We all know the signs of being acutely stressed. You get a flood of chemicals that make your brain more alert. Your muscles tense up in case you need to flee. Your breathing rate and heart rate increase. Your blood pressure increases. This is a normal response to something that threatens our safety. And this happens whether you are running from a bear, sitting stressed in traffic, or adapting to the new normal right now.
This is why as naturopathic doctors, we talk so much about stress management. It is even more important right now. Chronic stress creates chronic health issues.
How Stress Affects Your Hormones
For men, chronic stress can lead to decreased testosterone levels. For women, high cortisol (the stress hormone) can lower estrogen and progesterone. Chronic stress can also increase PMS and cycle irregularities, and cause more headaches, painful periods, and breast tenderness. Both men and women may see a decrease in libido.
All of our hormones have a similar backbone and are connected in many ways. So when we need more stress hormones, the rest of our hormone pathways suffer.
Stress can have an impact on thyroid function, as it lowers thyroid hormone production. High cortisol also reduces brain chemicals. Norepinephrine and epinephrine can decrease over time, which can lead to brain fog and difficulty concentrating. Serotonin levels can also decrease, which affects our mood and sleep.
How To Manage Stress
This blog is not meant to cause more stress in times of stress. It is meant to emphasize the importance of stress management and finding ways of grounding. What is to be done in this time of stress? Find things that bring you peace right now, whether it’s silly cat videos, sunshine, or exercise. Try to limit sugar, alcohol, and caffeine which all affect mood and brain chemicals. Do some deep breathing. Turn off the news. Have a video chat with a friend who makes you laugh. And if you need assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out.
What are you doing to stay grounded and manage stress right now?