Tricia Beauchamp helps women navigate change due to divorce, death, or disconnection. She experienced her own midlife unravelling facing personal challenges with health, relationships and a changing career. She shares her tips for dealing with anxiety during perimenopause and midlife in general. Listen to the full interview here.
Why is anxiety an issue for women during perimenopause and midlife?
I often think of the Brené Brown quote, “Midlife is not a crisis. Midlife is an unravelling.” The unravelling is what makes us feel vulnerable and naked. Everything feels close to the surface because when we have all our perceived identities and roles starting to be stripped away, we come down to the core of who am I?
I had so many life changes and stressors that may have caused my stress level to shoot up to 500 during a stress test and the normal was supposed to be 150. I was like this tight ball and it had just started to unravel. It was the best thing that could happen to me because I was totally burned out mentally, physically, and emotionally.
I started to find out what’s happening with my thinking and emotions that’s affecting my health and I learned that emotions are just energy in motion. We express our emotions through our body, but we can manage them.
I started this really amazing journey of discovering about how I could manage what was happening around health issues, and around all the changes that have impacted my life so significantly. That’s where I discovered about being magnificent as a midlifer and I am still on the journey.
Anxiety is still something I constantly have to manage but I now know the symptoms, the triggers, and I’m very aware that I will always probably be a bit sensitive to those triggers. I’m just thankful that there’s been a process of healing that has come. It’s actually allowed myself to fully feel what has happened to me, what has occurred, both the good and the not so good.
To just go through the journey of loss, grief and anxiety, and realize there’s light at the end of the tunnel, you just have to keep working your way through that tunnel. It’s been really powerful to be coming through and seeing what’s possible.
A Chinese philosopher once said, “When you talk about depression, it’s what happened in the past. When you talk about anxiety, it’s what’s happening in the future that hasn’t happened yet, but if you can just be in that moment, you’re just breathing in and breathing out, you’re just living life.”
Manifestations of anxiety
One manifestation of anxiety is sensory overload, which is like the cacophony of the noise and the overstimulation of everything that is happening. For me it meant that I had reached some levels of overwhelm, that I actually needed to take time out and rest more, and just be aware that my body was not coping.
I allowed myself to do some big self-care. It’s almost like being self-full, which is allowing yourself the ability to understand that your own self-worth, your own self-care and your own self-esteem is important too and it’s not being selfish. It’s valuing who you are and putting things in place that you know are important to you and that’s not only helpful for you, but for everybody around you.
The first step is the awareness that you’re feeling anxious. If you can identify what the triggers are, then you can have some idea about what you can do. You can reframe the situation, reframe the thinking, change the neural pathways and shift where your thinking is going. Shift the stories that are happening in your head that aren’t helpful and that are not going to take you into a state of wellbeing.
Add on Covid anxiety
The reality is we’re all impacted in some way with COVID. There’s a sense of loss. For some people, they feel guilty they can’t travel, for example, and that’s okay because it’s real. It’s their grief because they have a trip planned and now it’s cancelled. To feel guilty about it is natural, but the reality is, we’ve all been impacted.
I think it’s important to understand, acknowledge and give ourselves permission to allow ourselves to feel the pain; we’ve all suffered some level of pain. The anxiety around COVID is that no one knows what the future is going to be. There’s so much uncertainty. There’s so much loss of control. There’s loss of freedom.
We realize that the anxiety we’re feeling is future-based, but sometimes we can replace it with what we could look forward to. Henry Cloud talks a lot about good pain and bad pain. Often, the good pain is what we have to experience before we can have that pleasure.
If you’re feeling that real pain of isolation and not being able to be with family and you’re feeling anxious, what can you look forward to? What’s the pleasure that you can look forward to that comes after the pain?
Right now, as a world, we’re coming together and the pain we’re feeling is hopefully good for the bigger picture to actually eradicate this pandemic. One thing we just have to be aware of is that we’ve got a pandemic contagion, but we don’t want fear that can then compromise our immune system.
Our biggest defence to keep our immune system in a good state, is to keep our wellbeing healthy and to stay connected with people.
However, it’s a unique time in history to be living, and anxiety levels will rise because it’s so unknown. I talked about being curious, but then also being compassionate is key.
Be gentle with how we’re feeling, be gentle with what routines have had to change, be actually aware that it’s okay to feel compassionate towards ourselves, as well as others. It’s okay to feel compassionate about what has been missed out on, because that will bring down that heightened sense of anxiety and that’s something we do have control over.
Let’s take a look at some natural remedies for menopause anxiety or in fact how to deal with any kind of anxiety.
Three Cs for coping with and managing perimenopause anxiety
Just stay curious and keep being aware. Our body is giving us the information that something is not right and we can then have the ability to decide what we’re going to do about a certain thing. Stay curious and also be aware of the story you’re telling yourself.
Be aware that sometimes what we allow our mind to dwell on isn’t actually helpful. We can choose to change the neuralpathways, change the perspective and reframe what’s happening.
Compassion is about allowing ourselves to understand that what we’re feeling is understandable and we don’t have to feel guilty. We don’t have to try and hide it. We can actually give ourselves some self-care and realize we deserve that.
This means connection with yourself, staying connected with what you’re feeling and keeping the connection with others. We’re restricted with social distancing and not being able to travel, but we have social media available to us. Keep connected with nature, keep connecting with anything that’s important to you, and just be aware that this is a choice that we always have, how we actually manage what’s happening for us.
We always have within us the ability to decide how we’re going to respond to what’s happening. The Viktor Frankl quote about between stimulus and response, there’s a space and in that space is where we have the choice to experience freedom and growth.
In midlife that could seem to change, and with what we’re experiencing with Covid right now, but we all have the opportunity to decide how we’re going to respond and that’s a choice no one can take from us.
Amongst all the overwhelm and everything going on, we can choose to just step back, be curious, show compassion, and stay connected with what’s happening. Stay connected with our world. It means we don’t allow the fear to take over what’s happening.
Connection is so key because that’s who we are. We’re made for love and belongingness and to be connected with people. Somehow, we need to still create that.
Even at midlife, when all of a sudden we find ourselves with no kids at home, just being aware that life still has so much to offer. It’s an amazing opportunity to see what’s possible and midlife is magnificent.
Often, we just need to be really aware of what choices are still available to us and that’s key for living a life of freedom, but also a life where we’re feeling empowered and hopeful. We’re feeling excited about what’s possible.
How to quickly ground ourselves when feeling overwhelmed and anxious
Ground yourself by using all your senses. Acknowledge five things you can see around you. It could just be a plane, a spot on the ceiling, anything around you that you can see.
Then, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. What that does is, it will shift your brain to another state. I also like to flick my wrist to give myself a jolt back to now if overwhelm is taking over.
Managing anxiety is an ongoing journey, but having the tools, acknowledging what’s happening, understanding what’s happening and then knowing what you can do to move through it is where the empowering comes, and that’s what’s available to all of us.
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