Many women experience heightened sense of anxiety during mid-life. It can sometimes even occur as panic attacks. I want to explain why that is.
Having been used to hormones regulating our nervous system and keeping us somewhat in balance, and able to function as a high power woman – YES, ALL women are high power, no matter what you may be telling yourself! if you can keep a job, raise kids, cook the dinner and take care of your husband, that is a high power woman. No man could handle all the things that you do in a day!
During menopause those hormones run dry and we are left feeling depleted, exhausted. On top of that the 25 things that we used to be able to handle easily, now seem to trigger a sense of anxiety, and overwhelm. Often times such a simple thing as losing our keys or having to pay bills or deal with technology that we cant figure out, suddenly become triggers for our nervous systems to go into a fight, flight or freeze mode. It is called the Amygdala hijack. It is the part of our brain that sees danger and needs to sound the alarm because there is a life -threatening situation about to happen. Now we all know that losing ones keys is not a life threatening situation, but when the amygdala is triggered it sure seems like it is.
Our adrenals which are only supposed to kick in during emergency end up running overtime, our cortisol levels rise, we have problems sleeping and we head for breakdown or burn out. We wonder what happened, and why it is so difficult to handle things we used to do easily. We go into self-judgment shame and blame, trying to over ride our already exhausted nervous system and weary body, which makes things worse. This often wreaks havoc on our relationships, as we can easily lose our sense of equilibrium and fly off the handle, and take hours or days to get our system back in balance.
I could not understand what was happening to me when the things I used to be able to deal with quite effortlessly began to completely freak me out. I was terrified of getting an overload of work, with too many things on the to-do-list.
I felt completely overwhelmed by the smallest of things. I did not understand what was happening, except that I did not recognize myself. I quit the work that I loved and cared deeply about because I could not handle any kind of stress. My mind was in a constant state of panic. It was very unsettling to know myself as a strong, capable woman who now needed a lot of quiet, down time and rest. It is still taking me time to adjust to a different rhythm and pace, to honor my needs of slowing down and taking rest during the day. I am grateful I am learning to listen to what my body needs, that it is not an option any more to go without food or sleep. If I do, I pay a price and that nervous system activation sets of my adrenal cortisol overdrive and I suffer. It is different now, at mid-life, but it is also beautiful to slow down, to listen more deeply, to love more fully (myself and others) and to learn to love and care for this body like I never have before.