Historically, anxiety has been considered an inherent part of the human condition, a natural response to environmental and psychological factors. The concept of anxiety was developed during the Greek period, when philosophers like Democritus of Abdera emphasized the need for tranquility, where the soul is undisturbed by fear and maintains an attitude of moderation and cheerfulness. This focus on tranquility arose due to the inner anguish associated with self-awareness that accompanies a sense of individuality and personal responsibility. As cultures evolved, anxiety as a psychological condition became more evident in less collective societies, where the idea of man as a separate being gained prominence. In contrast, yoga views the separate self as an illusion and emphasizes unity as the foundation of our individuality, offering an alternative approach to address anxiety.
According to Wheatley (1997), the acute response to stress can induce anxiety, and if stress persists for a long time, it may develop into depression. Depression, anxiety, and stress can create a self-perpetuating cycle. This cycle becomes established as depression impairs the ability to cope with stress, which in turn aggravates the anxiety caused by stress. Sleep impairment, which is often associated with depression and anxiety, further adds to the challenges faced by perimenopausal women, thereby painting a complex picture of their experiences.
Women may experience anxiety based on their perception of whether they have control over their situation or not. Kennedy, Lynch, and Schwab (1998) stated that patients diagnosed with anxiety and depressive disorders tend to attribute control to others or to chance. What follows is a definition of the two main types of locus of control: external locus of control and internal locus of control.
External locus of control: Individuals with a high external locus of control believe that external factors, such as luck, fate, or other people, have a greater influence on their lives. They may feel that they have little control over the outcomes they experience and that events happen to them rather than being within their control.
Internal locus of control: Individuals with a high internal locus of control believe that they have control over their own actions and outcomes. They tend to attribute their successes or failures to their own efforts, abilities, and choices. They believe that they have the power to shape their own lives and that their actions can influence the outcomes they experience.
Locus of control impacts an individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Those with a higher internal locus of control may feel more empowered and motivated to take action to improve their situations, while those with a higher external locus of control may feel more helpless or dependent on external circumstances.
It’s important to note that locus of control is not necessarily fixed and can change over time or vary in different situations. It is also influenced by various factors, including upbringing, culture, and life experiences. Understanding an individual’s locus of control can be helpful in understanding their perceptions, behaviors, and responses to different situations, including anxiety and stress.
According to Reynolds’ research in 1999, women who perceive a higher level of control over their lives tend to engage in psychological stress management techniques during hot flashes. These techniques may include relaxation, visualization, self-acceptance, and other coping strategies. By practicing these stress management techniques, these women were able to relieve some of the anxiety associated with hot flushes. This suggests that a sense of perceived control may play a role in how women cope with menopause-related symptoms, including anxiety during hot flashes.
Furthermore, studies by Reynolds in 2000 have shown that negative appraisals of hot flashes, combined with lowered perceived control, are associated with increased anxiety. This suggests that a woman’s attitude towards hot flashes can impact her experience of anxiety during perimenopause. In the context of yoga, practicing techniques such as cooling pranayama (breathing exercises) while using concentrated awareness to visualize calming images like rainfall can help regain a sense of perceived control and reduce anxiety. Visualization techniques may help counteract negative thoughts associated with low perceived control, leading to a reduction in anxiety related to hot flashes.
As regards Ayurveda, it recognizes the connection between our individual bodymind and a larger field of intelligence, as noted by Lonsdorf, Butler, and Brown in 1995. Ayurveda is considered the science of physical and mental self-healing, where the entire universe is seen as one self, and yoga is viewed as a practice of self-realization, as stated by Frawley in 1999. Self-realization leads to a spiritual consciousness of unity, and the purpose of yoga is to create awareness of unity on physical and emotional levels.
Tension, pain, and suffering can be doorways that lead to the experience of happiness and inner satisfaction as we learn to work with the energy of our fear, anger, and grief. Through this process, an inner awareness develops, along with a sense of unity, as the vascular and muscular systems relax, nourishment is brought to all parts of the body with the flow of fluids and energy, the heart rate balances, the emotional body opens up, and breathing becomes relaxed and efficient. The relaxation response leads to integration of body, mind, and spirit, and a balance between strength and flexibility. The energy created by this integration leads to consciousness of wholeness and can help practitioners understand that symptoms are simply doorways to that consciousness (La Page,1994). It is also why I practice Continuum.