Stress is the body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. We react to these changes with physical, mental and emotional responses. It is a normal part of life and we experience stress from the environment, our body and our thoughts.
Stress isn’t always a bad thing as it keeps us alert and ready to avoid danger. It also helps for a burst of extra energy and focuses – when you’re playing a competitive sport or speaking in public.
Stress becomes negative when it is continuous, without relief or relaxation. As a result, we become overworked, and stress-related tension builds. It may then lead to anxiety and depression or other illness’ such as high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches…
Daily stressors like disagreements with others, being stuck in traffic, or losing your keys can negatively impact your health and well-being.
Your body produces cortisol to allow you to cope with stress. However, consistently high levels of cortisol can be damaging to your body. This is why prolonged stress is not good for your health.
The hormone oestrogen helps maintain the level of cortisol in the body. But as you go through menopause, the levels of oestrogen begin to drop. This means you are unable to regulate cortisol levels in your body as effectively as before, causing you to experience stress more readily.
There is ongoing research around this topic. Generally it is thought that continual high levels of stress can cause you to experience menopause-like symptoms but this does not actually induce menopause.The reason for this is, if the level of cortisol is continually high, this echoes the effect of having little oestrogen in the body to regulate it.
How we cope with stressors can also determine their impact. Strategies like ignoring or denying them (what experts call avoidance coping), or distracting ourselves, which may be effective short-term, can also undermine our health and happiness in the long run.
Mindfulness helps us to recognize and observe our thought patterns. With practice, we can develop the ability to recognize when thoughts arise, and observe them in a detached manner, without the need to become involved in them (thus not triggering an emotional or “automatic” reaction).
Anxiety during the menopause can have a negative impact on your lifestyle.
Anxiety is when you are continually worried or tense. It appears to affect almost twice as many women as men and is a common symptom of the menopause.
In general,anxiety is characterised by a constant sense of worry over normal everyday events, much greater than the situation deserves. Although you may realise this, it can be difficult to shake off the feeling so that you are not constantly on edge and irritable.
Anxiety can also disturb sleep, leading to a host of other menopausal problems such as memory lapses and headaches.
During the early stages of the menopause (known as the peri/menopause), levels of the female hormones start to fluctuate. These changes can lead to PMS symptoms which appear and worsen in the week or so before each menstrual period. Other psychological PMS symptoms such as low mood may also be present as well as physical symptoms such as period pains, bloating or breast tenderness.
Part of the explanation lies with the fact that oestrogen plays an important role in managing the chemical activities in your brain. When the level of oestrogen is high you feel well. As levels drop, a number of symptoms such as low mood and anxiety can set in.
Racing thoughts are a component of anxiety. Our thoughts are full of worries, fears, doubts, regrets over perceived past mistakes, and imagined future horrendous outcomes. Thoughts and emotions are connected, so our anxious thoughts create anxious, roiling emotions, which in turn create more anxious thoughts, and we are caught in a trap. When you use mindfulness to extricate yourself from anxiety’s trap, you allow yourself to let go of anxiety. You stop struggling and accept things for what they are. Acceptance isn’t giving in to anxiety; it’s stepping away from the negative thoughts and emotions so you can observe them from a distance.
Rather than an escape from anxiety and problems, mindfulness lets you step away from them so you can live fully in the present moment. With mindfulness, you live in the present moment without judging anything. When your thoughts are centered on what is happening now, there is less space for anxious thoughts and emotions.
In my programs I help you to deal more effectively with difficult thoughts and emotions and to learn to appreciate each moment of your life more and so improve the quality of your life. This program includes meditations and mindfulness and compassion in daily life. All the practices are based on Mindfulness and Compassion Focused Therapy.
Please note this support is not designed for people who are acutely ill nor is it a substitute for professional therapy.
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