I’ve been an emotional person for as long as I can remember. But in pictures of me as a child, I always had a smile on my face. No matter what was going on internally, I managed a smile for those around me. That smile also hid the pain inside, the confusion, the internal dialogue, and the sadness. As I grew up I learned how to hide it even more with eating, perfectionism and typical type A behavior. Anything sound familiar yet? Here I am in my late forties and perimenopause sneaks in over the last year and because of therapy and yoga I’m better able to deal with the anxiety, depression and general imbalance of my physical and emotional body. I said “deal with it”, not conquer it or totally rid myself of anxiety.
Most women deal with a state of low anxiety at all times. This generalized anxiety can erupt into full-blown panic attacks, anxiety or phobias during times of physical or emotional stress or change, like perimenopause and menopause. Early on, psychologists viewed anxiety as purely emotional, stating it is an outward sign of repressed negative feelings and inner conflict. With research and time, anxiety disorders and panic attacks have been determined to have a real, physiological cause.
Anxiety can also be related to hormonal imbalance. I heard a song on the radio yesterday. One of the lines was, “I’d rather feel something then nothing.” How do I support these emotional swings especially with all the change in my own life? It’s not easy, but I rely on my support systems; my friends, my beliefs (I don’t just believe, I know) and my strength. Heck, if I’ve made it this far……..
Yes, there’s more to do than just medicate yourself. Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. It could present itself with a thumping heart, shortness of breath, monkey mind, shaky knees and upset stomach….just to name a few symptoms. We have our “flight or fight” response. It’s our built in alarm system. It is not natural to live in fear and be upset most of the time without a reasonable cause. There are many of us who constantly live in this state of fight or flight. This response is meant to get us through in the face of danger or high stress, but after the episode we are supposed to relax, find the down time. However, most of us are on this constant alert. We suffer not only constant stress, but also the physical response that accompanies it. It is not a weakness to feel anxious or vulnerable. We, as women, were taught from childhood, to grin and bear it! I’m not going to tell you to suffer through it or that drugs are your only solution.
If you feel you have severe panic attacks on a regular basis with no sign of relief, if you suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or post-traumatic stress, please consult your physician. I have a little OCD. I notice when I’m under high stress I start to go over the same thing in my head. It usually has to do with time and it mostly will happen before bed, during the night or early in the morning before I get up. This used to happen a lot to me until I started yoga and meditation and then I didn’t even realize those moments of OCD had disappeared until they started to reappear with perimenopause. I made a conscious effort to change my life. Anxiety disorders do run in families. I also asked one of my brothers if he ever does this. He said, “Sure”, like it was nothing. That proved to me, I was allowing this condition more attention than it deserved. Anxiousness runs in my family. It’s a learned condition. If you saw it growing up, just like other behaviors, you can unlearn it.
Generalized anxiety, as I stated above, is common. The symptoms may not affect your ability to get through the day. My type A behaviors, for a long time, helped me to avoid my panic and fear. If I ran (literally) fast and long enough, I could outrun it. The day came, eventually, when I couldn’t run away from it. As we get older and the everyday life of children and work start to calm down, we start to “feel” more of our own thoughts. I realized that my job wasn’t the cause of my stress. I was just stressed! I didn’t have a job or a child to blame for my stress, there was only me and how I was relating to me. You begin to take the time to feel, think, and speak. I needed to start slowing down even though it was uncomfortable to do so. I’m still working on beating myself up for past mistakes and the fact that I do not know what I am going to do next.
Begin to evaluate your stress symptoms. Irrational fear, muscle tension or headache, chest pain, nausea, sleeplessness, tearing up, depression or a general feeling of dread, are all symptoms of anxiety or stress. When do these symptoms become severe? If these symptoms don’t go away or if they come at seemingly “normal” times, it’s time to seek help. Anxiety symptoms can lead to, or be caused by, adrenal fatigue and unhealthy food. Caffeine-laden drinks can raise your dopamine levels, and can bring on panic attacks. It can also be caused by past childhood trauma. As children, we simply cannot process everything that happens to us. As adults, we learn to cope, but sometimes not deal with, what happened in our past. If you feel you cannot cope, please seek help. You must be willing to approach stress, anxiety and depression from many angles. Your healing has the possibility of healing others.
I read these words from “Anonymous” recently:
“Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
Let it go…..let it be.