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Why stress messes with your hormones

The number one cause of hormonal imbalance is stress.

Not age, not genetics, not a bad roll of the dice.

Stress – mental, emotional, and physical – can dramatically shift your hormone levels independent of all those other factors. 

It all comes down to something which we, in functional medicine, call ‘the cortisol steal’

In reality, cortisol doesn’t ‘steal’ anything.

It’s simply a way of describing how the body prioritises making cortisol over other important hormones like oestrogen, testosterone and progesterone when you are going through a stressful time.

This has disastrous consequences for anyone dealing with a hormone-related issue such as menopause, PMS or anxiety.

The worst part is that when you get the ‘diagnosis’ of menopause, PMS etc. you probably immediately start googling ways to deal with your issue.

But you kind of forget to factor in the stress.

Maybe because stress has become such an integral part of your life that you start to see it as part of your personality?

If you ever describe yourself as ‘stressy’, a ‘worrier’ or an ‘over-thinker’, you have got a problem.

You weren’t born that way.

Instead, you have developed a range of unhealthy habits and behaviours that result in high levels of everyday stress.

Your focus should be on changing your lifestyle and behaviours in order to reduce the amount of cortisol being produced by your adrenal glands.

This gives your body a chance to produce adequate levels of the other hormones needed for a healthy balance.

I explain it all in this week’s video 👇

And if you need help putting together your own personal stress management plan and FINALLY achieve the ideal work/life balance, well….. you know where to find me.

(Duration 3:28 min. Hit CC for subtitles)

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Want a stress resilient brain?

The relationships between our thoughts, our biology, the world around us and our health and wellbeing are complex.

But keeping your brain healthy and happy so that it’s more capable of dealing with everyday stress triggers doesn’t have to be difficult.

Neuroscience has provided a great deal of insights into what it takes to build a brain that is capable of dealing effectively with pressure and adversity.

So if you want a more stress resilient brain, here are 4 steps that you can take straight away:

Prioritise sleep. Sleep deprivation (like the one you might have after a late night celebrating the win of the #lionesses in the #euro2022 🥳), impacts on your ability to think clearly, solve problems and recall information. So make sure that you get an early night tonight

Move. Being physically active increases blood flow to the brain and brings fresh oxygen to your brain cells. Maybe take a quick walk around the block when you’re done watching my video? Just 10 minutes can make a real difference to your wellbeing

Find your moments of calm. Get your diary out for this week. Identify a daily time block of 15 minutes. Book the slot for me-time. Meditate, practice mindfulness or self-hypnosis (if you need something pre-recorded, make sure to check out my online self-hypnosis programme). Alternatively, simply take a nap (see point 1 above). The brain needs down-time. Make it happen

Challenge your brain by learning something new. If your work isn’t intellectually stimulating and pushes you out of your cognitive comfort zone, the time has come for you to take up a new hobby. Tai Chi is an excellent activity which calms you, helps you to focus and gets you out of the house to meet new people if you go to your local sports or community centre. Try it. Your brain will thank you for it

Here’s an easy Tai Chi programme that I found on YouTube

What do you think?

Are you willing to give it a go?

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Find your stress triggers

It’s important that you know how to find your stress triggers.

Stress triggers are situations, events or, very commonly, thoughts that make you feel uncomfortable to the extent that you want to attack the thing that’s upset you or run away from it.

That’s what commonly known as the fight or flight response

Recent research indicates that the top 3 stress triggers in the UK are financial problems, work demands and personal relationships. 

But you do know how to find YOUR stress triggers?

This week, I’d like to take you through a short scoring exercise to help you find your stress triggers.

You need a pen and paper.

And then I’d like for you to score these five areas in terms of whether they are causing you little/ no stress or a lot of stress:

  1. Money
  2. Work
  3. Personal Relationships
  4. Health
  5. Meaning & Purpose

Simply follow along with the video and see how you get on.

Once you’ve got your scores and identified your stress triggers, feel free to get in touch and share your thoughts and I’ll send you a few tips on how to address the issue that’s troubling you.

I’d love to hear from you.

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What are Socratic questions?

In my previous blog, I told you how Socratic questions can help you to support someone who’s suffering from chronic stress.

Today, we use Socratic questioning in therapy and coaching and the aim is to engage and elicit a detailed understanding of the situation or problem that the client is facing.

You can use Socratic questioning to help someone close to you to get unstuck but you can also use the technique to question yourself.

Why bother?

Because it’s a well-known fact that you often can’t see the wood for the trees.

When we are tangled up in a stressful situation, we fail to see all the different aspects and we lack perspective. Whilst to others there seem to be a range of options and solutions, we ourselves have no idea how to move forward and we feel stuck.

So why not try these questions:

  1. What’s contributing to your current sense of unhappiness/stress/anxiety/frustration… (this is a Socratic question used for clarification)?
  2. What assumptions are you making (ALWAYS question your assumptions; the brain has a nasty habit of filling in the blanks when you don’t have the full picture)?
  3. Is there an alternative point of view which may be just as valid (Socrates was always pushing for his pupils to look at a situation through a different lens)?
  4. What are the long-term implications of acting or not acting on your current sense of unhappiness/stress/anxiety/frustration…? 

This last question is my absolute favourite.

When I find myself procrastinating on making a decision, writing down my thoughts on implications of action vs inaction usually helps me straight away.

Procrastination is a major stress trigger so this is a good tool to have in your toolbox.

I go through it all in this week’s video.

I hope you like it