Stress is the body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. We react to these changes with physical, mental and emotional responses. It is a normal part of life and we experience stress from the environment, our body and our thoughts.
Stress isn’t always a bad thing as it keeps us alert and ready to avoid danger. It also helps for a burst of extra energy and focuses – when you’re playing a competitive sport or speaking in public.
Stress becomes negative when it is continuous, without relief or relaxation. As a result, we become overworked, and stress-related tension builds. It may then lead to anxiety and depression or other illness’ such as high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches…
Daily stressors like disagreements with others, being stuck in traffic, or losing your keys can negatively impact your health and well-being.
Your body produces cortisol to allow you to cope with stress. However, consistently high levels of cortisol can be damaging to your body. This is why prolonged stress is not good for your health.
The hormone oestrogen helps maintain the level of cortisol in the body. But as you go through menopause, the levels of oestrogen begin to drop. This means you are unable to regulate cortisol levels in your body as effectively as before, causing you to experience stress more readily.
Can stress bring on an early menopause?
There is ongoing research around this topic. Generally it is thought that continual high levels of stress can cause you to experience menopause-like symptoms but this does not actually induce menopause.The reason for this is, if the level of cortisol is continually high, this echoes the effect of having little oestrogen in the body to regulate it.
How we cope with stressors can also determine their impact. Strategies like ignoring or denying them (what experts call avoidance coping), or distracting ourselves, which may be effective short-term, can also undermine our health and happiness in the long run.
Mindfulness helps us to recognize and observe our thought patterns. With practice, we can develop the ability to recognize when thoughts arise, and observe them in a detached manner, without the need to become involved in them (thus not triggering an emotional or “automatic” reaction).
As with any new set of skills, practice is essential. To gain the full benefits of mindfulness I recommend the regular daily practice. Therefore I will ask you to do two 10-20 minute exercise/meditations each day that is provided via dropbox.
Please note this support is not designed for people who are acutely ill nor is it a substitute for professional therapy.
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