You are sitting in traffic on I-4, late for your OB-GYN appointment, watching the minutes tick away. Your hypothalamus, a tiny control tower in your brain, decides to send out the order: Send in the stress hormones! These stress hormones are the same ones that trigger your body’s “fight or flight” response.
Your heart races, your breath quickens, and your muscles are ready for action. This response was designed to protect your body in an emergency by preparing you to react quickly. But when the stress response keeps firing, day after day, it could put your health at serious risk.
Stress affects all systems of the body including the musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, nervous, and reproductive systems.
If your stress response does not stop firing, and these stress levels stay elevated far longer than is necessary for survival, it can take a toll on your health. Chronic stress can cause a variety of symptoms and affect your overall well-being. Symptoms of chronic stress include:
• low sex drive
• missed periods
If you are stressed, your menstrual cycle can become longer or shorter, your periods may stop altogether, or they might even become more painful. Chronic stress can also magnify the physical symptoms of menopause or the developing pre-menopause symptoms.
These recent discoveries about the effects of stress on women’s health should not leave you worrying. We now understand much more about effective strategies for reducing stress responses. Such beneficial strategies include:
• Maintaining a healthy social support network
• Engaging in regular physical exercise
• Getting an adequate amount of sleep each night
These approaches have important benefits for physical and mental health and are form-critical building blocks for a healthy lifestyle. If you would like additional support or if you are experiencing extreme or chronic stress, come see us identify the challenges and stressors that affect your daily life and find ways to help you best cope for improving your overall physical and mental well-being.