Menopause Madness - Top Tips for Managing Free-floating Anxiety

The menopause brings on a raft of anxieties: Will I have a hot flush in this meeting? Will I get through the night without waking up ten times in a swelter of sweat? Will my stomach bloat if I eat a morsel? But what about free-floating anxiety – those nasty, troubling thoughts which get into your head and bring you down; which grow into a pseudo reality and sap your confidence? 

Free floating anxiety is often referred to as Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) or chronic worry and often goes along with fatigue, headaches, numbness in hands and legs, tension and digestion issues amongst other things. It’s just not nice and it feels uncontrollable.

We did a quick straw-pole of our menopausal Sassistas and were astounded by the range of irrational anxieties which included:

  • I cannot control my body

  • I fail at everything

  • There is something wrong with me.

  • I have a tumour/cancer/MS/something sinister

  • Do I smell? Do I have bad breath?

  • People are laughing at me

  • My partner hates my body but won’t say anything

  • Will I be forgiven for upsetting Mum when I was 6?

  • I am a failure

  • Is it all over?

At first these thoughts are fleeting. They get into your brain, sting and then flee. But they come back, sometimes more persistent and often louder. If they are not squashed, they get stronger and, for some of us, start to become a form of reality. Even worse, you start to seek evidence which confirms the negative thought and ignore all contradictory information. You change the lens on life and see everything in the light of your negative thoughts.

So what do you do?

Firstly, if your chronic worry is based on real issues – you have real symptoms of a health issue or if you are in financial difficulty, get proper professional advice. Likewise, if your thinking is getting so bad that you are feeling depressed, you need to speak to your doctor. Don’t sit and fret – the answer is out there to be found.

If you feel it is something you can manage with a lot of will-power then try the following.

Step one: Address the issue. Write down all the worries which tumble through your brain. Usually the act of writing them either gives you the wake-up call that life is too damn short to be crippled by this or makes you look at yourself and ask ‘Really?!’

Step two: Give the worries a name.It often helps to name the worries as something else. Churchill referred to his negative thinking as ‘the black dog’.  Other ideas are to give the voice a name. The author calls hers Polly after a particularly unpleasant aunt. Alternatively make them into odious creatures such as fleas, bugs, worms – whatever you would happily squish! This may sound crazy – but the process is about making the thoughts something other than you.

Step three: Get an alternative view.If you have a trusted friend (not the woman who dismisses your worries with ‘Oh don’t be silly’!) then share the thoughts. You need someone who will listen, challenge and tell you the truth - the real friend who will help you move the thought from irrational to rational and your actions from negative to positive self-fulfillment. For example, when the author shared her feeling of being fat she was rightly told that festooning herself with black tent-like dresses was not the answer.

Step four: Challenge.Take all the negative thoughts written down in step one and not addressed in step three. For each one write the alternative, healthy belief.

Negative belief

Positive belief

I cannot control my body

I can walk, exercise and look at my diet

I fail at everything

In the last six months I have succeeded in…

I smell

No, I shower every morning!

I have bad breath

I will go to the dentist and get this checked


Step five: Squish the bugs. Visualisation can be a powerful tool in managing free-floating thoughts. Every time you get one of those pesky negative ideas floating into your brain imagine you are attacking them. Squish the bug or kick Aunt Polly!

Step six: Clear that mind.Get into mindfulness. It is one of the most powerful ways of clearing your head of all thoughts. It gives your mind a rest, it lowers the anxiety, it is good for your brain and body. Research shows that people who practice mindfulness are more likely to manage anxiety. It is a must-do in your strategy for positive calm.

The above steps will help, but one thing is essential – recognise that you are a good, strong Sassista and worry is like a rocking horse – it goes but gets you no-where!

Next Menopause madness will look at low libido.

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