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Menopause blog: Help me relieve my anxiety!

Updated: Aug 23, 2023

Distressed woman with menopause anxiety, resolve it naturally

Anxiety is now the number one symptom in perimenopause and if you're currently dealing with this it can make your life miserable, ruling your morning if not your day and triggering other symptoms like IBS. I've been here, the dreaded anxiety returning, and when it came back in my perimenopause I was quite distressed so I can only imagine how you feel. In this month's menopause blog: Help me relieve my anxiety I'm going to explain why it's a gut based problem, what your gut needs and look at ways of managing it effectively and naturally with my 4 step guide.

Menopause anxiety does it start in your head or your gut?

Have a think for a moment, do you truly know where your anxiety comes from? You may say your head and that does create a catch 22 situation triggering the cause of anxiety and perpetuating it but I'm going to explain why it starts in your gut.

If you currently suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) then read on as anxiety and IBS are linked in a lot of ways. In my blog there is a mixture of TraditionalChinese Medicine (TCM) and western science and when you bring them together you start to get some understanding and a pathway to effective results.

Without getting too scientific I want to show you that if you know anxiety is a chemical reaction taking place in your gut you can start to disassociate your emotional response to it. That squirmy feeling you may get in your belly is a squirt of adrenalin, but you interpret these butterflies as something is going to happen and it's going to be bad; you create a feeling then labelled anxiety. But did you know that exactly the same reaction occurs for when something good is going to happen too?

How does Menopause anxiety start in your gut?

The hormone adrenalin is released when you think about something that needs to trigger it, excitement or fear, your body switches into the fight/ flight response and releases adrenalin ready for action. As part of fight/ flight your body needs to lighten your load incase you need to run, and you feel this as needing to run to the loo. In TCM we link the adrenal response to Kidney Qi (this is your energy levels) and everytime adrenalin is released it makes your energy dip a little lower. If you're doing this continually then your energy is getting lower day by day.

There was a time in your life you'd not handle good news in the evening when you were tired, but after a good nights sleep that news didn't seem so bad in the morning and you tackled it; remember those days? Now though, you're not necessarily getting that good nights sleep so the news seems just as bad in the mornings; this is an example of your energy not getting topped up again at night. That news then triggers anxiety in the morning, or maybe throughout the day. You just don't seem to be able to cope as you once did, you can't get on top of this feeling. In TCM this is because you haven't got the energy to handle it. So we'll look at ways of increasing your energy (and your sleep too!).

For many women they also feel anxiety in the chest, as a breathing issue, or a pain in the diaphragm. In TCM terms we have a link to the lungs from your Kidney Qi, and if it's not strong enough (which it isn't at present) it can't grasp the Lung Qi to draw it down (i.e. deep breathing) and you feel these symptoms in your chest as shallow/panicky breathing.

Then you feel this anxiety in your head. Your worry about feeling like this, you question why you feel like this; with no answers available. You worry you'll get worse (and you will if you continue to worry), you can't step outside of your own thoughts about being anxious; all of this in turn tells your body that there is danger EVERYWHERE and so it must release more adrenalin so that you can run from this danger; this is the catch 22 situation you're stuck in if you label yourself an anxious person.

How does your body respond to menopause anxiety in your gut

The gut-brain axis is all powerful, it's a communication highway with a high percentage of your neuro-transmitters in your actual gut, it's like having a second brain down there! Back when we were cave women, we relied on instinct, this comes from the gut, we didn't have a logical debate in our head about whether we should skirt around the Sabre tooth tiger, we ran as soon as we heard a rustle in the bushes just incase it was one.

Nowadays, the modern western lifestyle has led us to continually triggering the release of adrenalin, less sabre tooth tiger and more: I'm going to be late, I'm not going to get that finished in time, I'm stuck in traffic and can't move. The issue with these situations is you can't run or fight, so your body is flooded with adrenalin (and cortisol) which you then can't dissipate. I was once stuck in London traffic on the way to my shiatsu examine, I felt this flood of adrenalin course though my muscles (the biceps and thighs). I sat there feeling trapped and to resolve the pulsing in my muscles I did chopping the muscles (massage technique) to relieve this quite painful build up so that I could calm down and not feel like a caged animal. This is why anxiety can consume you when you're in a car, you're stuck there, you can't escape or move, and very importantly you are ungrounded. This is why so many women experience their most painful anxiety in a car situation.

This is a bodily response to a thought, and as your hormones change this response becomes easily triggered, even without thinking, this is just how your body works now. Adrenalin comes from the adrenals, these are glands which are part of the endocrine system which manage your hormones (creation and release). The adrenals sit on top of your kidneys so TCM links them together. The adrenals become the primary source for creation of progesterone and oestrogen as your ovarian production dwindles. The primary task of the adrenals though is to keep you alive by responding to danger, reproduction is secondary. The more you're producing adrenalin and cortisol the less you'll produce progesterone and oestrogen. This becomes a noticeable issue in your perimenopause.

