Stress is a huge topic for women with symptoms of PCOS. That’s because studies have shown that women with PCOS produce higher than normal amounts of stress hormones, and they don’t metabolize them well.
So we make more stress hormones, namely cortisol, and they stick around longer.
In normal circumstances, we would become alarmed at something, our stress hormones, like cortisol, would increase, and then when the threat subsided our cortisol would lower, and our blood levels of stress hormones would lower too.
Not the case with PCOS.
Studies show that women with PCOS tend to have higher than normal cortisol levels. But it’s complicated for many reasons. Here are a few of them:
- High sugar diet: raises insulin (the key that gets sugar into our cells for fuel) which raises cortisol
- Lower progesterone: high cortisol = low progesterone, and progesterone is nature’s Valium. It’s very calming and good for the brain.
- Depression & Anxiety: women with PCOS have higher rates of depression and anxiety. Part of this is due to higher cortisol levels affecting our brain chemicals serotonin and GABA creating lower moods.
- Symptoms of PCOS: symptoms like extra weight, facial hair growth, being told that you’ll never have a child, acne, PMS symptoms and hormone imbalance in general is very stressful.
- Insulin resistance: one of the causes of insulin resistance is high cortisol levels. High insulin can delay ovulation, cause excess male hormones (androgens) to be produced.
- Extra fat storage: insulin resistance caused by high stress hormones causes us to store fat making symptoms of PCOS so much worse.
- Suppresses thyroid function and utilization of other hormones; high stress hormones actually make it harder for your body to make the active form of thyroid hormone, and makes the cells in your body less able to use estrogen, progesterone and thyroid hormones (which you already have less of).
To summarize, stress levels in women with PCOS are higher for so many reasons. But just having an awareness can help you to make some changes that will have a profound affect on your health.
To alleviate stress, the part of our nervous system called “flight or fight”, it’s important to do things that support the other part of our nervous system called “rest and digest.” And that’s where pleasure of every kind becomes very important.
This is where the 5% Solution can be very effective, because it encourages small changes over time. It promotes pleasure – the antidote to stress.
Here are 7 ways to lower stress right now:
- Implement the 5% Solution: Each week make one small change that moves you in the direction of lowering stress and healing. Think baby steps, and keep it going. Each baby step will lower the stress on your body.
- Add in the good instead of taking away the bad: instead of saying, “I can’t have this”; say, “I can have this”, and that will encourage you to stay on track and be motivated. One really simple thing you can do is add in more vegetables. For instance, cut up some of your favorite crunchy vegetables each day like carrots and celery, and have a bag of them as your go-to when you need something to munch on. Your stress will gradually begin to lower.
- Go Paleo (with beans): Managing your blood sugar and insulin spikes will lower stress dramatically. And protein is very grounding, so it helps with anxiety and depression because it feeds your brain the necessary amino acids for building happy brain chemistry. Focus your diet on healthy proteins, fats and carbohydrates in the form of vegetables. You can add in small amounts of low sugar fruits like berries and grapefruit, and beans if they seem to work for you.
- Eat more fat: this is where counting calories is completely wrong. Fat will feed your brain so you feel better. And it does not raise insulin, so we keep your stress hormones down. Focus on ground flax seed, coconut oil, coconut milk, olive oil, butter (from pastured cows), ghee, nuts and seeds.
- Sleep: sleep allows your body to heal, metabolize the stress hormones and rebuild for the next day. It is essential for managing stress. In fact, sleep could easily be the #1 thing to lower stress. Get at least 8 hours every night – to be no later than 10pm.
- Give yourself the gift of time: women need time. Period. If we feel we don’t have enough time, we get stressed. Especially in the morning. Give yourself time for self-care to feel beautiful. Just taking a bath with 2 cups of Epsom salts in the morning can make all the difference in your day.
- Take an Epsom salt bath: this is such a pleasurable, stress-relieving activity. Baths nourish the body in many ways. The warm water helps us to feel less lonely. It lowers blood pressure, relaxes muscles and helps to lower our stress hormones. And for women it tends to be especially nourishing. So light a candle, turn off the overhead lights and relax in a warm bath with 2 cups of Epsom salts and 10 drops of essential lavender oil.
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Enjoy the process and get to know your body. The biggest thing to remember is that our mind, body and spirit are one. Nourish yourself. Rest more. Laugh more. Get more pleasure in every way. And notice.
Ref: Beilock, Sian, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/choke/201201/feeling-lonely-take-warm-bath