

Menopause anxiety relief:

Diet

I have had headaches all my life but in midlife they became migraines. They lasted 3 days and I had about 3-4 a month. That's a lot of days to be feeling like you have a teeny tiny drill boring into your brain! 

There are natural remedies for menopause and a lot of it comes down to what you eat. My diet was OK, but not amazing. The Mediterranean diet is great for all life stages but it’s excellent for midlife in particular. Essential fatty acids found in oily fish are crucial for brain health. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) approves the claim that DHA, one of the essential fatty acids in omega-3, helps maintain normal brain function. I have upped my omega-3 supplements to help me get my daily dose. My favourite is Bare Biology’s Life & Soul range, the liquid is their highest dose but I also love the capsule version.

life-and-soul-liquid-with-salad

I found fermented foods like kimchi and kefir had a beneficial effect on my headaches by bringing good bacteria to my gut. I also cut down my alcohol intake and only enjoy it on weekends.

Exercise

I was never a fan of exercise but now I try to spin twice a week and do weights in the gym. It really helps shift the weight around my middle section and it really helps my brain switch off too. Not to mention the endorphins! 

Stress

I’m not so great at managing this but I am trying.  Cortisol, the stress hormone, lowers your oestrogen levels so you need to keep that stress down – evaluate how you are feeling and make small adjustments. 

Let’s keep talking. By sharing our experiences and normalising menopause we can all live through it better. There is much more education around puberty and periods, let’s make sure we are all just as well prepared for when they stop! 

Read more from Nicola here.

By Liv Evans

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