Anxiety is one of those ugly little secrets some of us get to unearth as we enter perimenopause. We all talk, even laugh, about hot flashes and night sweats, acne, and those first “senior moments.” Even depression gets at least a little bit of a spot light once in awhile. Anxiety, not so much so. Too often, women of a Certain Age are sent straight to the pharmacy and, or, therapist as soon as they admit to having had inexplicable anxiety. I got more than one suggestion of the sort from our medical community. For those who suffer Clinical Anxiety Disorder, those options are invaluable. For a perimenopausal woman like me, they’re a last resort.
Anxiety Town isn’t the destination. Menopause isn’t about fear and uncertainty, but getting to the destination can carry you through some right scary territory. Natural remedies were all most of our ancestors had to make this crossing, and a lot of their tricks actually work pretty well. Among my favorites are the Flower Essences.
Flower Essences for Anxiety and Menopausal Panic
Sensitive or not, flower essences can help you shift your body’s energies toward confidence, comfort, and a generally grounded feeling. The transition into menopause is much like the transition from childhood into adolescence. Our bodies don’t quite know how to handle the new way of being yet, so they flood our systems with hormones at the slightest provocation, triggering sudden anxiety and panic attacks when they do.
To top it off, ours is a youth-oriented culture. Leaving behind our fertile years in such a palpable way is downright frightening. What am I becoming and will society value the old-lady me are just a couple of the questions that have paraded through my mind amidst anxiety attacks. The gentle nudge that flower essences offer has helped me feel grounded and safe without overwhelming my system. Knowing there are no side effects with flower essences made them an easy first choice for me as anxiety and panic attacks started to return to my life with the beginning of perimenopause.
Flower Essences to Try
Yarrow flower essence and Yarrow Environmental Solution by FES have been a real life-saver for me. They help you filter out the excess stimuli from our environment, including the emotional energies of the people around you. For me, this means the teenage angst that fills my home all too often doesn’t have to overwhelm me to the point of a full-blown panic attack. When my man is fired up about something, for better or worse, a few drops of Yarrow flower essence or Yarrow Environmental Solution in a cup of water helps me to be a good listener without walking away feeling completely rattled myself. When I don’t know why I’m feeling anxious, I give Yarrow Environmental Solution a try, too. Often, the anxiety will clear with just a few sips.
Buttercup and Chrysanthemum are another set of flower essences that can be helpful for dealing with perimenopausal and menopausal anxiety. Buttercup helps you to see the worth of your life and experiences. For those of us who identified strongly with our youth, fertility, mothering skills, or other roles that belong to the younger years, perimenopause carries with it the realization that we’re no longer part of that crowd. Why do so many of our elders spend millions of dollars dyeing their hair and having face lifts? Is it because we’re trying to appear young even when we’re not? Buttercup flower essence can help you value yourself for the many wonderful and powerful experiences and wisdoms you have to offer at any age. For the shift into menopause, Buttercup can bring joyful recognition of how much deeper than the skin your beauty actually goes.
When you look beyond your youth, the next stage of life looks too much like death, particularly when your blood’s pumping with an overload of the right hormonal mix fueled by perimenopause change. At times like those, menopause seems like the end of the line. Chrysanthemum can help you recognize the truth of where you are, in mid-life rather than end-of-life. Although this may be the death of your pregnancy-potential, it’s the beginning of the rest of your life. Chrysanthemum helps you shift your thinking to accommodate this new perspective, lessening anxiety’s hold over your mind which in turn can help your body settle.
Aromatherapy for Perimenopausal Anxiety
Lavender flower essence, much like the essential oil, can help soothe frayed nerves. For those of us who experience this as anxiety or panic attacks, lavender can be the most relaxing plant we’ll encounter. Whether you use lavender as a flower essence internally or as an aromatherapy oil, it’ll act on your nervous system in a calming, grounding way, helping your to release patterns of stress and tension that cause anxiety from all layers of your being. Our ancestors relied on lavender in their gardens and homes to help them make the best of whatever transitions they faced, and the ride into menopause was most definitely one of them.
One of my favorite essential oils for helping ease the sometimes sudden bouts of anxiety I get has been ginger root. I pair it with a couple of drops of rose geranium and a drop of lavender or frankincense when I need a little help taming a panic attack or a rush of anxiety. I keep the essential oil bottles near my nebulizer so it’s easy to get the scent going fast and just when I need it. If I’m not in the position to just be and let the healing of the essential oils do their magic, I’ll rub a drop of ginger essential oil on the base of my throat or over my heart. It does wonders for helping me feel grounded and calm.
