MENOPAUSE AND FATIGUE: HOW ARE STRESS AND ANXIETY ARE INVOLVED?
Updated: May 5
In life we know the major stressers, but in menopause you maybe unaware that the very fact your body is changing is an enormous upheaval on your hormones and this puts a stress into your body you have never experienced before. In fact, the menopausal change is between 10 and 100 times greater on your body than pregnancy - this is a physiological stress that happens without you knowing about it... until, symptoms strike!
I'm going to explain how stress, anxiety and adrenal fatigue are associated, and then give you some pointers on what you can do. One thing I need you to understand though is that this is major, it is the underlying cause on many of your symptoms, it's been years in the making, soaking up life and all the stresses around and so we can't expect associated symptoms to disappear overnight the but the aim is to start seeing a difference in symptoms within the first month of making changes. Are you ready? Read on...
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN STRESS AND ANXIETY?
STRESS is what is put on us by life, and I'm normally writing this from the point of view of a menopausal woman so even our bodies put stress on us with hormonal fluctuations. Stress is how we cope under pressure, and at this time this maybe the pressure of too much work, too little to do, loneliness, coping with isolated parents, caring for someone with disabilities, worrying about your jog, your health, your family; and the list goes on.
Another type of stress happening in your body right now as your hormones go through this upheaval is a physiological stress. This is one that is caused by the very nature of the change, you can't avoid it and some women fair better than others. If you have a lot of life stress on top of this , this is when symptoms start to affect you heavily.
ANXIETY is a symptom of stress, it's a feeling in the gut that is disquietening for some through to feeling sick with breathing difficulties and palpitations for others, right through to paralysis and agoraphobia. Anxiety is exacerbated by thinking about Anxiety, raising your stress levels which then causes you to have over sensitive adrenalin release. Attached to this is Cortisol, another hormone and this is the one that is causing anxiety to hit, especially at the time you ought to be relaxing, when you're sitting down, or when you're sleeping. On the other hand if you run around, do exercise or any kind of physical release Anxiety 'disappears'.
ADRENAL FATIGUE is the outcome of too much stress and anxiety. The adrenal glands are associated to our kidneys (literally) and they are part of the hormone endocrine system. Kidney energy in Chinese medicine is at the root of our health and constitution, When it is low your are fatigued, prone to anxiety, fearfulness, phobias, panic and overwhelm; you're also going to have a sorely compromised immune system, gain more allergies and have poorly gut health. Adrenal fatigue is serious and can't be ignored, it takes a long time to come on, but it can seem to appear 'overnight' when you've had extreme stress or any kind of trauma either physical or emotional; the 'straw that breaks the camels back' scenario. It was there, it was going to happen, it's just now it's been triggered. Trying to be 'British' and push past all the warning signals (i.e. increasing symptoms) that your body is now giving you is to end up in the realms of ME and Fibromyalgia.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF STRESS AND ANXIETY?
If you recognise yourself in any of the above 3 now is the time to make some changes, often people can't think how to break the cycle of stress and anxiety, and sometimes you can be so involved that you 'don't see the wood for the trees'. I've been the same, have been many times over the years, so I'm very aware that adrenal fatigue and all the associated symptoms are 'my menopause'.
You get physical symptoms like fatigue, joint aches, stomach upsets, catch bugs easily, and may have exacerbated allergies. Emotionally you'll feel 'what's the point in doing anything new', 'I can't be bothered to do that', or 'it seems like too much effort now'. You also may have flatlined emotions (can't get excited about anything anymore), low moods and lost your libido. You may become easily overwhelmed, panic easily or more fearful and jumpy than you used to be. When this has gone on for some prolonged time, you may become too stressed to work or 'burnout' and this is all pointing towards Adrenal Fatigue.
DO YOU FEEL REFRESHED AFTER A SHORT BREAK?
