I’m writing to you today because your menopause symptoms don’t go away just because we’re living in a pandemic.  On the contrary!

Did you know that anxiety can trigger hot flashes?

Emotions such as anxiety or anxious feelings are known to trigger, bring on, hot flashes and night sweats (hot flashes that happen at night are called night sweats and combined these two are called vasomotor symptoms).

But before I get deeper into that, a few words on the pandemic:

I hope you have been physically distancing and socially connecting because that’s the right thing to do. We are all in this together and we need to keep each other healthy.

What you do today will affect me and what I’ll do tomorrow will affect you so it’s a good time not to be selfish, to think communally, and to do the best for all – which right now seems to be staying away from other people.  Period.

I was already working from home and I don’t have children around (I still worry about my kids, especially my eldest who’s living with a physician and therefore is at higher risk of getting COVID-19) so my working routine hasn’t changed much.  But I haven’t been able to focus on my work very well because I’m a healthcare professional and I need to keep abreast of the news that seems to be changing all the time.

So back to my topic for the day:  how anxiety can trigger hot flashes. 

In these uncertain, extraordinary, and downright scary times that may be affecting how you work, how you make money, how you educate your children, and how you pay your bills, it may be hard not to feel anxious.  It’s ok to feel some anxiety, that’s human and expected at this time, but if anxiety interferes with the way you live, it’s gone too far.

If you can control or avoid anxious feelings you may improve your hot flashes and night sweats and also your mental health.

How to keep anxiety under control?

Remember that your thoughts aren’t reality.

Especially at 2 AM!  During the night, when you can’t sleep, your mind wanders and imagines the worst-case scenarios.  It’s all in your head.  Really!  Stop thinking.  Start focusing on your breath, be in the moment.

Your bed is safe and you don’t help anyone by worrying about everything in the middle of the night.  A good night’s sleep will help you face another day in better shape and disposition.  Pay attention to when your thoughts are making you anxious and bring them back to the present.

Focus on here and now, on what you’re doing, instead of what you’re thinking.  This may also decrease the number of night sweats you experience during the night, since anxiety can trigger hot flashes.

Reduce your news intake.

If you’re like me and follow the news about the pandemic, please do so in healthy amounts.  If you notice that the news you’re watching or reading triggers anxiety or a hot flash, just pause and focus on the rising and falling of your breath for ten seconds.

Conscious breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for lowering the stress hormone cortisol and as well as inflammation levels.  That’s good for your hot flashes and for your health in general.

Even better than consuming news all day long, set aside some time during the day, preferably away from bedtime, to get your coronavirus news and updates.If you worry then try journaling, writing your worries down.  If you feel powerless, focus on what you can do to help the situation, such as staying away from other people, donating to the Food Bank, buying groceries for a neighbour, calling a friend, and so on.

Make a list of things you are grateful for

If you think hard and long there are still many! Whenever you catch yourself having a fearful thought (before you trigger a hot flash!) think of something on your list.

Whenever you wash your hands

OFTEN, and for 20 seconds each time, sing a song.  Sing out loud—maybe others will join in.  Sing a vibrant, happy song that takes you back to wonderful memories.  And smile!  Better times will come.  We are making history…

Be compassionate with yourself and others

You’re going to have ups and downs.  When you’re up, try to bring others up with you.  When you’re down, ask others for help.  You’re not perfect and you’re not bad.  You’re human.  And remember, so are those around you.

Before getting into bed

stretch, slow down, meditate, don’t look at screens, focus on your breath, and allow yourself a relaxed bedtime routine.

Exercise and get outside

While still allowed and keep two metres away from anyone else, of course.  More than ever it is important to stay active.  Exercise—like sleep, food, and water—are essential for your physical and mental health.  Just Do It.  True, exercise can be a hot flash trigger (more triggers at the bottom of this newsletter) but regular exercise has been shown to reduce the number of hot flashes.  Every time I stopped exercising every other day I would get more hot flashes.  I keep a regular fitness schedule, but now that swimming pools and my (building) gym are closed I’ve been walking daily and doing these.  If yoga (probably not the hot type!) is your thing, or if you want to try it, check this out.

Other hot flash triggers:

  • Emotions (anxiety, stress)
  • Too much clothing or bed covers
  • Hot environment
  • Hot baths
  • Hot hair dryers
  • Hot beverages (coffee, tea, soup)
  • Alcohol
  • Exercise (regular exercise reduces hot flashes)
  • Spicy food
  • Sugar
  • Smoking

This coming week, write down the things that trigger your hot flashes 
and try to avoid them as much as possible.

Teresa Isabel Dias is a pharmacist and a menopause practitioner (NCMP) certified by the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), she lives in Toronto but all her services are available online – one-on-one consultations, live workshops, and webinars. Sign up for her free biweekly MenopausED Newsletter to learn more about menopause and women’s health.

Tips to minimize HF

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