When we go through menopause and our estrogen levels drop, our cortisol levels rise. Cortisol is not bad but too much or too little can be a problem. Mastering stress management helps to keep our hormones more balanced so that we can reduce the severity and frequency of hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings. Stress can also contribute to anxiety, irritability and sadness which can be more prevalent in and after menopause. Click Here to read a full article about anxiety and menopause. Plus, when our body is dealing with high cortisol levels it can show up as excess weight, especially around our midsection. This is not only troubling from a cosmetic perspective but visceral fat increases disease risk. Practicing stress relieving techniques can help enhance emotional wellbeing and help reduce excess belly fat and disease risk.
Symptoms Your Body Is Telling You, “I’m Stressed”
Poor sleep quantity and quality
Exhausted but can’t sleep
Body aches and pains– head, stomach, muscles and joints
Skin problems– eczema, rosacea, acne, psoriasis, hives
Forgetfulness and irritability
Short temper and inflexibility
What we did when younger to relieve stress may not work as well now that we’re older.
Going for a long run, going out to eat with friends or de-stressing by kicking back a few can all add up to create more stress on our nervous system. Exercise is important in and after menopause but working out for long periods of time may cause more stress not only to our nervous system but to our joints as well. Read my blog Is More Always Better and Best Exercise for Women in Menopause. Overindulging in food and drink just causes more stress to our body and nervous system. Finding ways to reduce, offset and relieve stress in a more positive way will help our overall health and wellness during menopause and beyond.
Reduce, Offset, De-Stress
Reduce– If life is chaotic and you feel like you’re on a hamster wheel, finding small ways to reduce stress may seem insignificant but can add up to big benefits. Setting boundaries at work and with family and friends is a powerful way to take control of your time and life. Saying yes to an additional project at work may get you on the boss’s good side but at what cost to your health? Saying yes to every social invitation even if you’d rather be home in your pajamas with a good book will keep your calendar busy and depending on your personality could cause more stress than fun for you. Learning that the word “NO” is a perfectly good answer to requests from family, friends and coworkers is liberating. If you only have so much time in your week, stressing yourself out to put others' needs before your own is a sure-fire way to cause stress and resentment.
Offset– There are ways to offset stress even when life is crazy. Taking a moment in between work calls, chores or while stuck at a train to focus on breath is an easy way to offset stress. Focus on breathing in for a count of four or five, then exhaling for a count of eight to ten. Eating dark leafy greens and grass-fed meats and poultry can offset stress. Greens like kale, spinach and Swiss chard are excellent sources of magnesium which plays a crucial role in nerve function, blood glucose control and blood pressure regulation. It has been linked to stress reduction and relaxation. Grass fed meat compared to conventionally raised meat has higher levels of Omega 3 fatty acids which play a role in brain health and function. Omega 3 fatty acids have been associated with mood regulation and may help reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety. Other ways to offset stress can be as simple as hugging a pet, a baby or loved one and taking short breaks from work and screens.
De-Stress– Planning time to go for a walk in nature, visit with a dear friend or take a bubble bath are all wonderful ways to de-stress. These along with journaling, meditation and practicing The MELT Method take a little more time but will keep you feeling less stress well after you finish. Taking time on the weekend to watch a funny movie or go to your favorite museum or music venue will help you wind down from a stressful week. Engaging in a regular exercise program like walking, swimming, cycling and Pilates release endorphins for a natural mood boost. Getting a good night’s sleep is another way to lower stress hormones. Finding a calming evening ritual that promotes quality sleep is key. I’d like to share my secret with you. Years ago, when I had a lot of stress in my life, I could lay awake for hours worrying about things over which I had no control or items on my to-do list. I taught myself to detach from everything and everybody. I don’t mean this in a cold or negative way. I had to detach from what I had no control over and take control of what I could. Waking up in the middle of the night could cause me to be up for hours with my mind racing. I would say over and over to myself while walking to the bathroom and back to bed. “I am asleep. I am asleep.” This may seem silly, but it works. By only allowing myself to focus on the words, “I am asleep” kept my mind from turning to other thoughts and worries.
Learning how to de-stress can be challenging but like all things related to health and wellness, meet yourself where you’re at and take small steps in the right direction. Try one or two techniques that resonate with you. Give yourself a week or two and see how they work for you. You can always try adding or exchanging different modalities as you go.
As a health coach, I help you find what works for you and how we can go deeper to give you better results. If you’d like to learn more about how The 6 Pillars of Wellness can help you make the health and wellness changes you’re looking to achieve, email me at email@example.com.