The difference between an acute attack of Adrenal fatigue and chronic is how quickly you bounce back after a 'rest'. Whether this is a day off, a long weekend or a full break for 2 to 4 weeks will tell you the complexity of your situation. I realised recently on reading a magazine article that I'd reached this point again in late 2020, however 3 weeks off over the Christmas period and I was back, refreshed to start a new year, and that can be pretty normal with 'end of year fatigue'. However if you're feeling like this and no amount of downtime is helping then you should be seeking professional help to resolve your health issues. In Chinese medicine we call it your 'constitutional energy' this is your life force, and 'what you're made of!'.
This is how I describe constitutional energy to my clients:
You're born with a full tank of fuel, life empties the tank at different speeds for everyone. Also everyone starts off with a different tank size, you know those people that run around with seemingly endless energy? They may have a bigger tank that yours or, they may be emptying it quicker; only time will tell.
WHEN DOES THE TANK SHOW RED?
When I was learning the theory of Chinese medicine I'd read some things about 'kidney energy' and it didn't really make a lot of sense or come to life for me. Now as I approach 50 and 20 odd years of experience, boy does it play out and make larger than life sense!
Your fuel tank is emptying as your life goes on and if you get pregnant/ have children that's a lot of fuel going, if you burn the candle at both ends, have a stressful career, have a jet-setting lifestyle, drink alcohol and caffeine, and miss a lot of sleep, the gauge is going down far more quickly than someone who's leading a more measured life.
At some point in midlife the dial is verging on the red, the tank is pretty low and your body starts to sputter. For women this is more accurate timing as its the hormonal change of the Perimenopause, or post baby later in life which are both triggers. Also grief, car /accident trauma, post viral fatigue and dealing with repressed childhood issues are also all major triggers, and if these happen around midlife you may notice you're not who you were a couple of years ago, feel achy, not digesting food as well, not sleeping so good; just not feeling right - these are all signs and symptoms.
CAN I REFILL MY TANK?
It's always the first question I'm asked after this analogy, and the answer is yes you can! Aging is also a part of it so we can never fully top it up, but how you live your life from now on will definitely pop you back in the black!
Here's what you can be doing to really make a difference to your health, to relieve anxiety, combat stress and be on the path to healing adrenal fatigue:
Nutritious Food and Rebalancing the gut (and I put clients on supplements so they really feel a difference)
Good sleep, this is a must as it's the basis of all health
Good Air, so getting out, country walks, fresh air; get the lungs moving and quality of air
'The 6 Doctors' of health are talked about a lot so the other 3 are - drinking water, sunshine and exercise
I'm sure I don't need to explain drinking water, just to add though how vital it is to combat dehydration which becomes pretty serious in later life as we tend to not register thirst as we get older and so it's helpful to have the habit of drinking plenty already instilled, it also aids flushing out toxins from your system in everyday life.
Sunshine - this is Vitamin D, and we're all deficient in it (no you don't get enough from the sun if you live in the UK, and especially if you have darker skin tones). Vitamin D is vital for bone health, your immune system and your mental health.
Exercise - this is an interesting one as in the case of Stress, Anxiety and Adrenal Fatigue you can do too much of the wrong type and exacerbate your condition. If you're doing circuits, HITT, running over 3 times a week AND you recognise the symptoms above, you need to cut down the intensity and switch to more therapeutic exercise like Qi Gong and Yoga which are designed to help you recouperate your constitutional energy.
ARE YOU READY TO GET STARTED?
If you're new to my site download your free copy of 'How to have a successful natural peri/menopause' a starter guide to the 7 major symptoms and how to relieve them. Packed with useful tips and next steps.
'UNDERSTANDING YOUR MENOPAUSE'
Now available in paperback too! If you want to really understand what is going on with your health, hormones and emotions and in depth supplement advice for your symptoms. Read more and shop here.
WOULD YOU LIKE FURTHER HELP?
Have you had a go and still finding you haven't resolved stubborn issues, or you have more complex health issues, then book a consultation with Andrea - Read more here.
I want you to know that you really don't have to put up with any symptoms, the stress that the change of hormones puts on your body puts your health under a magnifying glass. The symptoms you're experiencing are your body screaming in 'pain', telling you things are wrong, put these health imbalances right and you will feel the relief.
'til next time, I wish you well!