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Ask a Psychologist | Steven Crumblehulme, Inventor Of Menomagic

StevenSteven Posts: 15 Menopause Anxiety & Stress Expert

Learn to minimise and cope with feelings of stress and anxiety. 

Post your question below!


About Steven

My name is Steven Crumblehulme and I am a Psychologist, Reflexologist and creator of Menomagic, a natural, paraben-free and vegan-friendly cream with a blend of essential oils to help maintain your wellbeing in the menopause.

I am here to offer advice and provide strategies to help minimise the feelings of stress and anxiety, through breathing techniques, mindfulness exercises and neuro-linguistic programming exercises to help you feel more resilient.

Having started my journey as an Assistant Psychologist in 2002, working with Professor Maggie Snowling in her Centre for Reading and Language at the University of York, I then fell into lecturing and taught Psychology for 17 years.  It was during my time teaching that I trained as a Complementary Therapist, with a particular interest in Reflexology.  This training led me to run my own private practice in Cheltenham, Sole Therapies, and run my own Complementary Therapies School, delivering the ABC Awards Diploma in Reflexology, for many years.


During my time as a Psychologist and Reflexologist, Stress and Anxiety have been at the forefront of what I’ve taught about and an issue faced by most of my clients – and there is a difference between these two words. Stress is the body’s physiological response to a stressor, or trigger, in the environment, due to a release of adrenaline (such as an increase in heart rate, pupil dilation, decrease in digestive function). Its effect is usually short-term but constant stress can leave us feeling exhausted. Anxiety, on the other hand, is the psychological effect of that stress, and this can be experienced long after the stressor has gone.  Symptoms of anxiety include fear, panic, anger, frustration and nervousness.

Ask Steven a questions about

Stress, Anxiety and Menopause below


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Comments

  • KazKaz Posts: 482 mod

    Welcome @Steven ,

    It's lovely to have another expert onboard to help us 😊

    I've been a fan and have used Menomagic for a while now, and it's really interesting to see everything else that you do.

    Lots of us talk about the stress and anxiety (as well as all the other symptoms!) that can come along with the menopause. It's brilliant that we have someone who can offer suggestions either as an alternative for those who can't or don't want to use HRT, or strategies to work alongside HRT.

    I'm looking forward to seeing the questions that come your way! 🙏

  • StevenSteven Posts: 15 Menopause Anxiety & Stress Expert

    Hi @Kaz,

    Many thanks! I'm so pleased you're a fan of my Menomagic cream. Stress and anxiety are such common issues and, often, there are some simple strategies that can be very effective, so I'm hoping to be able to help in any way I can.

    Enjoy your weekend,

    Steven 😃

    Check Out Menomagic to find out more about tackling hot flushes
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  • Char20Char20 Posts: 1

    My problem is I get so anxious about every situation or event,thinking up all these different scenarios that could go wrong to try and prepare myself for the worst and then it doesn’t happen anyway! I’ve always been a worrier but since I’ve been peri menopausal it’s got a lot worse and it’s really affecting my life! Have you any tips that could help?

  • StevenSteven Posts: 15 Menopause Anxiety & Stress Expert

    Hi @Char20

    This is more common than you may think, so you're not alone. And, with the start of hormonal shifts of peri-menopause, any thinking pattern you've developed will, no doubt, be exacerbated.

    One tip is to follow an exercise that can help to re-programme how you negatively interpret information, and focus your mind on an alternate train of thought. Try to identify three things a day you are grateful for - initially, this may be a challenge, but it gets much easier each day. They can never be the same things, but can be anything as simple as seeing a blue sky, hearing the birds, seeing a friend for lunch, etc. I find it is even more effective if you write them down, then you can look back on them often. Research shows that, after 21 days, the neural pathways in your brain 'change track' and you start to have a shift in perception. So, you may not consider, or think about, worst case scenarios. If you see a difference, but you still get these thoughts creeping in after 21 days, just keep going with the exercise until these thoughts get less and less. Essentially, you're training your brain to think differently and, just like going to the gym to tone up and lose weight, it won't happen overnight - but this is one of the most effective strategies you could test out.

    Do let me know how you get on :)

    Best wishes,

    Steven :)

    Check Out Menomagic to find out more about tackling hot flushes
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  • Max1968Max1968 Posts: 3

    Hi Steven

    I'm tapering off my sertraline slowly,as gp advises, and my anxiety is getting stronger and flushes worse too

    any advice on how to cope with these side effects on top of Perimenopause?

