Stress is the brain’s natural response to a demand. All living creatures are armed with a stress response that allows them to act in dangerous situations. When faced with a threat, the body releases a flood of hormones including adrenaline, cortisol and noradrenaline, triggering a host of responses. A woman under stress may experience a rapid heart rate, perspiration, increased oxygen requirements, tensed muscles, and rising blood sugar levels.
These physical responses manifest into a variety of symptoms including stomach upset, abnormal heart rate, irregular periods, low sex drive, depression and anxiety. If these responses continue over time, as in the case of chronic stress, imagine what it can do to a woman’s health.
Unfortunately, not all stress can be eliminated. A woman living with stress related to divorce, a job or illness can’t just suddenly make it go away, but she can choose how to deal with it. Some studies have shown that it is not stress itself that negatively impacts a woman’s health, but rather how the woman reacts to stressors, the agents that cause stress.
Many gynecologists can recognize stress based on the symptoms. By talking openly and honestly about what is going on in your life, your OBGYN can help you deal with stress in a positive way. Self-help techniques for managing stress include decreasing caffeine intake, cutting out alcohol and drugs, exercising daily, talking about your concerns, and practicing breathing and relaxation techniques.
Your gynecologist may also suggest stress management. These techniques help you identify and remove the source of stress or at least find a better way of coping with stress. This might include relaxation methods, such as yoga and aromatherapy, or professional therapy.
Some researchers say a woman’s attitude about stress is what is important. A University of Western Ontario study found that those who believe stress is affecting their health are at double the risk for a heart attack 10 years down the road. This indicates when a woman recognizes that stress is a part of life and changes the way she views it, it can actually be life saving.