How Stress Affects Your Hormones And Mood.
We All Have Stress
Stress is something that nearly every adult in our modern society deals with. We lead lives that are over-scheduled with responsibilities for family, work, home and finances, and we don’t allow ourselves the mental space to relax and unwind from the unrelenting stress we are faced with.
So what does all of this stress do to our bodies? Chronic stress can affect every part of our body including our immune system, hormonal systems, brain function, and cardiovascular function, our perception of pain, our metabolic processes, and our ability to digest our food properly.
Most people will develop unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with stress. These people will turn to things like unhealthy foods, alcohol, and other harmful behaviours to help them cope (1).
How It Affects Our Hormones
Chronic and acute stress can be catastrophic for our hormonal systems. It all begins with cortisol, the stress hormone, which is released during times of stress in large amounts. When too much cortisol enters the bloodstream too often it can begin to affect the bodies other hormonal systems. These include:
- Thyroid Hormones
- Adrenal Hormones
- Sex Hormones
- Mood Hormones (more on this later.)
How It Affects Our Mood
The effects of chronic stress on our mood can greatly affect our quality of life. Our brain releases a symphony of chemicals and hormones to keep our brains functioning smoothly. If our serotonin, epinephrine, norepinephrine, GABA or dopamine become out of balance our mood begins to change for the worse.
Women are more likely to deal with mood changes resulting from chronic stress than men since our hormones fluctuate with puberty, during our menstrual years, and through menopause and beyond (2). Some believe that this could be why a woman’s stroke risk is twice that of a man’s (3).
What To Do About It
Everyone’s solution to reducing stress will be different depending on their individual circumstances. But everyone will benefit from looking at their lives and figuring out what things they could remove to take some of the burden off of their shoulders. Are you able to cut back your hours at work a bit, move closer to work so that your commute is shorter, say no to activities that are draining you emotionally?
The next step would be to begin to incorporate more time into your day for things like moderate exercise and meditation. These activities can lower your cortisol and increase the hormones in your brain responsible for creating better moods (4.) Meditation and mindfulness activities can be done wherever you are. There is no need to build a whole new room in your house! Use your special chair or find a nice quiet corner of the park on your lunch break and take time to sit in stillness at least once per day.
Some people will find that they need a bit more help to get over the initial hurdle of being chronically stressed. There are many supplements and herbs that can be helpful in aiding your body to more effectively deal with stress. Common supplements that can be helpful include:
It is important to remember that even though these supplements are herbs are useful for those who are stressed, that it is essential to seek the help of a qualified professional when deciding which ones are right for you to take. This is because supplements and herbs will react differently in each person and each person’s symptoms will call for a different range of supplements and herbs to be used.
It would be wasteful to try to use these without seeking qualified guidance because you may not be taking the right one for you and may become disappointed if the results you’re seeking are not found.
There is help out there if you feel chronically stressed out. Reach out to those around you for help and you’ll soon find you feel more at peace!