by Dr. LaReesa Ferdinand, MD OBGYN & Women’s Health Advisor
for Bossa Bars Menopause Energy Bars
Life feels like an uphill battle sometimes, doesn’t it? If it’s not one thing it’s another -- home, kids, career, and bills -- all playing tug-of-war for your undivided time and attention.
As women, we carry a lot on our shoulders. The responsibilities of feeding and clothing our children, working to provide an income, and striving to maintain our households can all add up to one thing: STRESS.
Women who also care for their aging parents may face additional stress as they juggle their own homes with the special care needs of their loved ones.
So what happens? When not carefully managed, stress can cause all sorts of physical and emotional problems.
Our bodies were made to handle the stressors of life, and it produces hormone helpers to lead the charge. You’ve probably heard of adrenaline and cortisol, but you may not quite know how they work. It’s important to understand how these naturally occurring hormones can influence so much of how we act and feel.
Let’s time travel backward for a quick illustration.
When you encounter a stressful situation, your body releases adrenaline and cortisol to increase your heart rate, pump up your energy level, and prepare you to meet the challenge.
Back in the day, our prehistoric ancestors faced their own stressors -- battling the elements, surviving the mammoths, and hunting for food. Adrenaline and cortisol kicked in as they braved each new danger, giving them the physical strength and mental alertness they needed to survive. Once the danger had passed, adrenaline and cortisol levels returned to normal.
Today’s world has its own stressors, but our bodies are still wired for those “fight or flight” situations, secreting adrenaline and cortisol when you’re stressed.
Here’s the thing.
Cortisol is not bad; in fact, we need it to keep our bodies humming along and ready to face life’s challenges. But when stress is left uncontrolled and cortisol levels remain consistently high, you may experience some unwanted bodily changes.
Depression, fatigue, weight gain, loss of appetite, acne, irregularities with your period, insomnia, and high blood pressure are just some of the unpleasant side effects of cortisol levels that are out of control. Not only that, when cortisol is running the show, your other hormones (such as estrogen and thyroid hormones) may either underperform (or even overcompensate) and cause all sorts of health issues.
I’m here to tell you there’s hope.
In my women’s health practice, I believe in balance -- and that includes hormonal balance as well as harmony of body, mind, and spirit. By understanding how cortisol responds to stress -- and by learning how to better control it -- you can achieve a more vibrant, energetic life.
Easier said than done, right?
Controlling stress is not easy, especially if you are consumed by the circumstances of your life. I’ve learned through experience, not just as a doctor but also as a woman, that there are things I can do to restore balance when stress comes knocking. First, I take a deep breath. Then I make sure that I’m nourishing my body with healthy food, restorative sleep, and toxin-releasing exercise.
Try these suggestions for yourself when anxiety and stress close in:
- Take a step back and survey what’s really important at the moment. Declutter and set aside what’s not. Simplify your life and keep your mind clear.
- Are you feeding your body the nutrients it needs to perform at its best? Take a look at your food choices and eliminate the unhealthy processed food, sugar, and salt. Choose to add more fresh fruits and vegetables to your meals, including snacks -- and stay hydrated (but not with carbonated beverages)!
- Exercise! Pick an activity you enjoy that will get you moving and sweating to burn fat and release toxins. Go for a run, walk your dog, play tag with the kids. Park in the farthest spot and walk in to your office. Sign up for yoga or Pilates -- or try swimming.
Ladies, we’re in this together, and together we’ll stay healthy and strong. Empower yourself and show stress who’s boss! And call me if you need an extra push in the right direction.