In perimenopause progesterone is the the first of the 2 hormones to dwindle, the problem is this is your calming hormone. It now leaves your oestrogen high and this is where a lot of your peri symptoms appear from, this imbalance. If you're no longer feeling cool, calm and collected you're more likely to trigger a fear/excitement/anxiety response in your body, releasing adrenalin and cortisol, and if your body is always doing this, it's not making progesterone and so the cycle continues.

Another element, and this affects the IBS symptoms is that the neuroreceptors in your gut become highly sensitive, and recent research suggests as your oestrogen receptors dwindle in your gut that their protection is lost hence more gut intolerances and digestive issues as your hormones transition. Now you have a mix of hormones out of balance, and your head is still perceiving this as anxiety.

All is not lost though, you just need some help in turning this around, and this is best done with natural options rather than medication.

Disconnect your head and emotions from menopause anxiety

How do you manage menopause anxiety naturally?

The very first thing that you can do today is take a step back from anxiety, take a deep deep breathe and say to yourself: I'm not going mad, it's a chemical reaction in my body that is overactive. If I don't think about being anxious I won't trigger it so much.

Try that, start separating your emotional worry response from the chemical factory in your gut that has gone into overdrive producing too much of the wrong stuff!

This is a powerful first step because it stops you triggering the adrenaline release all the time. I see your adrenals right now (and how I felt mine were) as a leaky tap. Every morning the feeling was just there, it seemed to happen without me even thinking anxious thoughts. Then if I added in worrying it got worse. When I first researched this I stopped the anxious-emotional-association and even though it was still happening in my gut, I didn't let my head get involved, so it stopped more quickly.

If you need further help to achieve this step then a blend of Bach Flowers is incredibly powerful.

Step 1 - remove your head from the situation!

When you get in your head, you become all consumed, and going round and round is not healthy and doesn't resolve anything; it just tells your body things are getting worse. Getting out of your head and into your body, and calming down is called grounding. We are beings of nature and you have to get back to nature, and the hardest place to do this is inside a moving tin can aka car.

Feel the soles of your feet to ground with

How to ground

Ideally without shoes on, but not always possible. Ideally outside, but not always possible! My best advice is to feel texture under the soles of your feet. If you're in a car and it's bad, pull over safely and get out of the car. To switch off the thoughts in your head you need to interupt them with something positive. Think about your feet, think about what you can feel under the soles of your feet. In doing this you lowering the breathing in your body naturally. Just telling you to control your breathing, or breathe deeper is really difficult for someone that just can't do this. So think about your feet, anything about your feet, but importantly that feeling of being on the ground, feeling the earth, connecting to the earth and drawing strength from the earth.

You can have roots, roots are good! Connect with the earth as though you are a tree. It couldn't stand up if it didn't have a very strong root system; you can do with some of that! When you're thinking about your connection with the earth, you're connecting a powerful acu point Kidney 1, also known as Bubbling Spring, this is a point of rejuvenation for your Kidney Qi and your whole body will benefit from this. When your Kidney Qi is strong, it grasps your Lung Qi, your breathing, and draws it down. This is incredibly calming and will halt the release of adrenalin and cortisol. If you still feel jittery and ready to run, run on the spot, do start jumps or pat your arm/leg muscles if they feel achy; this all dissipates the hormones; but come back to the grounding as this is the therapeutic part.

Step 2 - Ground Yourself - Be more tree!

Lone tree in misty blue horizon. Ground like a tree

Rebalancing your hormones naturally to ease anxiety

The first 2 steps are what you can do in the moment, both incredibly powerful but the next couple of steps are how you start making changes to your longterm physiology.

Feed your cortisol

Step 3 is to deal with the excess hormones swirling around your system in your current everyday life. Your body is stressed, this is why you are anxious so you need to help your body destress. The first way is to help cortisol do it's job and for this it needs to be fed, nothing fancy just good old vitamins and minerals; it will thank you for it and you will feel the effects of this in the coming weeks. Cortisol is released everytime adrenalin is, they both have jobs to do. Adrenalin helps you run away, cortisol then should help your body destress. Problem is though you don't have enough nutrition in your body to help cortisol do its job so it nicks if from places like your joints and your brain; and it then won't let you sleep around 4am. Cortisol isn't the bad guy, it just wants to do it's job so feed it so that it can.

As well as a good diet of plenty of greenery, veg every single day, good protein, nuts, seeds, healthy fats/oils you will very likely need a good plant-based multivitamin and additional magnesium. Remember I said earlier that your adrenals act like a leaky tap now? Ashwaganda, a herbal supplement is very good at fixing the leak; it's my go to! I have a supplements guide explaining all of this, there are 2 options - check them out here.