    I have a hormonal 15 year daughter, so call this the house of hormones 😔

    I have ms And find meditation my saving Grace, but determined to get off the sertraline...I'm natural all the way except that

    I find Cbd oil helps too

    thanx in advance

    Maxine x

  • StevenSteven Posts: 15 Menopause Anxiety & Stress Expert

    Hi @Max1968

    Thanks for your message - as you're coming off Sertraline, you will become more aware of your shifting hormones, which can trigger anxiety, which can then, in turn, make your experience of hot flushes worse.

    Meditation is a great strategy and I'm pleased to hear you're finding this effective. Related to this is a breathing technique known as 4-7-8. This has come from yoga and it is believed to act as a natural tranquilzer for the nervous system because the fresh oxygen you get into your body can help to kick start the parasympathetic nervous system (our rest and digest state). This can then calm your anxiety, which can help to calm your hot flushes.

    To use this technique, you need to place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth and at the back of your front teeth. You then breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds and breathe out of your mouth (making a whooshing sound) for 8 seconds. To begin with, it is best to repeat this only 4-5 times sat or lying down. The more you practice this, the more powerful it becomes, and you will also be able to repeat the sequence up to 8-10 times (the optimum to aim for).

    When you feel your anxiety developing, you can use this breathing technique to help calm you and, with repetition, you can condition yourself to do this automatically when you register anxiety building.

    Another tip is the one I posted above your comment about identifying three things you're grateful for each day for 21 days, which helps to re-programme how your mind thinks (see above).

    Hope this helps - best wishes,

    Steven :)

    Check Out Menomagic to find out more about tackling hot flushes
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  • Max1968Max1968 Posts: 3

    Wow!! Would you believe I already knew about 478 and had forgotten to use 😔 thanks!!!

    And for your explanation on sertraline effects🙌🙏

    would meno magic be helpful for me atm???

    THANK you

    Maxine

  • StevenSteven Posts: 15 Menopause Anxiety & Stress Expert

    Hi @Max1968

    You're welcome, I hope it helps 😃

    Yes, Menomagic could be helpful for you - the cream is aimed at cooling your skin down during a hot flush, with many saying that the flush is taken out within a few seconds. If you experience flushes starting at your feet, it is best to apply the cream to the pulse points on your wrists, rub together and release. If you feel them more in your head/upper body, then it is best to apply the cream behind the ears to help cool you. The essential oils are also great to aid relaxation and reduce anxiety, so many clients will apply cream to their pulse points and breathe in the scent, which they find very calming.

    Best wishes, Maxine 😃

    Steven

    Check Out Menomagic to find out more about tackling hot flushes
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  • HugojackHugojack Posts: 2
    This phase is very emotional in every woman's life.I hope everyone suffering from this phase is doing well now and has not been a victim of depression.
  • StevenSteven Posts: 15 Menopause Anxiety & Stress Expert
    Very true, and many GPs often mistake the menopause for depression as depressive like symptoms are very common at this time. I'm hopeful that, with all the education that is coming out, GPs will be in a better position to distinguish between the two. 

    Check Out Menomagic to find out more about tackling hot flushes
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  • Casper123Casper123 Posts: 4
    hello Steven. I am suffering with the menopause with low mood mostly, I have started HRT but not sure if I should be taking anti-depressants too as I have an on going health issue which is tormenting me too and making me very anxious. I do try and meditate and relax but feel uptight when I’m doing that!.. any suggestions would be gratefully received 😊
  • StevenSteven Posts: 15 Menopause Anxiety & Stress Expert
    Hi @Casper123,

    What strategies are you using to meditate? With any technique, it can sometimes take a bit of practice until you feel the calming effects. A couple of suggestions I've mentioned previously involve a calming breathing technique, called 4-7-8, where you breathe in for 4 seconds (through the nose), hold for 7 seconds and then breathe out through the mouth (with your tongue pressed against the roof of your mouth and against the back of your top teeth). Doing this for a minute or so can calm you because it can alter the level of oxygen in your body, and focuses your attention.

    Another great strategy for improving mood is an NLP strategy, which has been really effective with my Reflexology clients that either want to reduce their dose of anti depressants or don't want to go on them, but struggle with their mood. 

