Meno Health. Clinical Evidence.

EN TWC #004: Was wir in 12 Monaten über Stress gelernt haben

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What we have learnt about stress in 12 months.

I (Adrian) consider myself to be a reasonable and rational person.

With a combination of analysing and supporting evidence, I can usually assess situations correctly and with confidence. 

However, that doesn’t always work. 

In my opinion, there are situations in life where even the most reasonable and rational people react emotionally and irrationally.

This also happens to me.  I asked myself why situations arise in which I switch off my rationality and my body starts to react violently. 

Why?

The answer is: because I’m under stress.

We spent 12 months dealing with the issue of stress. This is what we have learnt:

Menopause can increase stress.

During the menopause, stress can play a complex and difficult role. 

The hormonal changes during the menopause can cause physical, mental and emotional symptoms that are stressful enough in themselves. Stress can exacerbate these symptoms and make them more difficult to deal with. Menopausal stress can be triggered by a variety of factors, such as sleep disturbances, hot flushes, mood swings or the general challenge of dealing with the changes that this stage of life brings. 

It is important to emphasise that not all stress during the menopause is bad. Some women can use stress as motivation to increase their energy and focus. However, it is important to realise when stress becomes a problem during the menopause and what strategies there are to deal with it and reduce it.

Your body shows you when you are under stress

Acute stress

Sometimes you feel stressed for a short time. Normally, this is nothing to worry about. For example, when you have to deliver a project or speak in front of a group of people. Maybe you feel «butterflies» in your stomach and your palms get clammy.

These positive stressors are short-lived and are your body’s way of helping you cope with a difficult situation.

Chronic stress

Being under stress for too long can have a negative impact on your physical, mental and emotional health, especially if the stress becomes chronic. You should know the warning signs of chronic stress so that you can do something about it.

The physical effects of chronic stress include

– Headaches

– High blood pressure

– Digestive problems

– Sleep disturbances or too much sleep

– Muscle pain and tension

– Changes in libido

Among the emotional effects of chronic stress, the following should be emphasised:

– Feeling unable to do things

– Lack of motivation

– restlessness

– Mood swings

– anxiety

– Irritability

– Sadness or depression

Sometimes you feel that you have too much stress. If you think you can’t cope with it, you should see a specialist. Talk to your GP to find out whether your symptoms are stress or an anxiety disorder.

He or she can also refer you to a mental health specialist and provide you with additional resources and tools.

Signs of stress overload are:

You feel like you’re constantly under pressure

– Constant rumination

– Overeating

– Panic attacks

– Drinking or taking drugs to cope with stress

– Smoking

– Depression

– Withdrawal from family and friends

Causes of stress

Stress is different for everyone. What stresses you out may not even stress out your best friend and vice versa. But there are many causes of stress that can have a negative impact, for example

– Working too hard

– Marital or relationship problems

– Death in the family

– Busy schedule

– Being bullied

– Lost a job

– Recently separated or divorced

– Difficulties at school

– Family problems

– Recent move

Nevertheless, our body always reacts to stressors in the same way. This is because the reaction is the way the body deals with difficult or stressful situations. Stress causes changes in hormone levels, breathing, the cardiovascular system and the nervous system. For example, stress can cause your heart to beat faster, you breathe faster, sweat and feel tense. But it can also give you a boost of energy.

This is the body’s so-called «fight or flight» response. This chemical reaction prepares the body for a physical response because it believes it is under attack. This type of stress helped our human ancestors survive in the wild.

Stress diagnosis

If you are struggling to cope with stress, or if your reaction to a particular event is more intense and lasts longer than usual, it’s a good idea to speak to a professional who can help you.

They will probably ask questions about the following:

– Whether a traumatic event has occurred in the last 3 months

– Whether your stress levels are higher than usual when reacting to situations at home or at work

– Whether your stress could be related to grief

– Whether you are suffering from a mental disorder that could be related to your stress

Based on your answers to these questions and the other areas you address, the professional may recommend some things that can help you.

Stress management

Stress doesn’t have to have a negative impact on you if you learn how to deal with it. Some things you can try are:

– Figure out what stresses you out – at home or at work – and find ways to avoid those situations.

– Don’t take on too much and prioritise. Give yourself breaks and be more forgiving if you don’t get everything done.

– Self-criticism can increase your stress. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones.  Tell yourself: «I think I can do this» instead of: «I know I can’t do this».

– Build up a network of close friends and colleagues who you can turn to when the stress gets too much. A hobby or voluntary work can be a good outlet.

– Cut down on smoking and drinking. Alcohol and tobacco have a reputation for relaxing you, but in reality they can make you more anxious.

– Eat a healthy diet. A balanced diet can help your body stay healthy and cope better with stress. Dark chocolate and vitamin C-rich foods such as oranges and grapefruit can reduce stress hormones.

– Take time for yourself and do some exercise. A 15 to 20-minute walk three times a week can break up your day and help you reduce stress.

– Meditation, deep breathing, guided imagery or other relaxation techniques can help you calm your mind.

– Sleep it off. You may need to limit your caffeine intake during the day and screen time at night. A to-do list can help you plan the next day and get a restful night’s sleep.

If these steps don’t help you deal with your stress, talk to your doctor about seeing a specialist.

And remember, get support early enough. Top athletes have a whole network of supporters. What about you?

Joëlle & Adrian

You can also find further information at «The American Institute of Stress» 

at: www.stress.org

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