Most people suffer from stress, but somehow it can also be a challenge that molds us to become a better person. However, when stress symptoms disrupt your normal daily routines, that’s when it becomes a problem, especially if it’s a long-term issue. What are the causes of your stress?
As women, we often feel obligated to care for everybody around us, especially our family. It seems as if we don’t feel tired while performing our regular duties – chores around the house, work, groceries, workouts, and social life – we can juggle them all. We push ourselves to the limit. But there are times when our bodies grow weary. They tend to shut down, and by then we can feel tired even if we have already rested for several hours. And then it sinks in – we’re stressed out.
Stress symptoms come in many forms. They can be physical, emotional and social, but one thing is for sure: They affect your life. However, it’s still possible for us to feel better despite these problems. Let’s find out more about it in this article.
What happens when we’re stressed out?
According to Mia Lundin, a menopause hormone and brain chemistry expert, stress is part of a cycle. Stress affects hormonal balance, hormone levels affect brain chemistry, and brain chemistry affects stress. This is a balanced cycle that can continue indefinitely. But if one factor falls out of kilter, it creates a vicious cycle that may well affect your life, especially if it is left untreated.
When we get stressed out, our adrenal glands release, the stress hormone. This hormone blocks from entering our cells. As a result, production of serotonin decreases. Now, with low serotonin levels, you become short-tempered, it’s harder to go to sleep, and you feel cranky, agitated and irritable! Here’s another thing: When serotonin levels drop, it increases production of another hormone called norepinephrine. This hormone gives you that sudden heart-pounding experience that wakes you up in the middle of the night. It makes you feel as if you are having an upset stomach, and you feel your blood rushing in and then– Hot Flash alert!
Imagine this – it starts with an external stress factor, which is the pressure that you feel around you, your worries, sentiments, and all those things that cloud your mind altogether. Every time you feel the pressure, you have this physical (hormonal and chemical) chaos inside. Then another wave of external stress arrives (life problems, family issues, relationships, peer pressure, work), and by this time your cortisol level rises even more! This represents another cycle, and your estrogen and serotonin levels drop lower than ever. Before you know it, it has already become a cycle that is hard to break.
Does the cycle always start with stress?
Well, not all the time, because the stress cycle can also start with a hormonal imbalance. This is especially true during menopause, when levels of estrogen and other hormones actually drop. As a result, your biochemistry is affected, and you begin to feel really out of focus and are overwhelmed with everything that’s already happening.
Sometimes, we will never know which one happened first – perimenopause or stress. Most of the time, we only know that something is wrong because we are already feeling the symptoms and the effects of stress.
Common stress symptoms
Stress can affect the entire body, and it can cause other problems as well. Below are some of the mental and physical symptoms of stress. Let’s see if you can relate to any of the following.
This effect is a form of the body’s reflex reaction. It serves as a defense mechanism against pain and injury. Stress causes the entire body to tense up, but the muscles will relax once the stress passes. However, when there is chronic stress, the body tends to guard itself constantly. In return, it could trigger stress-induced headaches or migraines.
When you are under stress, you may find it hard to breathe. The airway tends to constrict when the body tenses. As a result, it will trigger an asthma attack or cause hyperventilation or rapid, shallow breaths. Furthermore, hyperventilation may trigger a panic attack!
Compromised heart function and blood circulation
The effects of stress to the heart and blood circulation may cause several concerns, including:
- Increased heart rate and stronger heart beats
- Increased blood pressure (hypertension)
- Inflamed blood vessels
- Risk for heart attack or stroke
Stress either makes you eat too much or too little. Too much eating (especially with alcohol and caffeine consumption) may cause heartburn. Stress can also cause you to have bowel movements that are too fast (causing diarrhea) or too slow (causing constipation).
In severe stress, vomiting may likely happen. If the stress becomes chronic, it may cause severe stomach pain and worse, ulcers. It is also related to other types of digestive problems.
Activated brain system
The brain activates the “fight or flight” response of the body when you experience stress. It sends a message and prepares the body for fight (against perceived threat) or flight (to move away from the threat). This process releases adrenaline and cortisol, which in return cause other physical stress symptoms, including a racing heartbeat (heart palpitations), increased breathing, dilated blood vessels, and more. You become more alert, you are hypersensitive, and your reflexes are quick, even in the wee hours. In fact, it may interrupt your sleep.
According to the American Psychological Association, more than 40% of Americans have reported that stress keeps them up at night. Most people who say that they get stressed out may only experience brief periods of sleep. They may find it hard to take a nap during the day as well. At times, when they feel agitated, it is almost impossible for them to stay still and rest.
When you’re stressed out, you usually feel irritable, sad and anxious. You also tend to have mood swings. In chronic stress situations, anxiety and depression may develop, especially when the condition becomes severe.
Affected reproductive system
Stress affects the reproductive system in several ways. In combination with changing hormones during menopause, the following symptoms are common:
- Irregular menstruation and cycles
- Painful periods
- Menopause hot flashes and related symptoms may get worse and become more frequent
- Reduced sexual desire and other sex-related issues
Weak immune system
Stress makes you feel exhausted, tired or fatigued. If you don’t have long, uninterrupted hours of sleep or are not getting enough rest, your body tends to shut down. Your immune system loosens up, making you vulnerable to infection.
How to Relieve Stress
Relieving stress is not just about rest from physical activities. Your mind and body work together, so they both need a healthy amount of relaxation.
