Stress levels are high in 2020. This year is keeping us on our feet with challenges. Some people are being faced with the need to act, fight, or flee, while others might feel overwhelmed, numb, and unable to move forward. Such is the innate design of the nervous system and how we respond to stress- but it is so important that we don’t get stuck in our stress responses. Stress has a far reaching effect on every level of our health, but here I would like to focus on how it affects hormone health.
Even though I am well aware of the effects of stress on hormonal health, life seems to constantly remind me how important stress reduction is for basic hormone health. Indeed, life did just that starting March when I experienced some irregularity around my menstrual cycle. I have been charting my cycle and practicing Fertility Awareness (as a form of contraception) for the past 4 years. I had my first anovulatory cycle since I’d begun charting and was having mid-luteal phase spotting. I am approaching my peri-menopausal years, but it wasn’t that. On a deep level, I knew it was because I was feeling stressed, insecure, and unsafe. No matter how subtle (yet very real!) this experience was, my body responded appropriately. Your fertility can be a sign of your overall health and can be the messenger that it’s not time to “procreate”. Even though I’m not trying to conceive, I do strive for optimal health and feel that my cycle is a mirror of my inner well being. As I sifted through those emotions, upped my self-care, and made stress reduction a priority, my cycle returned back to a rhythm that feels right.
It is natural for our bodies to respond to stress by raising cortisol and DHEA, and if stress is short-lived you will come back to homeostasis and recover. As time goes on, with unrelenting stress, our body will adapt and the levels of stress hormones (Cortisol and DHEA) come down and may “look” normal, but the adrenals are starting to tire. If the stress response continues past this point, the body will enter a deeper stage of complete exhaustion. This is where the body is unable to respond to stress appropriately and can’t produce the appropriate amount of cortisol and DHEA needed to get through the day. Also, When the body is fixated on responding to an internal or external stressor, it will focus all of its energy on that. The body creates a very catabolic state and endocrine functioning becomes less of a priority.
Here are some TIPS to help you shift out of survival mode and into hormone thrival mode:
Move your body!! Exercise is so powerful and a great way to release stress and clear the mind. Try yoga, walks in nature, and anything where you can focus on breath.
Create an evening time relaxing ritual: Hot bath, self- massage, journaling, or movement to soft music.
Gratitude Journal: in the morning or night, write down three things you’re grateful for and take a moment to visualize them and take them in.
Make Sleep a Priority: I know! You hear this all the time, but it really works. Being in bed by 10 pm can completely shift your hormone health.
Get Support! You don’t have to do this alone. Whether it’s a therapist, health coach, friend, or a family member, it’s important to have someone to talk to and help hold you accountable as you make healthy changes.
If all else fails, run functional labs to access hidden stressors. TEST, DON’T GUESS…. Nutritional deficiencies, gut and liver health, environmental toxic exposure and heavy metals, and thyroid can all play a huge part in your hormonal balance. When the simple stuff like diet and lifestyle changes don’t make the shifts you’re looking for, then it’s so important to look deeper!
As I’ve turned the wise age of 40 with an understanding of the rapid decline that happens to our hormones as we approach our menopausal year, focusing on my endocrine and adrenal health is incredibly important to me. This journey starts with stress reduction and consistently assessing where I can support and optimize my health. ThIs last month I was excited to run a stress and sex hormone urine test (aka. the DUTCH), some other blood chemistry markers, and a full thyroid panel. I do this not because of an illness, but to get information that will help me to prevent illness and be able to thrive in this modern day.
Are you tired of navigating your health challenges alone? Can you tell something is wrong, but all you hear is “everything looks normal”? Well, trust your intuition. You absolutely know your body better than anyone. I help sensitive individuals that feel isolated and alone in their health challenges to finally get the support and knowledge they need, so they can thrive and find resiliency in this modern day. If something is “off” and you want an ally on your healing journey, then sign up for a complimentary Strategy Session. This phone consultation provides a moment for us to connect and honestly assess whether I can offer you the support and knowledge you deserve. I want what is truly best for you!