What Every Woman Should Know About Stress
“We can do whatever we wish to do provided our wish is strong enough. What do you want most to do? That’s what I have to keep asking myself, in the face of difficulties”. – Katherine Mansfield
Last week’s horoscope read, “The biggest threat to you is stress – and that’s something you can manage if you put your mind to it”. Finding ways to manage stress is wise advice for all of us. But when it comes to women’s health, practicing some form of stress relief is crucial.
Stress exacerbates a woman’s cycle from pre adolescence to post menopause. That is because hormones like estrogen rule our cycles. Add to it the stress hormone cortisol, which is produced in abundance when we become overwhelmed juggling the responsibilities of home, family and career. These hormones make a volatile mix that affects balance, mood changes, changes in metabolism, heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, and memory.
Stress also makes PMS symptoms worse. Extreme levels of stress trigger psychological and physical symptoms during ovulation and menstruation such as cramping, mood swings, fatigue, insomnia, rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath.
Menopause symptoms such as night sweats and hot flashes are far more intense for women under chronic stress.
According to Dr. Susan Lark and other authorities on women’s health, the underlying cause of eighty percent of doctor’s visits is stress. Chronic stress can increase one’s susceptibility to virtually every major disease.
Studies now link urinary infections, postpartum depression, acnes, psoriasis, diabetes and autoimmune illnesses with chronic stress symptoms. Studies show an indirect link between stress and cancer because chronic stress weakens the immune system – the body’s natural defense to contain and destroy cancer cells. Recent research from The Association for Cancer Research links stress to an aggressive form of breast cancer in African American and Latino women.
The problem is that many women don’t hear the warning message their bodies send out. Partly because women are too stressed out to listen. They don’t connect the symptoms to stress. But the irritability, insomnia, appetite changes, tense muscles they experience are signs of stress.
The good news is there is something you can do today to relieve stress in your life. Try several relaxation techniques to find what works for you. Yoga, meditation, deep breathing, journaling, walks in the park, a hobby, pampering spa treatments, etc. Reassess your to-do list and cross off all the nonessentials. And ask for help when needed.
· Make a commitment to yourself to practice some form of relaxation every day.
· Find a routine you can stick with that fits your lifestyle.
· Practice daily, consistently until managing stress becomes your habit.
· Monitor your self- talk when tempted to skip out. Make an affirmation like, “I am doing this everyday… for me and my health” to keep you motivated.
We now know that taking time to relieve the stress and tension in our lives is not just a “guilty pleasure”. Managing stress is vital to our emotional and physical fitness. So start now and dedicate time for relaxation and stress relief, knowing you are contributing to your health and wellness.
Remember, the biggest threat to you is stress. And that’s something you can manage if you put your mind to it.