Many of us don’t realise that anxiety is frequently one of the first symptoms of menopause. Oestrogen affects many parts of the body, including the brain, and fluctuating levels can create low mood and anxiety. The lack of awareness around this subject means that women are frequently prescribed anti-depressants rather than HRT.
At the moment, it’s hard NOT to feel anxious, whether or not you have the edge of fluctuating or diminishing oestrogen. HRT is the first line of defence recommended by NICE (the body that makes recommendations about treatments) for mood changes in menopause. But there s already some evidence that mindfulness and meditation can help with menopausal symptoms, and especially anxiety and depression – embracing these solutions mean that you can take back a bit of control yourself.
‘Meditation is about noticing, allowing and letting be,’ says Arabella Thring, mindfulness expert and co-director of the Neuro Balance Centre in Somerset.
‘We are constantly trying to change things, ourselves, others and our situations. Paradoxically, not trying to change things is relaxing. Meditation is about changing your relationship to your experiences rather than your experiences.’
Here, she talks through a meditation that you can do anywhere, and for as long as you can spare away from revising teenagers.
- Find somewhere reasonably quiet and sit comfortably (it doesn’t have to be totally silent; others can be in the room). If the weather is nice, lie on the grass or sit on a bench outside.
- Be aware of your body, and the points of contact with whatever you are sitting or lying on. This is grounding and helps the body to relax.
- Focus on your breathing. Anxiety makes breath more shallow and higher in the chest. Don’t try to change it, just be aware. The whole point of meditation is that you become curious about what’s happening to create space between your thoughts and whatever is going on. As you step back from your body you may automatically make better choices.
- As you breathe in, say to yourself, ‘I breathe in calm’. Every cell in your body is being nourished by the breath.
- As you breathe out, say ‘I breathe out tension.’ Imagine that you are drawing your scattered thoughts into your belly and breathing with them.
You don’t have to do anything; the very process of exhalation is one of release. In order to release the tension you first have to be aware of it. Do a mini scan of your body from the feet up and notice where the tension is. Then allow your body to relax and release as you breathe out.
- You may also become aware of previously unnoticed areas of tension; be curious about that. The fact that you are not trying to change anything creates a sense of relaxation.
- Try to do at least three minutes.