Supplements are key right now because you won't be getting enough nutrition from the food your eat, especially if you do a lot of exercise. If you have symptoms the likelihood is your body needs more nutrition.

Your body also needs a probiotic, this is the good bacteria to repopulate your gut. If you're stressed and anxious there is a strong likelihood that your gut is out of balance so if you take supplements with a weak gut you won't absorb as much nutrition as you need.

Did you know that 90% of your brain chemistry comes from your gut?

You may think that some of your hormones are produced in the glands in your brain, and yes they are but where does their food come from to make them. Chemicals in your body don't just appear, yes we can make a lot of what we need, but we only make it if we eat it.

Master your anxiety naturally on tablet | Cotswold Menopause

Step 3 - Eat well to reduce anxiety triggers!

How to reduce adrenalin over-production

Step 4 is longterm, you can't achieve this today, or this week, but you can start thinking about it and implementing change for your longterm good health. This is where the likes of Yoga come into your life. Last month my good friend Julie Ann Garrido, who's a Menopause Yoga teacher did a fantastic blog on how Yoga helps; have a read here.

The key is to help your body out of this continual stress response that you've gotten stuck in. I was the same in my old career as it was full on stress, before I became a full time shiatsu and chinese medicine practitioner. I used to think I handle stress well, and this was my downfall as my body was keeping a count of it all, until I reached the day where I felt I couldn't go on.

As you read this you're most likely in your 40s or early 50s and you live a life full of stress. If you exercise and you like the adrenalin rush, know that this is making your anxiety far-far worse. Over exercise or high intensity (spin, jogging, HIIT) feed into this catch 22 situation. You may think you're working out your stress by exercising, in fact this is just exhausting your body. The way to really deal with the stress in your head is to work on ways of dealing with your head, whilst being sympathetic to your body; which brings us back to Yoga, specifically Restorative Yoga; or if you'd like something a little more dynamic Qi Gong.

Change isn't easy, I get it, and you can't just change tomorrow, but you can start to make changes. Small ones are the best, they're most likely to stick and become new positive habits. If you set yourself up for big changes you may not be able to achieve them for long and this triggers a feeling of failure which just adds to the stress pot, and this isn't going to help.

Think small changes like:

  • Everytime I feel anxious I'm going to interup that thought and ask: Do I feel excited? Do I feel nervous?

  • And then say: My body is squirting a chemical I don't need right now, but I'm not going to think about it, as I am doing something about it.

  • Learn a grounding technique that works for you and make it your go too, it only needs to be 2 minutes long

  • Take the multivitamin and magnesium!

  • Try out 10 minutes of Yoga or Qi Gong here and there. Look for a calm app to pop on your phone. Have a list of tricks to combat overwhelm - like your grounding toolkit.

  • Question whether you have do to everything you usually say yes to. This is a biggie, if you can say no more, create space, create true rest and relaxation you can help your body heal. You will learn to switch your body back into the parasympathetic response, where it should mainly reside.

Creating new little habits is the longterm building blocks to resolving anxiety permanently. If you can see your anxiety response as your physical body warning you that it's unhappy and it needs help you can then get out of your head and improve your health.

Anxiety is not an emotion, anxiety is a label you've been given for a stress response in the gut. This stress response can be as much for excitement, it could be your birthday, but you've been conditioned to attribute a negative to it. Now is your chance to change that!

Restorative yoga position to ease menopause anxiety

How to master your menopause anxiety naturally

If you're great at self help then my 2 part video and guide takes you through this step by step and tells you the nutrition you need in Master Your Menopause Anxiety Naturally. Read more and shop here

If you're really struggling then please contact me as I do consultations to help you in all aspects of your life and menopause. I'll tailor a plan for you to take action on and you'll receive the above video set too!

Return to the main site to read more information that can help you relieve your symptoms naturally and effectively!

Meet Andrea

Andrea is a shiatsu and chinese medicine practitioner who uses the principles of chinese medicine in a completely practical way to help you resolve your symptoms naturally and effectively. If you live locally you can book in for wonderfully relaxing Shiatsu for Menopause, otherwise Andrea does online indepth consultations where you'll leave with an actionable plan to follow.



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Beware Menopause-branded supplements

There is very little scientific backing on most of the supplements that are currently flooding the market at present - you are being sold to; you are being promised that this one pill will solve everything. I look at the ingredients and percentages of all supplements that I'm notified about or come across. Do not believe any menopause expert endorsement; I don't know who these women are.


The menopause experts that I trust don't endorse any of the products I've looked at. Some supplements will help with some symptoms; it's better if the supplement is targeted to a small set of symptoms that are linked; it's more likely to be effective.  They can be a good starting place but over time will become less effective; don't be disheartened it's likely that they don't have enough dosage in for what you now need. I have a Starter Supplement Guide that  explains what you need and why you need it i effective levels to help relieve your symptoms naturally.

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