Can Stress Upset My Hormones?
While feeling slightly stressed on occasion is normal, having heightened levels for extended periods of time is detrimental to your health. Stress can disrupt your body’s natural hormone balance, causing issues such as obesity, insomnia, low energy or even a decreased sex drive. Here’s how to tell if you’ve reached that tipping point and what you can do about it.
How Stress Creates an Imbalance
Your body naturally creates stress hormones. Produced by the endocrine system, these hormones — including cortisol and adrenaline — help you react to situations that require a quick increase of energy and attention. Whether you’re worried about missing your flight or about to deliver a presentation to a room full of executives, many Americans experience this small surge of adrenaline from time to time.
Unfortunately, when stress hormones are released more frequently and remain in the bloodstream for sustained periods, you may experience a hormone imbalance. Without management, these “fight or flight” responses also can wreak havoc on your health.
Hormones and Overall Health
Stress hormones are only meant to be released by the body on occasion. Yet, in the modern world, feeling “stressed out” every day is increasingly common. Those who are chronically stressed are at a higher risk of health problems, including weight gain, high blood pressure, thyroid issues and higher risks for infection, fatigue, insomnia, depression, anxiety and gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea and constipation.
Too much stress also can cause an irregular menstrual cycle and infertility in women, as well as a decreased libido in both men and women. Because stress also triggers mood swings and irritability, a hormone imbalance can lead to personal problems. Overall, when stress creates a hormonal imbalance, it’s capable of negatively affecting your entire life.
Ways to Manage Stress
Becoming aware of when and why you’re feeling stressed is the first step to addressing a stress-induced hormone imbalance. By learning how to stay calm during tense situations, you’ll be able to better control your reactions to external stimuli.
Some great ideas for reducing stress and eliminating a hormone imbalance include:
Adopting a regular exercise routine
Practicing daily meditation, mindfulness and/or deep breathing exercises
Improving your sleep hygiene
Minimizing your consumption of caffeine and alcohol
Establishing and maintaining a healthy diet
Evaluating and adjusting your work-life balance
Seeking out emotional support from family and friends
Enlisting the help of a therapist, psychologist or other mental health professional also may help you better manage your stress and improve your health.
It’s not always easy to figure out what’s going on inside your body. By paying attention to how you feel and your reactions to stressful situations, you may be able to identify and treat a potential hormone imbalance.
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