Herbs for Menopausal Relaxation and Balance
Getting good sleep every night is another healthy, natural tool for managing anxiety. It’s just not always as easy as it sounds. Valarian tea, particularly when taken with a little motherwort and skullcap can help you toward that end. Valarian has been renowned for its sedative properties for centuries. Motherwort has particular affinity for anxious conditions related to the menstrual cycle. It was used by our grandmothers and their grandmothers to calm heart palpitations and ground anxious energy centered in the chest much like we still use it today. Skullcap is king at calming racing thoughts, which often accompany my own anxiety and panic attacks. When my nerves feel particularly frazzled, I add some oat tops to the mix to help soothe my system, too.
Other herbs you may want to try for perimenopausal anxiety include chaste berry, also known as vitex, Licorice root, and wild yam. These three herbs have long been considered women’s medicine in part because they help bring balance to our hormonal systems. Chaste berry works to balance your hormones. It’s often used through the fertile years to ease PMS symptoms including anxiety, and particularly early in perimenopause it can offer the same soothing effect.
Licorice root helps to increase estrogen production. Perimenopausal anxiety can be caused by an abrupt change in the balance between the hormones, most notably estrogen and progesterone. If estrogens are what’s unstable for you, licorice root can be a treat that not only soothes anxiety but offers you better digestion and a generally relaxed system.
If progesterone is the unstable one, wild yam may be a better choice. Wild yam helps your body produce more progesterone, which is often called the feel-good hormone. Women who suffer from ovarian cysts coupled with anxiety during perimenopause are often helped by wild yam’s progesterone boost. For me, progesterone cream made with wild yam did wonders for easing the anxiety I was feeling each night just before bed. I recommend an all-natural, organic brand like Emerita for consistency if you’re facing regular bouts of anxiety like I have. You can also try a tea or tincture of wild yam half an hour before bed.
Getting through Anxiety with Journaling
Beyond herbals and flower essences, tools like journaling and meditation can do wonders for easing the perimenopausal transition, particularly the anxiety that accompanies it. I keep two journal by my bed, one electronic and the other old fashioned pen and paper. For me, anxiety is most likely to rise up in the evening. Our hormones can make abrupt shifts as we ease into bedtime. Having that journal there makes it easier for me to pick it up and use it at the first sign of anxiety or panic. I ask myself what’s making me anxious or what I’m worried about, then start writing. Pouring all the worries I have onto the page helps clear my mind and my emotional body. Once clear, the rest of me can chime in, often offering a new perspective or solution I hadn’t thought of when I was trapped in the anxiety cycle. Sometimes, I write it out and realize that although I may have listed a whole lot of stuff to be worried about, I’m no longer worried and most likely the real reason I was feeling anxious was hormonal shift. That, I can tell you, is a terrific relief.
If you’re not into writing, vlogging or recording voice memos with your smart phone or another device is a terrific alternative. You can delete the recordings just like you can trash your writings once they’ve helped you, or you can keep them as a record of the crazy journey you’ve taken. Just like with writing, sometimes the act of speaking your mind or getting it off your chest is enough to give you enough grounding and clarity to dissipate the anxiety, whether it’s hormonally induced or not. For me, getting it out of my system has been a powerful tool for easing anxiety and preventing a garden variety anxiety attack from escalating into a full-blown panic attack.
Inhale, Exhale, Repeat
Breathing meditation is another tool I think all perimenopausal women should know and practice, whether they travel the road into Anxiety Town regularly or not. For me, taking even a few breaths into my belly by putting my hand on my belly and just breathing until I can feel my belly rise and fall even a little has done wonders. Especially if anxiety turns up by day, belly breathing helps me ground the energy, bring my center out of my chest and back into my hips, and ease the panic that wants to arise.
Breath is one of our most primal and powerful tools for shifting our emotions and our physical being. By learning to breathe down into our hips and belly, we’re giving ourselves the opportunity to remind our bodies how it feels to be free, as we were when we were babies. That return to child mind is an amazing gift, especially when your hormones or your world want to rock you right into the heart of panic or anxiety.
Perimenopausal anxiety and panic attacks are a normal part of the menopausal journey. For some us, they’ll be more frequent or intense than for others. Although a detour around Anxiety Town may not be in the cards, the trip doesn’t have to dominate our experience. Like I said before, Anxiety Town isn’t the destination…and you’re not alone in the passage. Our ancestors managed to survive the ride, and we can draw on their experiences, wisdom, and natural remedies to ease the way even in this day and age.
For more information on Natural treatments for Anxiety, see The Practical Herbalist!