Know what causes stress
Identify the possible causes of your stress symptoms so you can avoid them in the future. You can start by monitoring your mood and your thoughts. Try to make a list of anything that bothers you, and find a solution to fix matters before they become worse.
Develop a strong support system
You can build stronger relationships. Instead of feeling stressed out in a relationship, make it your source of strength, motivation and inspiration. If you feel uneasy, sad, or are just having a bad day, tell your husband that you are having a rough time. You can also air out some of your concerns to other members of the family or your closest friends. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to find solutions to your problem. Just allow them to listen to you while you vent. It will make you feel at least a little better.
Control your temper and emotions
Anger, anxiety, worries, resentment and other negative emotions can cause stress to both your mind and your body. Your body works doubly hard to get rid of these stressors. As much as possible, if you are feeling under the weather, choose to think positive.
Move around when you are angry. Instead of allowing your blood to boil and letting go of hurtful statements and possibly violent reactions, try to pause and count to 10. This short span allows you to reconsider your reaction. Instead of blowing up, walk around. By doing so, it’s as if you are taking a simple form of exercise, which will naturally boost your mood and help you to respond in a more balanced manner.
Relax your mind and body
You can practice breathing techniques that promote blood circulation and relax your mind and body. With better blood circulation, your brain and body receive more oxygen, which helps you to relax. To relax and detox your body at the same time, you can enjoy a warm bath with Epsom salt. It calms your system as it pulls all the toxins out of your body, making you feel refreshed.
Engage in yoga, meditation and exercise
Yoga and meditation are two methods that help relax both the mind and the body. Here’s a video of Dr. Mithu Storoni, a neuroscientist and yoga teacher, talking about the science behind yoga and stress. (2.06 minutes)
You can also access the entire film here. In the film, Dr. Storoni talks more about how to relieve stress with the help of yoga.
Although your mind and your body are both working when you exercise, they do not make you feel tired and stressed. In fact, minimal exercise every day can kick-start your mornings! Exercise also helps release toxins from your body through perspiration. As a result, your body will no longer have to work to excrete these toxins, saving that energy for other bodily processes.
Eat, rest and sleep well
You have to eat right to avoid stress. Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages. Sure they temporarily boost our energy, but as soon as the effect wears off, you feel really tired and less energized. If you want to feel energized throughout the day, make sure to sleep well the night before. This allows your mind and body to rejuvenate, naturally restore your energy, and boost your immunity.
Learn more about stress
Seek more information about why we feel stressed at our age. Mia Lundin can help you to better understand why stress is such a big issue for women our age. Her book, Female Brain Gone Insane, will help you maintain without doctors or antidepressants!
Heal from within
Oftentimes the cause of stress is rooted in how we perceive things. This varies greatly based upon our own unique personality. What might be stressful to you is a no brainer to another person. A simple illustration is the morning commute. Some enjoy taking time and seeing other people during the morning rush. Others are completely preoccupied with the heavy traffic and the possibility of being late for work. This is basically the type of thought pattern that causes stress.
It is important to recognize what caused you stress and face it. This is the only way you can do battle with it and manage the symptoms of stress. There is no single method to manage stress, since stress varies in every person and based upon each unique situation. The best thing to do is master yourself and explore techniques that will calm you and keep you composed and in control.
Stress management involves changing your perspective and your reaction to stressful situations. In cases in which your reaction can’t be changed, help yourself using relaxation techniques.
Avoid what is unnecessary
You cannot avoid all stressors, but you can choose what to allow into your thoughts. Reflect on whether it is beneficial for you to keep thinking about that person or that situation.
If you think of it, would it be helpful to you? Would it make you a better person? If not, then disregard it and replace it with meaningful solutions rather than repetitively thinking about the same problem.
Alter the situation
Try altering a stressful situation by being more assertive and facing the problem. If it is about other people, be open to compromise, and be willing to meet halfway to solve the problem. Instead of thinking of what might or could have been done, why not try to act on it and turn the situation around?
Adapt to the stressors
If you can’t change the stressors, try reframing the situation. Look at the positive side of the circumstances and focus on this. Adaptation is a way of doing yourself a favor. Save yourself from the misery of having to address things in a stressful way. Believe that there is always a better way of approaching an issue.
Accept the things you can’t change
Acceptability and open-mindedness allow you to live a stress-free life. There are things in life we cannot change, and we must accept them rather than fight and deny them. Realize that every situation offers lessons to learn and opportunity for growth.
So when something upsets you and stresses you, avoid being miserable. Try altering the situation. If not, adapt to it. Finally, accept things as they are.
Remember, Avoid, Alter, Adapt and Accept. These are the 4 A´s of managing stress!
Stress is everywhere. We may experience it every day, but how we handle stress is critical, and it is worth mastering. It will help us through various situations, build confidence, and save us from suffering the negative consequences that may stem from our failure to cope with the inevitable.
In general, stress may bring about problems, but it can also serve as strong training for your body. The positive effect of stress is that your body will become trained to manage future stressors. However, this is only true for acute cases of stress. If stress is chronic or has been continuous, it could have more negative effects on the body. If you think it is impossible to manage the effects of stress with simple methods, then you can choose to talk to a health practitioner about it.
“Find peace. Breathe. Meditate. Eat healthy. Relax.”
What do you do to alleviate the symptoms of stress?