    The aim is to re-programme how you negatively interpret information, and focus your mind on an alternate train of thought. Try to identify three things a day you are grateful for - initially, this may be a challenge, but it gets much easier each day. They can never be the same things, but can be anything as simple as seeing a blue sky, hearing the birds, seeing a friend for lunch, etc. I find it is even more effective if you write them down, then you can look back on them often. Research shows that, after 21 days, the neural pathways in your brain 'change track' and you start to have a shift in perception. So, you may not consider, or think about, worst case scenarios. If you see a difference, but you still get these thoughts creeping in after 21 days, just keep going with the exercise until these thoughts get less and less. Essentially, you're training your brain to think differently and, just like going to the gym to tone up and lose weight, it won't happen overnight - but this is one of the most effective strategies you could test out.

    Hopefully, whatever your other ongoing health issue is, this sort of technique might help to distract your mind from focusing on it. 

    Let me know if you have any questions about this. 

    Best wishes, 
    Steven

    Check Out Menomagic to find out more about tackling hot flushes
    Follow Menomagic & Sole Therapies on Facebook
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  • Casper123Casper123 Posts: 4
    Thank you Ian. I shall take your suggestions and try them and keep at it, what I don't always tend to do.
    I practice mindfulness, most days and concentrate on the anxiety part. 
  • Casper123Casper123 Posts: 4
    Steven sorry
  • Kaka2837Kaka2837 Posts: 2

    Hi Ian

    I wonder if you have any suggestions to help. I will randomly get an overwhelming feeling of anxiety run through my body that increases in intensity. This feeling can come mainly in the evening/night. I can be sitting without any feeling or thoughts of worry then it’s like a small bomb in the pit of my stomach explodes and the anxiety feeling appears and intensifies. I will then have an underlying feeling of fear for the rest of the night. I also get this very intensely wired feeling as I am falling asleep that comes from nowhere. Preventing me from sleeping and leaving me with racing heart. These episodes come out of the blue and don’t appear to have triggers or any regularity but are very unpleasant to experience. Any ideas or tips to help?

    Many thanks

  • StevenSteven Posts: 15 Menopause Anxiety & Stress Expert

    Hi @Kaka2837

    I suspect that these random periods of anxiety are being triggered by physiological shifts in hormones during the menopause, which temporarily put your body into a state of fight or flight. This means that your body feels stressed, which your mind then interprets as something wrong. Whilst the physiological change won't last long, it is the perception you have that makes the feeling of anxiety persist. My overall suggestion is to see if you can acknowledge to yourself that the anxiety you feel is simply due to shifting hormones and your body is rebalancing, but may need 10-15 minutes, but that this is normal and nothing to worry about. Also, during one of these periods, you can try a couple of exercises to help take your mind of it so that once your internal state has returned to normal, your mind will also be calm. For example, you could try mindfulness, where you focus on things in the present. If you were sat on your sofa when this happened, for example, you could focus your attention to how your feet feel on the floor, then move up to how your back feels against the sofa, or how your arms feel resting on a cushion. You could also practise deep breathing to help calm the mind, such as breathing in for 4 seconds, holding for 7 and then breathing out for 8. This helps to change levels of oxygen in the body and calms it rigtt down.

    I hope this helps.

    Best wishes,

    Steven :)

    Check Out Menomagic to find out more about tackling hot flushes
    Follow Menomagic & Sole Therapies on Facebook
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  • Lokis_nanaLokis_nana Posts: 10

    Hi Steven

    I hope you don’t mind me texting you but my anxiety is currently through the roof regarding COVid 19. I work in a bank and it isn’t all customers want to talk about, my daughter also has asthma and E D S so is vunerable. My lovely husband has tried to talk it through and try and help me put it into context but I am sure through my anxiety that he is not telling me the truth. I am trying to keep away from news and figures etc but I am now constantly on the verge of tears....


    Lesley

  • StevenSteven Posts: 15 Menopause Anxiety & Stress Expert

    Hi Lesley,

    I think you're wise to keep away from news etc, as it's difficult to know what is true and what is not. The problem is we are all learning day by day what is happening and the lack of control we feel is very anxiety provoking.

    One thing, therefore, is to think about what we can control and focus on that - for example, I know some people who are creating a schedule/routine for themselves and their family during this time. It could include set times to wake up and have breakfast together, practise relaxation or exercise from home (youtube have lots of free videos where you can do a yoga class, pilates, HIIT sessions, etc - or just meditation), perhaps also plan in watching favourite films, facetime/skype friends and have a virtual coffee... The aim is to take charge and have things booked in for you and your family, which will help to distract your mind from the situation.

