Stress, Women’s Health, and How They’re Connected

January 29, 2021   Wellness

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Let’s talk about stress, because who isn’t stressed these days?

Whether you’re a busy working mom juggling online learning and Zoom calls, a young adult trying to make her mark on the world in uncertain times, or you’re an expectant mother navigating pregnancy in a pandemic; stress impacts all of us.

It makes an appearance in many forms and can be triggered by a variety of different things: a robust to-do list at work, an argument with a partner, a sick parent, a recent death, financial troubles, sleepless nights, the terrible two’s, etc. When stress levels increase, it can take a physical and emotional toll on a woman’s health. Let’s talk about signs, symptoms, and coping mechanisms.

Signs of physical stress

  • Headaches
  • Overeating/ undereating
  • Upset stomach
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Pain, commonly in the back and neck areas
  • Skin problems
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Decrease in energy
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Signs of emotional and mental stress

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Frustration
  • Mood swings
  • Forgetfulness
  • Trouble with decision making
  • Inability to focus
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The impacts of stress on fertility and women's health

Research has found that stress alone does not cause infertility, however, it can lead to unhealthy behaviors that might attribute to fertility issues. For example, stress may cause you to sleep too much or not at all, drink one too many alcoholic or caffeinated beverages, lose interest in intimacy, or smoke. Just as an unhealthy diet and being overweight can hinder your fertility, being underweight and not eating enough can affect the ability to reproduce as well. Someone coping with stress in an unhealthy way might resort to dieting or experience a loss of appetite. Too much of this can affect your menstrual cycle and ovulation.

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Healthy coping mechanisms

There are healthy ways to help you work through the stressors in your life. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the following:

  • Prioritize your care. Give yourself a break when you need it.
  • Know you’re not alone. Communicate your feelings with your loved ones, a therapist, or your doctor. Ask for help!
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol. Although they may seem like a helpful coping mechanism, abusing drugs or alcohol can create additional problems and add more stress.
  • Recognize when you need more help. If problems continue or you are thinking about suicide, talk to a psychologist, social worker, or professional counselor.
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A few additional stress relievers

  • Laugh more: Laughter does wonders for the body. It decreases stress hormones and increases your immunity. It also releases endorphins and can temporarily relieve pain.
  • Say “no”: Don’t put too much on your plate. As much as possible, say “yes” to the things that bring you joy.
  • Get outside: A little fresh air can do wonders! Take some deep breaths and a nice long walk.
  • Move your body: Exercising daily will not only improve your mood, but it will improve your quality of life as well!
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Rebecca Banaski, DO, MPH

There is not a one size fits all when it comes to stress reduction. Try to find moments in your day for yourself. It can be as simple as going outside and breathing in the fresh air or performing a five-minute meditation. All these little moments throughout the day will help your overall stress reduction.

— Rebecca Banaski, DO

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