In today’s modern society, being busy and productive is seen as a badge of honour. Busy busy busy, work work work! If you’re not doing or constantly producing, you are slacking off. Back in the day when we were not constantly reachable by phone or email, when our work day was done, we were able to go home and spend time with our family and rest. I remember during my childhood in Italy often seeing adults and elderly people simply sitting out in the street in the evenings chatting or people watching. Nowadays our work never seems to stop, we are constantly online and available and being stressed has become synonymous with daily life.
Some of us may have become so used to running on stress hormones, that it may feel strange when we are not always on the go, or when we stop, we crash. One of my clients was telling me the other day, for example, that she absolutely adores what she does for her work and loves being in a constant creative flow, but when she eventually takes time off, she is almost bedridden with fatigue. On my client intake form I have a question ‘do you feel guilty when relaxing?’ and more often than not, the answer that is ticked is ‘yes’. Isn’t that crazy when you think about it? And what are the consequences of being a society of Energiser bunnies?
Let’s have a look at some signs which may indicate that you are running on stress hormones. Do you identify with any of these? If so, let’s chat!
10 signs you are running on stress hormones:
- Sugar cravings
- Needing caffeine to keep energy levels up
- Irregular or painful periods, or symptoms such as night sweats
- Struggling to sleep or waking up in the night
- Frequent urination
- Constipation or bloating
- Not hungry in the morning
- Feeling anxious, overwhelmed or losing your sh*t at the drop of a hat
- Exhausted but seem to have more energy after a workout (which you never skip)
- Feeling cold all the time
How many people do you know that are experiencing these symptoms? I sure do know a few, and I was one of them! Here’s the thing: the stress hormone cortisol can give us a temporary energy boost, because it’s there to keep us alive. In a life or death situation (say, we find ourselves we are face to face with a bear) cortisol will increase our blood sugar to help us fight or flee, will give us laser sharp focus so we can assess the situation, and will downregulate digestion and reproduction because these functions are not essential for survival. So when we are running on stress hormones we may feel more energetic (to begin with!), not feel hunger and even feel like we are more alert and sharp than normal. Awesome right? Not so much. The stress response should be a temporary measure, for emergencies, not a state we should be permanently in. In the long run, the constant release of stress hormones will mean that our digestion is compromised, leading us to feel bloated all the time or constipated. Our reproductive system will have been downregulated, which can show up as irregular or painful periods, PMS symptoms or even menopausal symptoms such as night sweats. Our blood sugar will be messed up and we may find ourselves with crazy sugar cravings or prone to bingeing due to being on a blood sugar rollercoaster. With hormones and blood sugar out of whack we may also be feeling more anxious or overwhelmed, or find ourselves losing our proverbial sh*t at the drop of a hat. We may feel tired but wired, unable to fall asleep or stay asleep, waking up multiple times a night to urinate. And because constant activation of our stress mechanism will impact thyroid function and metabolic health, we may start to feel cold all the time.
Does this symptom picture resonate with you at all? If so, the first step is recognising that stress may be affecting you – once you have acknowledged it then you can start doing something about it! Here are my top tips for reducing stress:
- Eat regular meals to balance blood sugar and blunt stress hormones. That means eating within 30 minutes of waking up, girl! And having regular meals and snacks throughout the day. Always combine a protein with a carbohydrate and some fat for optimal blood sugar balance.
- Get outside in the daylight and move your body regularly. When I say move your body, I do not mean punish yourself with gruelling workouts every day. Getting outside for a walk in nature in the mornings can do wonders not only for our mental health, but also helps lower our stress hormones and set us up for great sleep later in the day. If you have a sedentary job, take breaks throughout the day and move your body.
- Prioritise sleep. I have talked about the importance of sleep extensively in this blog post. If you are neglecting sleep or finding that sleep is an issue, work on optimizing sleep. Lack of sleep is a further stressor on the body, which will perpetuate your stress symptoms.
- Rest. This is so important! If you are feeling tired, sleepy or fatigued, take a break rather than forcing yourself to push through with exercise. The whole ‘you’ll never regret a workout’ mentality is so toxic, as it justifies pushing our bodies above the limit when really what we actually may need is some well deserved rest! If you have not slept properly the night before, opt for a more restorative form of exercise such as walking or yoga.
- Re-evaluate your life load, prioritise and learn to say NO! We cannot be everything to everyone, so it’s important to look at all the things we are saying yes to and prioritise. Look at your weekly or monthly schedule and if it’s packed to the rims, consider cutting back some activities or tasks to ensure you have some much needed downtime.
Let me know if you have tried any of these tips and how you got on. If you would like to have a one-to-one chat with me to see how lowering your stress can help your health flourish, then click here to book a free 30 minute discovery call with me and let’s get you started on your healing journey!