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[This is a guest post from Leah Harris, blogger and founder of a Natural Endeavor. In this post Leah explains the benefits to reducing everyday stress, particularly for women.]
Stress is something we are all familiar with.
Usually, when we are stressed, we can feel it.
That constant fluttering in your chest, the rock in your stomach, possibly even the feeling of nausea.
There are so many things that can cause us ladies to feel stress, including our jobs, taking care of our families (especially if we have small children), paying bills, trying to stay healthy, and of course, our periods.
Have you ever wondered what the long-term effects of stress are on the mind and body if left unmanaged?
Or maybe how stress can affect women specifically?
To start reducing chronic stress in our lives, we need to understand what causes the feeling of stress biologically, and how we can relieve stress naturally.
The “Stress” Hormone
Cortisol is most commonly known as the stress hormone, and while it is released during stress it plays a much larger role in the body and is necessary for overall health.
This steroid hormone helps regulate metabolism, blood sugar, and blood pressure.
But it does have some negative effects if we have too much of it.
Some symptoms of elevated cortisol are:
- Weight gain
- Anxiety and Depression
- Muscle weakness and/or fatigue
- High Blood Pressure
By reducing stress in our lives, we can start to alleviate some, if not all, of the symptoms listed above. There are also a few more notable benefits of reducing stress in our lives for us as women.
7 Benefits of Stress Reduction for Women
As women, reducing stress in our lives can help us in a lot of ways.
Most of these benefits listed below are specific to women, but men can definitely benefit from stress reduction as well.
Let’s look at these 7 Benefits of Stress Reduction that you may start to notice when you eliminate stress in your life.
1. Balanced Hormones
For us women, our hormones seem to control everything.
And they really do.
Our sex hormones (Estrogen, Progesterone, and Testosterone) control everything from our sex drive to our emotional state, to how easily we can conceive.
Our stress hormone Cortisol can disrupt our hormone balance, and cause us to feel tired, bloated, irritable, more emotional than normal, anxious, depressed, and can even inhibit our ability to lose or gain weight.
That sounds like PMS to you too, right?
This is because elevated cortisol depletes our sex hormones. Primarily progesterone.
Progesterone is the hormone that helps us with pregnancy.
We have the highest levels of Progesterone in our luteal phase, right after ovulation. This is when progesterone helps the body prepare for a baby.
If we have low progesterone (due to high cortisol) the body can’t sustain a pregnancy.
So it essentially tries to flush out the uterine lining as fast as possible, causing a painful and possibly heavy period.
Reducing stress in our lives can help balance out our female sex hormones by reducing cortisol, and relieving some of these PMS symptoms.
2. Cycle Regulation
Life is just easier when you have an idea of when your period is going to start.
If you are one of many women with an irregular cycle, you may have wondered what might be causing it to be so off.
There are a few things that can cause an irregular cycle, like a hormone imbalance or PCOS. But stress can also play a big part in whether or not we have a regular cycle.
Having high cortisol levels can affect the part of the brain (the pituitary gland) responsible for creating and releasing hormones, as well as our adrenals.
In women, this could result in lowered sex hormones, irregular menstrual cycles, and missing periods altogether.
Lowering our stress levels can help take pressure off of the pituitary gland and adrenals, and regulate these cycles.
3. Increased Libido
Stress can also play a big part in our sex drive.
Studies have shown that women with high-stress levels can find themselves with lowered libido or feeling disinterested in sex.
This is because stress triggers the release of cortisol in the body. Excess cortisol in the body can lower testosterone hormone levels, decreasing our libido.
Getting rid of stress can lead to a healthier sex drive, more energy, and a more enthusiastic outlook on life.
4. Increased Chance of Weight Loss
If you’ve ever tried losing weight, you know how frustrating it can be when the scale won’t budge an inch.
Chances are, stress could be contributing to your plateau.
Whenever we are stressed, our adrenals release the hormones adrenaline (the hormone responsible for fight or flight), and cortisol into the bloodstream.
The excess cortisol produced when we are stressed can spike blood sugar, causing us to crave sweets.
Eating sugary, fatty foods while stressed can cause our bodies to store these foods as fat stores, usually around our mid-sections.
Excess cortisol can also slow our metabolism.
