Quite frankly, stress is unavoidable in life whether it is from your work, your relationships, whatever else in your life affecting you, or simply the impact of what is going on in the world around you right now.
Whatever the cause, it’s likely you experience some level of stress on a daily basis.
But while some day-to-day stress is normal (and can even be a good thing if it motivates you), chronic, overwhelming stress can have a negative impact on your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing – and that certainly affects your hormones.
Knowing how to spot the signs and symptoms that you’re under too much stress can help you stay aware and address the issues before they harm your health.
You might be overly stressed without even knowing it. Maybe you have certain physical symptoms and blame it on an illness or other condition.
But the truth is, stress itself can cause problems in your organs, tissues, and just about every system in your body.
Depending on how you handle stress, you might have symptoms that affect everything from your hormones to your heart, and more.
Four of the physical signs that your stress levels are too high include:
1. Pain or tension in your head, chest, stomach, or muscles. Your muscles tend to tense up when you’re stressed, and over time this can cause headaches, migraines, or musculoskeletal problems.
2. Digestive problems can include diarrhoea and constipation, or nausea and vomiting. Stress can affect how quickly food moves through your system and the way your intestines absorb nutrients.
3. Reproductive issues. Stress can cause changes to your sex drive, problems with irregular or painful periods in women, or impotence and problems with sperm production in men.
Whether you’re a man or a woman, you might also feel reduced sexual desire when you’re under too much stress.
4. Changes to your heart rate and blood pressure. When you’re overwhelmed with stress, your body goes into “fight-or-flight” mode, which triggers your adrenal glands to release the hormones cortisol and adrenaline.
These can make your heart beat faster and your blood pressure rise and usually happens when there’s a momentary stressor, and the effects pass once it’s over.
For example, you might find your heart racing if you’re late for an appointment or meeting, but then it calms down once you’re there.
However, over time, too many episodes of this kind of acute stress can cause inflammation in your arteries, which could be a contributing factor to heart attacks.
Mental and emotional signs
Stress can also affect how you think and feel, making it hard to get through your normal responsibilities and make rational decisions.
In some cases, this kind of stress can impact behaviour in other ways, and some people turn to drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or other harmful substances to cope with their feelings.
Excessive stress may also affect your appetite, causing you to eat more or less than usual, and it may affect or eliminate your motivation to exercise and stay fit.
Additionally, the feelings you get when you’re stressed may make you feel like withdrawing from friends and family and isolating yourself.
Some of the psychological and emotional signs that you’re stressed out include:
- Depression or anxiety
- Anger, irritability, or restlessness
- Feeling overwhelmed, unmotivated, or unfocused
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Racing thoughts or constant worry
- Problems with your memory or concentration
- Making bad decisions
When to get help
If you’re struggling with stress and don’t know how to cope, you may want to seek help. If talking to your partner or a close friend doesn’t help, then speak to your doctor to help you find out if the signs and symptoms you’re experiencing are from a medical issue or an anxiety disorder.
They can also refer you to a counsellor or other resources and tools.
Some of the signs it’s time to get help:
- Your home life, work or school performance is suffering
- You’re using alcohol, drugs, or tobacco to deal with your stress
- Your eating or sleeping habits change significantly
- You’re behaving in ways that are dangerous to yourself, including self-harm
- You have irrational fears and anxiety
- You have trouble getting through your daily responsibilities
- You’re withdrawing from friends and family
- You think about suicide or hurting other people
If your stress has reached the the point that you’re thinking of hurting yourself or someone else don’t hesitate, ask for help.
You can call one of the free national helplines, you don’t need to give your name. Two helpful ones are the Samaritans who are available 24/7 on 116 123 and the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) on 0800 58 58 58 from 5pm to midnight every day.
As you can see, stress is no respecter of age, situation or gender but it is true that women tend to become more anxious and stressed at Menopause due in part to the issues raised by the declining hormone levels.
Bioidentical progesterone is a natural relaxant and so can be very helpful when dealing with anxiety and stress, so if your levels are declining, or you are oestrogen dominant, then it makes sense to redress the balance.
Try to address the specific issue that is most distressing you, and look to see if you need help with hormone balance as anxiety and stress in particular are often helped if this is dealt with.
Don’t Underestimate The Effect Of Stress On Your Hormonal Symptoms