Ask Marisa: Cut yourself some slack during the ‘change’

By Marisa Peer

Q: Dear Marisa,

As soon as I hit 50, I found myself in the middle of the “change” battling hot flashes, roller coaster mood swings, night sweats, insomnia and brain fog, which left me feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and anxious because it all seemed to come out of nowhere.

My doctor put me on HRT a few months back, which has helped with steadying my emotions together with the flashes and sweats, but I just don’t feel like myself anymore and have become quite reclusive because of it. 

I used to be confident and outgoing, but since this happened I am easily stressed, anxious and forgetful — my short-term memory is terrible since menopause hit. 

It’s like I have forgotten how to do simple things and even have trouble concentrating when driving my car. This used to be natural for me — I did it without thinking — but now I am finding that I really need to focus on even the smallest of tasks. 

Little things that wouldn’t have phased me before, like meeting a friend for lunch or even shopping for groceries has me worrying and feeling more self-conscious. I often forget what I was saying or struggle to follow a conversation, so I’m starting to avoid any type of social interaction now.

I had so many plans ahead of me to retire early and go travelling around the world now that my kids have flown the nest, but the prospect of getting on a plane and going to new places on my own is a little overwhelming. Please help, Marisa!

Miserable in Mesa

A: Dear Miserable in Mesa,

Firstly, please don’t feel you are alone in this — menopausal anxiety is incredibly common and can cause panic attacks coupled with a loss of confidence that can affect everyday tasks. If you were already prone to anxiety, you are more likely to experience it due to the hormonal imbalance menopause brings with it.

The drop in estrogen can also cause a spike in adrenaline, which leads to the fight-or-flight response being triggered randomly, which means that something you once did on autopilot can suddenly seem overwhelming. 

Hormonal fluctuations can also cause memory and concentration levels to drop by up to 40% during the menopause, so something as simple as driving becomes much more challenging, demanding and stressful — cut yourself some slack!

However, with some of my clients, I often find when we dig deeper their own menopausal symptoms mirror those of their mother or grandmother. They remember them talking about how hellish it had been, and it almost becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We anticipate the worst until it becomes our own reality.

Every thought you think and every word you say is a blueprint that your mind and body work to make real. It doesn’t care whether it is true or false, good or bad, productive or not — it just takes it as fact, which is why it is important we are mindful of what we tell ourselves. 

What stands out to me in your letter is your worries about the “decline” in your memory and the way that you describe it. 

Take a step back and ask yourself, is your memory really “terrible”? Do you forget things all the time or is it just now and again? It’s only human to have a lapse in memory at times, so ask yourself, has it really declined or is this something that you have been telling yourself so often that your mind now believes it?

Think of how you speak to yourself because often when we forget something, we can be guilty of telling ourselves that we have a “terrible memory” and you are what you believe. Try changing what you say to yourself and see what happens. 

If you find you are still struggling, I have a great hypnotic audio around memory and concentration, which can help rewire your mind and give you back the phenomenal memory that you were born with. 

A lot of our problems start and end with our minds, so don’t let unhelpful beliefs hold you back. If you forget something, say out loud, “I will remember that in a minute because I have a phenomenal memory.” Tell yourself a better lie, and watch your life transform! 

Now get back to planning your trip, go out and enjoy yourself again!