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Often times we menopausal women don’t realize that our stress levels are elevated. We somehow grow accustomed to the chronic stress we experience on a daily basis. We might not see just exactly how this elevated level of stress is really affecting us. I truly understood upon my return from a trip to the beach with my family, how much I really needed that down time! Reading, lounging on the beach, soaking up some sea, sun and sand, cooking, spending time with my kids, and playing with the grandkiddies filled my soul and relaxed my being. I was even able to include some sunrise Yoga on the beach with my daughter, which was peaceful, grounding and calming.
Especially as menopausal women, stress can wreak havoc on our minds and bodies. I’m sending you this loving reminder to pay attention to what your body and mind are telling you and to address your stress levels regularly. Don’t wait until they’ve escalated into a debilitating health condition.
Just what is chronic stress and how is it affecting my health?
To a degree, a certain amount of stress is beneficial. It pushes us to excel and can help us adapt to our environment. Chronic stress however, is detrimental to our health and well-being. It can affect us negatively in multiple ways. Wikipedia defines chronic stress as “the response to emotional pressure suffered for a prolonged period of time in which an individual perceives he or she has little or no control. It involves an endocrine system response in which corticosteroids are released. While the immediate effects of stress hormones are beneficial in a particular short-term situation, long-term exposure to stress creates a high level of these hormones. This may lead to high blood pressure (and subsequently heart disease), damage to muscle tissue, inhibition of growth, suppression of the immune system, and damage to mental health.” Other serious effects of chronic stress on our bodies include contributing to aging, a possible link to an increase in Alzheimer’s disease, weight gain, digestive disorders and low libido.
What are the symptoms of chronic stress?
Emotional symptoms of stress include:
- Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody
- Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control
- Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind
- Feeling bad about yourself (low self-esteem), lonely, worthless, and depressed
- Avoiding others
Physical symptoms of stress include:
- Low energy
- Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
- Aches, pains, and tense muscles
- Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
- Frequent colds and infections
- Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
- Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet
- Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing
- Clenched jaw and grinding teeth
Cognitive symptoms of stress include:
- Constant worrying
- Racing thoughts
- Forgetfulness and disorganization
- Inability to focus
- Poor judgment
- Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side
What can you do to alleviate your stress?
Exercise! You need to get out and move! Exercise helps to reduce anxiety and improves your mood. Just twenty minutes of exercise when you are feeling stressed and anxious can do wonders! (Especially on the beach!)
Breathing & Meditation! Deep breathing leads to a relaxed body and mind. Set aside a few minutes each morning and evening to be present and take some deep cleansing breaths. Meditation is a fantastic stress reliever. There are both physical and mental benefits to using meditation. The physical benefits include lowering blood pressure, improving energy levels, and a reduction of the risk of heart disease and stroke. The mental benefits include decreasing anxiety and emotional instability, improves your mood, helps with rapid memory recall, improves learning and can even help with ADD. It can also help with menopausal symptoms. The fact remains that menopause stress can make us old! It can contribute to osteoporosis, the loss of skin elasticity, memory loss, and weight gain. By calming your mind and heart, you can reduce those menopausal symptoms and find some happiness! There are numerous guided Mediation apps out there. I like the Stop, Breathe, Think app which I recommend to my clients.
Gratitude Journaling: Focusing on and appreciating all of the good in our lives provides us with the ability to open ourselves up to more abundance. Writing down what we are thankful for provides us with a sense of peace and gratitude that can release us of the anxieties that hold our bodies and minds in their evil grip. Just start by writing down 5 things you are grateful for. Do it for 30 days and experience the difference it will make in your life.
Reduce/Eliminate: This might be a hard one! However, when you reduce or eliminate these things from your daily life, you will be amazed at how you feel! Caffeine: This stimulant can trigger your fight or flight response, which can make anxiety worse. Wine/Alcohol: Can also increase anxiety. News Programs: By limiting your exposure to the abundance of negative media we are bombarded with on a daily basis during times of extreme stress and anxiety in your own personal world, you can reduce the effects it will have on your personal health. This also goes for Violent Media as well for the same reasons. Devices: Too much computer and device time is linked to an increase in anxiety and depression.
Supplements: (always check with your primary care physician first)
Vitamin B Complex: The benefits of B vitamins are numerous including helping with healthy nervous system functioning.
Fish Oil: Several studies have shown that the omega-3 in fish oil helps with mood disorders and depression.
Magnesium: Low levels of magnesium in the body can lead to anxiety.
L-Theanine: This amino acid is found mostly in green and black tea. You can purchase it as a supplement, but should look for those made with Suntheanine. People diagnosed with anxiety have found that it helps by inducing a relaxing effect without causing drowsiness.
Herbal Teas: Chamomile/Lavender, passionflower, kava or peppermint, can all have a very soothing effect.
Probiotics: Recent studies show a direct connection with your gut bacteria and your brain. Researchers have found evidence that a balance of your gut bacteria may do more for your mood than any other contributing factor. Taking a good probiotic supplement as well as consuming probiotic foods will do wonders for your anxiety and depression. Some great probiotic foods are fermented veggies (such as sauerkraut, pickles and kimchi), Kefir (a kind of liquid yogurt drink), and kombucha tea.
These are a few things you can do now to help you on your way to reducing your chronic stress and anxiety. The most important thing you can do is to remember to stop, breathe, be present in each moment and provide your mind and body with the love you deserve.
Cheers & Love!! XO (and a stress free body!)