Navigating Menopausal Anxiety: A Science-Based Approach

Learn the benefits of calmness during Menopause and how to effectively achieve more calmness in your life.

So do you remember being in a situation as a child when you suddenly felt really hot and sweaty? Maybe you were playing outside on a hot day, or you were nervous about something. When that happens, your body might have gone into what’s known as “fight or flight” mode.

That means your body thinks there might be a danger or threat, and it wants to be ready to fight or run away and stay safe. So your heart beats faster, and your muscles tense up. Sometimes, feeling hot and sweaty can make your body think there’s a danger or threat, even if there isn’t one. So even though you might not be in any real danger, your body reacts as if there is. That’s why Menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, can sometimes set off the fight or flight response too. Perhaps, you recognise strange heart palpitations coming on from out of nowhere. Or maybe, as a client of mine described, red blotches started to appear on her neck, and much to her embarrassment began to sweat profusely when having a conversation during networking events, something which she’d previously felt confident and relaxed about.

At Menopause, these unwanted symptoms can occur multiple times daily and be distressing and disruptive, resulting in workloads and commitments that were previously easy to handle becoming more stressful. Unfortunately, this added stressfulness leads to a vicious cycle, as stress and anxiety can also exacerbate menopausal symptoms, making them more intense and frequent. So what can we do?

You likely already know that maintaining a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise, a diet rich in whole-unprocessed food, and good sleep habits can be beneficial. However, what is lesser known are the proven ways to create an inner sense of calmness that can help alleviate menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, axniety, stress and night sweats by putting you back in control of your fight and flight response.

In a recent study, researchers spoke with 103 people who had received treatment or support for depression and analysed their responses for keywords describing feelings of calmness (Weiss et al., 2021). Notably, of the 29 words identified as being related to calmness, only five were traits or feelings that described the presence of calmness. The five words that were related to feeling calm included:

  • At ease
  • Mellow
  • Patient
  • Peaceful
  • Relaxed

Exercises to Induce Calm

Several exercises and techniques can increase calmness and decrease tension, anxiety, and stress (Norelli et al., 2021). Some exercises may include:

  • Listening to Music – Music can reduce physical and psychological stress and increase calmness (de Witte et al., 2022). At a physiological level, listening to music can decrease stress hormone levels, lower heart rate, and decrease blood pressure. Psychologically, listening to music can decrease negative emotions like worry, anxiety, nervousness, and restlessness. Lastly, at a neural level, listening to music may promote the release of calming neurochemicals, including endorphins and oxytocin.
  • Drawing – Like other forms of artistic expression, including colouring, sculpting, painting, and collage-making, may help reduce worry and anxiety and increase feelings of calmness (Abbing et al., 2018). Drawing and other forms of artistic expression may allow you to access and express feelings and thoughts that may be difficult to access and express verbally (Morris, 2014).
  • Intentional Deep Breathing – Controlling your breath and ensuring that your inhalations and exhalations take the same time may help you regulate your physiological stress responses. In box-breathing, you visualise a box or a square with sides of equal length. Each side of the box represents one of the stages of breathing. Thus, in box-breathing, you breathe in through your nose to a count of 4, hold the air in your lungs for a count of 4, breath out for a count of 4, and then hold your breath for a count 4. These steps are repeated for 1 to 20 minutes and may help you increase your calmness.
  • Guided Imagery – Visualising a calm, tranquil setting may help to promote calmness by providing a distraction from anxious and intrusive thoughts. To practice guided imagery, first, make yourself comfortable, then visualise a tranquil setting you have personally experienced or imagined. Imagine the setting as experienced by all your senses, including sight, sound, smell, taste, and feel. Sustain the visualisation for as long as you need or are able. Concentrate on keeping your breathing slow and deep and how being in that environment brings calmness. 
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation – By tensing and then relaxing the muscles of your body, focusing on the feeling of release that comes with un-tensing, you may reduce anxiety and increase calmness. Some women find this a useful practice when trying to fall asleep or if disturbed by night sweats and then need to go back to sleep.

There are other things we can do to stimulate calmness. Things that stimulate calmness may include:

  • Taking a warm bath
  • Mindfulness meditation (Vijayaraghavan & Chandran, 2019)
  • Journaling
  • Yoga
  • Taking a walk
  • Getting a relaxing massage
  • Breathing fresh air
  • Drinking calming tea
  • Use essential oils (Walsh, 2020)

In Sum

Calmness is the absence of feelings of worry, stress, anxiety, fear, and panic and the presence of peace, relaxation, patience, and ease. It is psychological as well as physical: when you feel calm, not only do you feel emotionally and mentally relaxed, but your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate are also typically relatively low. Although menopausal symptoms can increase anxiety and make life events seem more stressful, causing you to lose calm, regaining a sense of calmness that alleviates symptoms is possible. As we have reviewed in this article, you may achieve calmness by listening to music, creating art, intentional breathing, trying calming exercises, or using calming essential oils.


  • ​Abbing, A., Ponstein, A., van Hooren, S., de Sonneville, L., Swaab, H., & Baars, E. (2018). The effectiveness of art therapy for anxiety in adults: A systematic review of randomised and non-randomised controlled trials. PloS one, 13(12), e0208716.
  • de Witte, M., Pinho, A. D. S., Stams, G. J., Moonen, X., Bos, A. E., & van Hooren, S. (2022). Music therapy for stress reduction: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Health Psychology Review, 16(1), 134-159.
  • Morris, F. J. (2014). Should art be integrated into cognitive behavioural therapy for anxiety disorders? The Arts in Psychotherapy, 41(4), 343–352.
  • Norelli, S. K., Long, A., & Krepps, J. M. (2021). Relaxation techniques. In StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing.
  • Vijayaraghavan, N., & Chandran, M. (2019). Effect of meditation on psychological well-being. The International Journal of Indian Psychology, 7(2).
  • Walsh, C. (2020). What the nose knows. The Harvard Gazette, pp. 2, 27.
  • Weiss, C., Meehan, S. R., Brown, T. M., Gupta, C., Mørup, M. F., Thase, M. E., … & Ismail, Z. (2021). Effects of adjunctive brexpiprazole on calmness and life engagement in major depressive disorder: post hoc analysis of patient-reported outcomes from clinical trial exit interviews. Journal of Patient-Reported Outcomes, 5(1), 1–11.

Sharon Tomkins

Sharon is a New Zealand qualified Health Coach and Personal Trainer, as well as an ICF Certified Coach and Accredited Coaching Supervisor. Sharon was awarded the 'Health & Wellness Coach of the Year' 2022, by The Health Coaches Australia & New Zealand Association.
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