    A great breathing technique you can do if you still have to go out to work, or whilst your indoors/trying to sleep, is called 4-7-8. This is a yoga breathing strategy, so you breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold it for 7 seconds and breathe out through your mouth for 8 seconds. Doing this for a few minutes helps to adjust levels of fresh oxygen in your body and can help to really calm your anxiety down, as it's a signal to your body to relax.

    A final strategy is to re-programme how you interpret information, and focus your mind on an alternate train of thought. Try to identify three things a day you are grateful for, this may be a challenge right now with all the negativity that surrounds us, but it gets much easier each time you practice. They can never be the same things, but can be anything as simple as seeing a blue sky, hearing the birds, chatting with a friend, having a cuddle with your daughter, etc. I find it is even more effective if you write them down, then you can look back on them often. Research shows that, after 21 days, the neural pathways in your brain 'change track' and you start to have a shift in perception. So, you may not consider, or think about, worst case scenarios. If you see a difference, but you still get these thoughts creeping in after 21 days, just keep going with the exercise until these thoughts get less and less. Essentially, you're training your brain to think differently and, just like going to the gym to tone up and lose weight, it won't happen overnight - but this is one of the most effective strategies you could test out.

    I do hope some of these ideas help - you're not alone in how you feel.

    Warm regards,

    Check Out Menomagic to find out more about tackling hot flushes
    Follow Menomagic & Sole Therapies on Facebook
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  • Lokis_nanaLokis_nana Posts: 10

    Thank you Steven for your advice and I will certainly give it a go...stay safe...

    Lesley

  • MonicaMMonicaM Posts: 144 mod

    @Steven

    Thank you for the information. I may have to reach out to you soon about anxiety. It is one thing that I never experienced that often the past but it seems as I get older it maybe trying to sneak up on me.

    They have been starting small like closed in places bother me for example elevators one time I got on a water slide and it is was covered had no idea that I was claustrophobic which in turned caused me anxiety. Then I had to do a mri a couple of weeks ago it was so bad I had to get medication to relax me in order to get it done. I am the type of person who doesn’t like to take medication unless I truly have to so I was mad at myself that I couldn’t do it without the medicine.

    I know these are small things but I know they can develop into something larger especially with the way the world is now.

  • StevenSteven Posts: 15 Menopause Anxiety & Stress Expert
    edited March 24

    Hi @MonicaM ,

    You're absolutely right, the small things can turn into the big things. The fear you have felt in enclosed spaces is normal - our natural instinct is to escape, but this will turn into anxiety if the fear we feel is too strong, which prevents us from interpreting the situation in a rational way, leading to irrational ways of reacting to it. Deep breathing is always the best place to start, as by breathing in for a shorter time than we breathe out (as in the 4-7-8 breathing technique outlined above), the level of oxygen in our body changes, which tells the parasympathetic nervous system to turn on, which enables our body to relax. This then activates the part of the brain that enables decision making and rational thinking, so anxiety is less likely to occur.

    On Facebook this week, I am posting little videos each day about tackling anxiety if you wanted to follow them - these are from my Menomagic page on Facebook. The first one will be released later today.

    Best wishes,

    Steven :)

    Check Out Menomagic to find out more about tackling hot flushes
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  • MonicaMMonicaM Posts: 144 mod

    @Steven thank you so much for this, I will definitely have to practice my breathing. I have gone to your fb page will check out the videos later.

  • JackiJacki Posts: 10

    Hi 

    I’ve been perimenopausal for some years. I’ve been given so many different types of hrt and most work for me for the first few weeks. Then as my cycle carries on I become more depressed, lethargic, anxious, over processing, constantly thinking of my past relationship and comparing my old life, tearful, Hot sweats. ive also tried many supplements and not sure what I really should be taking with what. I suffered Cronic acid reflux last time. Which I kept being treated for for possible heart problems.

    im reluctant to go on antidepressants as I’ve heard many doctors just prescribe these but aren’t the solution. 

    my doctor is lovely but says that we have exhausted hrt and they aren’t working for me??? And referred me to hormone specialist but with the current situation, my appointment got cancelled due to covid. 

    any advise is welcome. 

    ive tried combination patches. Tablets etc. From my own log, I notice that I’m good on estrogen but when I’m on progesterone is when I really dip. But I have to have progesterone as I have a womb. I had an ovary and tune removed a few years ago as they weren’t healthy.