By decreasing stressors in our lives, we can reduce the chances of our bodies storing fat as easily, and keep a healthier, faster metabolism as well.
5. Better Sleep
Getting a good night’s rest can really affect how you feel the next day.
Studies show that people who are under constant stress don’t sleep well at night.
Insomnia is a sleep condition that makes it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep, and or reduces the quality of sleep.
This condition is typically caused by stress.
Having an anxiety disorder can also be a cause of insomnia.
Even if you don’t have insomnia, constant stress can give you some of the symptoms associated with insomnia.
Not sleeping well at night can cause us to feel irritable, fatigued, and tired the rest of the next day.
Calming some of the stressors in our lives can help insomnia subside, and let us finally get some sleep.
6. Increased Vaginal Health
This may seem like a strange potential side effect of lowering stress levels, but it’s true!
Estrogen is responsible for balancing bacteria levels in the vagina.
Healthy levels of bacteria lead to a proper acidity level, which keeps us from getting vaginal infections.
Having high cortisol levels can lower our Estrogen, which can cause us to become more susceptible to infections.
Lowering our stress levels can help ensure a proper hormone balance, and healthy vaginal acidity.
7. Lowered Chance of Breast Cancer
While there is no definite research that says that cancer is caused by high stress, it could make you more susceptible to it.
This is because stress can greatly lower our immunity.
In women who already have breast cancer, high stress could be a factor that causes it to spread or metastasize.
Lowering stress levels could potentially help your body’s immune system to fight off something that could be a factor in causing cancer.
How to Lower High-Stress Levels
Taking a supplement for stress reduction can be very helpful, especially one with adaptogens like Ashwagandha or Reishi.
Adaptogens can help soothe tired adrenals, and help your body adapt to stress.
Cutting Ties with Toxic People
Or, try seeing people who stress you out less often if you can’t cut ties with them.
Toxic people are people who add negativity, feelings of worthlessness, stress, and anxiety to your life.
Usually, these types of people blame others for things, are constantly complaining, and make you feel worse about things in your life than necessary.
Try talking to them, but if they can’t listen it may be time to walk away.
Stress Management Activities (Yoga, Tai Chi, Meditation, Breathing Exercises)
Try finding an activity you can do to reduce stress.
I have found both yoga and Tai Chi very helpful for my own stress relief, as well as occasional meditation and guided breathing.
The movement in yoga and Tai Chi creates a harmony between mind and body that I haven’t felt with anything else.
Both of these exercises can help you improve your posture, balance, flexibility, as well as your strength, cognitive function, and mood.
Because of all of their benefits, Yoga and Tai Chi are wonderful solutions when relieving stress.
You can find Yoga and Tai Chi videos on YouTube that can help you practice relaxation and stress reduction, or check out Avocadu’s Yoga Fat Loss Bible for a step-by-step gentle yoga program perfect for any fitness level or size.
Going to Therapy
Sometimes you just need to talk to someone, and it can help if that person doesn’t know you or your friends and family.
Going to therapy is a good thing, and can help you figure out your own emotions.
I have close friends that have had great experiences with therapy and feel much better because of it.
Create a Nightly Self Care Routine
Creating an evening self-care routine may be something you’ve heard of before for stress reduction, and it really does work.
Our brains crave routine and structure, even type B personalities (like myself). It gives us control of something and makes one part of our day reliable.
Sometimes the stress in our lives comes from the unknown, so creating something safe and structured at the end of the night can really help quiet our minds.
If you need some ideas for creating a new routine, click here to read my list of 27 self-care ideas.
Taking Time Off
It’s easy to overwork ourselves, especially if we love our jobs.
Sometimes we are unaware of what is causing us to feel stressed, and it could be that we just need to rest and sleep it off.
Once you have started doing some of the things above (yoga, therapy, a supplement), you may still feel some stress.
These things should help you quite a bit, but taking some time off work could be the answer.
Long days on your feet, or sitting at a desk, can take a toll after a while.
Remember that you are a priority, and taking care of yourself mentally and physically is something you deserve.
About the Author
Leah Harris is a young mom, wife, and wellness blogger with a passion for supplements and fitness. She has worked with vitamins and supplements for 10 years and now writes about them on her blog a Natural Endeavor. She loves getting to share everything she has learned about nutrition, wellness, and healthy living with others.