The other day during a consultation, I asked a woman what stressed looked like in her life. She responded that she felt it was good , felt financially stable and was successful at her job. As I continued to ask her other questions around stress, which included: how healthy was her relationship to food? how nourishing was her intimate relationship? how many times a week did she get outside in nature? and how fulfilling was her job? , we dove deeper into the conversation and it became more transparent that her idea of stress was actually not just one shade , but was a whole spectrum of colors .
This woman is not alone, as I frequently hear women express their stress levels in measurement of finances and career success. Both are linear expressions of success and both obviously supported in our culture versus our success measured in connection to self and other. Of course financial stability is most certainly an important spoke on the wheel , but spreading light and awareness all of our actions, needs and values , as women, is foundational when trying to achieve hormonal harmony.
As women, we are straight up awesome when it comes to how we respond to stress and our ability to take on a variety of stressors. We are natural caregivers and queens of multi tasking. We can tend the needs of our family, build our business’s and be support for our girlfriend’s heartache. We can have 9 million tasks to complete and we do them all with strength and grace. HOW we literally respond to stressors, big and small, is also another amazing ability of ours. It has been scientifically proven that under stress we respond as a woman, not a man. We seek out the action of “tend and befriend” versus the masculine way of flight or fight. If a tiger, for example, is attacking our village, we respond by protecting our loved ones-tending- and gathering in numbers with other women- befriending. We find strength in numbers and community, all the while raising our much needed caregiver hormone (see my last post!), oxytocin. So , biologically, its a win-win. Yes, we are awesome.
Our awseome-ness can , however , take a toll on our bodies and cycle. Like the woman I spoke with the other day, we can miss some very big stressors in our life , directly impacting our cycles. We hold so much power to do, to do MORE, and to be more, that we tend to wake up with a pile of stress on our shoulders, forgoing time for self care and solitude and end up with unstable moods, weight gain , and painful periods. Yes, stress can cause all of this and I say is the number one reason why women are hormonally imbalanced.
Besides the divinely perfect way we respond to stress with tend and befriend , we do respond to stress with a cascade of hormonal responses. Our neuroendrocrine systems want us to achieve balance at all times and will do whatever it takes to do this. So, when the tiger is chasing us , or we are fighting with our partner, we literally are experiencing a STEAL in our sex hormones, specifically progesterone. This progesterone is what we want more and more of as we age and as we go through PMS. Too little of it is the reason we experience PMS. Our body sees no reason for to release this calming , non-bloating, sleep well, make babies hormone when we are are getting chased by a tiger or pushing too hard on our bodies! Each and every stressor in our life signals our body to pay more attention to the stressor versus a balanced hormonal cycle. This is a key piece of knowledge for us women! Simply put , the amount of stress and stressors we have in our day to day directly impacts our menstrual cycle. This will ALWAYS be the case.
So, what does this mean? Have no stress in our life? Obviously not the answer and the experience of good stress (getting ready for an amazing vacation) is actually important for immune function and decreasing inflammation. It means taking a close and clear look at the variety of ways stress shows up in our lives as women and ways we can manage the stress. Bringing more awareness to the variety of stressors in all areas of our life is a start and simply the best medicine.
Some obvious and not so obvious stressors in your life that could be creating an imbalanced hormonal cycle:
Not getting enough sleep- sleep is foundational to balance our internal rhythms, our moods and support our nervous system. End result- balanced hormones. Try to go to sleep the same time every night and wake at same time, even on weekends. Get in a rhythm to provide a rhythm for yourself.
Skipping meals- under nourishing your body- and mind- is a major stressor and sends wave of signals to your body that you are under attack! Skipping meals means blood sugar meltdown which gives your body another reason to not produce calming, non-bloating, happy hormones. Nourishing your body with food at proper times of the day will never be underestimated. Set your day up with a super goddess breakfast-protein and fat!- and continue to eat every 4 hours. Snack only if you feel you need to.
Drinking caffeine- While you are deciding to skip a meal and get a coffee , you are setting your self up for PMS and a challenging period. Caffeine stimulates your body into blood sugar havoc, messes with your internal rhythm of sleep, and increasing excess estrogen - the not so fun hormone in our menstruating bodies. Excess estrogen is the reason we feel fat, are bitchy and have a hard time coping in general. Limiting our caffeine intake to green tea or not drinking it all, will support your ability to sleep deeply, have a clear mind and feel comfortable in your skin.
Being in a relationship that is not serving-Having a clear, conscious , loving relationship may not seem like it makes that much of a difference to your menses when the last thing you want to do is be around your partner during PMS. However, the relationships we choose directly reflect our choice to love ourselves. Constant arguing , repeating toxic patterns and loss of intimate connection in a relationship triggers our deepest wound of abandonment and nourishment. Without enough nourishment in the form of love from and with our partner , we are in a state of stress and are taxing our systems on a slow steady release of stress hormones. I chose to list this one because this is a stressor that is so commonly looked over because of denial or shame and I find it to be the most dramatic change in a woman’s -happiness -and hormonal balance -when addressed. Bring some raw awareness to the issues within your relationship by seeking support through a life coach, therapist and community.
Lack of self love in the form of body shame- this is a big one with women . Eating disorders, overexercising, negative self talk , and a need to be perfect. Ingrained deep and wide into our subconscious by the media, our parents, our ancestors , and culture. Looking in the mirror and wanting to be thinner, prettier , and perfect is depleting our pool of happy and confident hormones and increasing our signals to our body around scarcity, i.e.: we are not enough. Again, the constant drip of negative body talk continues to leave us in the shame corner where we will be repeating a pattern time after time of disconnecion from self , shut off our power of intuition and decrease our ability to connect with our feminine power. Having a practice of choosing love , over shame, each time you see yourself in a mirror or each time you come across an image that triggers a reaction of “I am not enough” , is foundational for you , me and every girl and woman to access her power. Get in the habit of choosing love over shame by repeating these words in the mirror “I will not determine my self worth based on appearance.”
Some herbs and nutrients to support stress:
Rhodiola: This herb is part of the adaptogenic family, meaning it responds with your body and stress by adapting to your needs versus a specific action. For instance, low energy, during your cycle can be supported by Rhodiola by providing sustainable energy versus what a stimulant ,like caffeine, may do. Rhodiola works with our HPA axis , which is like a switchboard to for our female system of hormones, by strengthening the communication of our sex and stress hormones. Better communication means more energy, better mood, deeper sleep cycles, and balanced digestion...outcomes we want for our cycles. Choose high quality brands in tincture or concentrated capsules.
Mucuna: Mucuna is hands down one of my favorite herbs for stress and women's cycles. Its a traditionally been used in Ayurvedic medicine and comes from Africa and Asia. I love this herb for women because of its ability to increase dopamine. The best way to explain what l-dopamine is ; think of a time when you feel happy, calm, focused and centered. This is what mucuna increases and we all know that our testy moods and meltdowns during our cycles , could use a little of this mucuna love.
BioActive B Complex- This is the activated form of the B vitamins and are the best way to assist your body in using the B vitamins. We need B vitamins when we stress and as women we specifically need them to help with our cycles. B12 and B6 help with the cascade of physical symptoms in our body manifests when stressed: low energy, blood sugar swings, sleep disturbance, poor quality of blood during menstruation, unable to think clearly. Find a formula that is activated and take throughout your cycle.
Stick with me to keep uncovering the womanly ways we can access PUROSE, PLEASURE and POWER during our cycles.
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