  • StevenSteven Posts: 15 Menopause Anxiety & Stress Expert

    Hi @Jacki

    Thank you for your message, I'm sure it must be very frustrating for you at the moment. I suspect that these periods of depression and anxiety are being triggered by physiological shifts in hormones as your cycle progresses, which temporarily put your body into a state of fight or flight. This means that your body feels stressed, which your mind then interprets as something wrong.

    Whilst the physiological change won't last long, it is the perception you have that makes the feeling of anxiety persist. My overall suggestion is to see if you can acknowledge to yourself that the feelings of depression and anxiety you feel are simply due to shifting hormones and your body is rebalancing, but may need 10-15 minutes, but that this is normal and nothing to worry about.

    During these periods where your mood and feelings become more negative, you can try a couple of exercises to help take your mind of it so that once your internal state has returned to normal, your mind will also be calm. For example, you could try mindfulness, where you focus on things in the present. If you were sat on your sofa when this happened, for example, you could focus your attention to how your feet feel on the floor, then move up to how your back feels against the sofa, or how your arms feel resting on a cushion. You could also practise deep breathing to help calm the mind, such as breathing in for 4 seconds, holding for 7 and then breathing out for 8. This helps to adjust the level of oxygen in our body, which tells the parasympathetic nervous system to turn on, which enables our body to relax. This then activates the part of the brain that enables decision making and rational thinking, so anxiety is less likely to occur.

    I hope this helps.

    Best wishes,

    Steven :)

    Check Out Menomagic to find out more about tackling hot flushes
    Follow Menomagic & Sole Therapies on Facebook
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  • JackiJacki Posts: 10

    Hi Steven.

    Thank you. This makes sense. Although I cannot work out why I keep focusing on the past several times a month, which is preventing me from moving on with my current.relationship and happiness.

  • JackiJacki Posts: 10

    Hi @Steven

    Thank you. This makes sense. Although I cannot work out why I keep focusing on the past several times a month, which is preventing me from moving on with my current.relationship and happiness.

  • Morning55Morning55 Posts: 9

    Hello Steven I have been in menopause since 2018 and suffer from anxiety and depression I have had slight anxiety in the past but never to this length and never any depression before until menopause. I may have 2 good days of feeling okay then a sadness comes over me the next days. The Morning makes me feel like I want to die but eases as the day goes on , I get irritable when people talk sometimes and can’t remember anything. I feel like my mind is slipping away from me. I am the patch 2 mg. My doctor prescribed Mirtazapine but not fond of meds so don’t take them regularly. What is going on with my mind ? I feel so lost .

  • StevenSteven Posts: 15 Menopause Anxiety & Stress Expert

    Hi @Morning55,

    Thanks for your message. With being on any meds, such as Mirtazapine, if you sometimes take it and sometimes don't, that may contribute to shifts in how you feel. I can't advise you on medication, as I'm not a registered Doctor, but if you're not fond of taking them and do not find them effective, it might be useful to tell your GP this and discuss the possibility of weening yourself off them. You should never stop completely as this can contribute to side-effects, so if you plan this with your GP you know it can be done safely.

    With your anxiety, it's highly likely that this is being triggered by physiological shifts in hormones during the menopause, which temporarily put your body into a state of fight or flight. This means that your body feels stressed, which your mind then interprets as something wrong. Whilst the physiological change won't last long, it is the perception you have that makes the feeling of anxiety persist. These hormonal shifts will also affect your attention and perception, meaning it will be hard to remember things at times, and you will become easily irritable.

    One tip is to see if you can acknowledge to yourself that the anxiety and feelings of depression could be due to shifting hormones and your body is rebalancing, but that this is normal and nothing to worry about. Also, during one of these periods, you can try a couple of exercises to help take your mind of it so that once your internal state has returned to normal, your mind will also be calm. For example, you could try mindfulness, where you focus on things in the present. If you were sat on your sofa when this happened, for example, you could focus your attention to how your feet feel on the floor, then move up to how your back feels against the sofa, or how your arms feel resting on a cushion. You could also practise deep breathing to help calm the mind, such as breathing in for 4 seconds, holding for 7 and then breathing out for 8. This helps to turn the ‘fight or flight’ part of the nervous system off, and the ‘rest and digest’ (parasympathetic) nervous system back on, helping you to calm down and relax. 

    Another suggestion would be to take a look at some of the other pages on here to learn of a few more tips to help balance your hormones, such as seeing how nutrition can play a role in balancing hormones, which can then lead to you feeling less depressed and anxious.

    I hope this is useful.

    Best wishes,

    Steven :)

    Check Out Menomagic to find out more about tackling hot flushes
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