- Dr. Nadia Mawji, ND
Stress & Hormones Part 1: An Introduction
Stress is one of those things that we all experience. But, we all cope with stress in different ways!
From an evolutionary perspective, we all need stress. However, stress can become chronic – and this is when our coping mechanisms may not check in necessarily, to save the day! Stress is also something I like to call a “sneaky offender”, because sometimes we cannot recognize that we are stressed, simply because we have so much going on for us. When there comes a still and pause in our lives, this may be when we realize, "Oh yeah, now I feel it."
From a hormonal perspective, cortisol, insulin, thyroid and hormones ALL respond and affect one another when it comes to stress. Therefore, common signs of chronic stress can include, increased sugar intake/cravings, mental and physical fatigue, sub-optimal sleep, inability to exercise, reduced motivation, aches and pains, unexplained weight gain and so much more.
I am going to leave the science behind stress for another post, but today I want to talk about a few things that can impact stress and a few things that you can do to help your body and mind better cope with stress.
What are signs of stress/cortisol dysregulation?
Do you drink a lot of coffee because you feel like you NEED it? (especially over the course of the day). Caffeine has the ability to affect cortisol release from our adrenal glands, the organs responsible for our stress response.
Have you experienced any physical/emotional trauma? Trauma can manifest itself as stress from immediately during the event up to years after the event.
Do you have issues falling or staying asleep? And furthermore…do you get a second wind at nighttime, when you tend to become more productive? Students, this is a common sign of cortisol dysregulation. Are you waking up unrested in the mornings? Could you hit "snooze" again?
Do you crave sugar? Insulin (a hormone) can respond to cortisol (also a hormone) and potentiate sugar cravings.
Do you have thyroid abnormalities on bloodwork? Thyroid and adrenal health are often connected.
Do you have brain fog? Can’t remember things? Difficulties concentrating?
What can you do about stress and cortisol dysregulation?
DON’T STRESS (about your stress)! – easier said than done, right?! Meeting with a licensed and regulated Naturopathic Doctor can help you navigate your stress/hormonal patterns in a safe and effective manner – individualized treatments are the best!
Try and set a routine for sleep – it may take a few weeks to settle in but your body, mind and adrenals will thank you for it.
Aim to eat regular meals/snacks
Try and limit refined sugars in the diet
Take time out of your day EVERYDAY to spend time on yourself (exercise, painting, dancing, sports, meditation - whatever makes YOU happy).
The bottom line is that we all have stressors in our lives. We are all human. We are all trying to better our lives and the lives of others around us. Sometimes, we just need a bit of direction to help guide ourselves and our bodies to handle stressors better. Stress is a combination of physical and mental-emotional components. Coping with stress and finding that balance can TAKE TIME. Be PATIENT, be loving and let your body come around.
As Naturopathic Doctors, we have many tools we can use to help you return your body to its balanced state - both physically and emotionally.Be sure to meet with your Naturopathic Doctor for more information!
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