Times in our 30s and 40s can be busy and stressful for women. I’ve experienced it myself, and I see it in my friends. While life pulls us in all directions and puts heavy demand on us, there is good reason to do less. Two talks I recently heard about the effects of stress on women are such an eye-opener that I decided to share them here with my women friends.
Imagine here two buckets, one filled with stress hormones and another filled with female sex hormones. When we are under stress, cortisol, a primary stress hormone, kicks in to prepare us to fight or flight the stress. A prolonged period of stress depletes our limited reserve from the stress hormone bucket by draining it faster than it can be replenished. When the stress hormone reserve gets depleted, the body converts progesterone, one of the female sex hormones, into cortisol. The body’s survival mechanism prioritizes survival (i.e. dealing with stress) over reproduction (i.e. producing sex hormones) and allocates resources accordingly. This is where things get tricky for women. Our bucket of sex hormones, progesterone and estrogen, is also limited, and as we reach around age 35, the first natural big dip of progesterone occurs. Another big dip, this time of both estrogen and progesterone, happens around age 50, leading to menopause. When we have enough estrogen and progesterone in our bucket, we can ride these hormonal dips without major issues. When our sex hormones have been constantly borrowed to fill the stress bucket, we experience imbalances somewhere along the way, including irregular menstrual cycle, challenging menopause, fatigue, thyroid issues, fertility issues and weight gain in the middle of the body.
Many of us may not realize that we have been depleting sex hormones to deal with stress until we experience severe symptoms. In the process, we have likely missed subtler signs of depletion. It’s never too late to make a shift and start nurturing our body. If your life feels so busy and you find yourself pushing through tiredness, let’s take a small step towards doing less. I suggest finding one thing you can drop. In part 2 of this thread, I will provide tips on how we can get to doing less.
*The content of this post is based on talks by Mona Warner, Ayurvedic Health Consultant and Yoga Alliance Registered Yoga Teacher and Dr. Claudia Welch, a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, an Ayurvedic practitioner and educator.