by Tracy Bonczyk, founder of MiniMeditations.com
In today’s society, women are under a tremendous amount of stress. They face extraordinary pressures as they try to accommodate the demands of both home and career. In an attempt to perform their delicate balancing act they place their own needs on the back burner as they care for everyone around them.
When under stress, the body releases strong hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol and oxytocin. Adrenaline primes the body to react quickly and evokes the “fight or flight” response. The body responds with increasing heart rate, higher blood pressure and rapid breathing. When high levels of adrenaline are released into the bloodstream, the body may respond with dizziness or heart palpitations.
Cortisol is the primary stress hormone. It is known to increase blood pressure and blood sugar levels, decrease effectiveness of the immune system, and suppress the digestive system, reproductive system and growth processes.
Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter and brain chemical that has a calming effect during stress. Although both men and women produce oxytocin under stress, studies show that estrogen enhances the effects of oxytocin, whereas testosterone blocks the effects.
Oxytocin is the chemical responsible for stimulating uterine contractions during childbirth and milk excretion during lactation. It is also believed to facilitate the emotional bond between mother and child. When women are stressed out they tend to spend more time around friends and seek out support of others. Scientists believe the “love hormone” of oxytocin is responsible for this reaction.
When the body is subjected to chronic stress it is constantly flooded with stress hormones. Overexposure can in turn lead to health issues including obesity, insomnia, heart disease, depression, digestive ailments and other complications.
Research has shown that an overproduction of stress hormones can slow the release of stomach acid and stimulate the colon. Many women suffering from stress also suffer from gastrointestinal problems including diarrhea, constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. Excessive cortisol production can put you at risk of weight gain, particularly around the waist.
Chronic stress confuses the immune system and suppresses features which may make you susceptible to infections. It can lead to overproduction of cytokines, which results in inflammation. This can be particularly painful for women with autoimmune diseases such as Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis or Rheumatoid Arthritis. Stress is known to worsen autoimmune disease symptoms and can trigger lupus flare-ups.
Cortisol produces byproducts which act as sedatives and can induce depression. Stress induced depression often results in insomnia, loss of appetite and loss of sex drive. It can also lead to certain personality or behavioral disorders.
Long term exposure to an overproduction of stress hormones can raise your heart rate and increase blood pressure and cholesterol levels. These factors can make you more vulnerable to heart disease and stroke.
Stress is part of life, but you can take steps to manage the impact it has on you. These strategies can include exercise, proper nutrition, relaxation techniques and a strong support network.
Two highly effective stress management techniques include meditation and hypnosis. Meditation is just a matter of taking time to sit quietly and relaxing your muscles while focusing on a certain breathing technique. In less than 15 minutes, you can feel rejuvenated and relaxed.
Hypnosis is a scientifically proven technique used to trigger your natural relaxation response. It can help you change the way you react to stress, both emotionally and chemically, and it encourages both mental and physical well-being.
If you are currently dealing with chronic stress consider incorporating meditation or hypnosis techniques into your daily routine. If you have never used these techniques, hire a Certified Hypnotherapist to help you get started. It will only take a few sessions and then you can practice these stress reducing techniques on your own. You’ll be amazed at how much better you can feel, so quickly!