Are you running on stress hormones and in danger of burnout?

10 signs you are running on stress hormones:

You may have:

  1. Cravings for sugary foods
  2. A caffeine addiction – to keep energy levels up
  3. Issues with periods – they may be irregular or painful or you may experience night sweats
  4. Difficulty getting to sleep or waking up in the night
  5. Frequent urination
  6. Bloating or constipation
  7. Never needing breakfast – a lack of appetite in the morning
  8. Feeling anxious, overwhelmed or overreacting
  9. Feeling exhausted particularly from the afternoon onwards and using food or drink to prop yourself up BUT you have more energy after a workout (which you never skip)
  10. Feeling cold all the time

These are very common symptoms associated with the activation of stress hormones. I have experienced these plenty of times myself!

Cortisol (our stress hormone) can temporarily boost out energy – it’s there to keep us alive.  In a life or death situation (say, we find ourselves we are face to face with a ferocious animal like a lion) cortisol will increase our blood sugar to enable our muscles to work harder and faster and enable us to fight or flee. It will make our pupils dilate to see sharper and it will give us a greater mental focus so that we can assess the situation and decide how to respond. It will also downregulate other processes and functions that are not immediately required for survival – yes this includes digestion and our reproduction function neither of which are essential for survival. 

When we are running on stress hormones we may have more energy initially, feel more sharp and focused and we will not feel hunger.  The stress response should only be a temporary measure, so that we can avert danger and then carry on with our usual lives. It should not be something we are permanently in or come to rely on. 

If we do continually activate our stress response our digestion will be compromised, which may lead to bloating and constipation. Our periods may become irregular, painful or more unpredictable and may include worse PMS symptoms or menopausal symptoms such as night sweats. Our blood sugar levels will feel like we are on a massive rollercoaster which will become more difficult for our bodies to balance and may result in sugar cravings and even binging behaviours especially for those trying to watch their weight who are restricting their food intake.

With hormones and blood sugar out of balance this may manifest in us feeling more anxious waiting for the lion to re-appear or overwhelmed and we may find ourselves struggling to cope with everyday tasks.

All of this combined may result in feeling feel tired but wired or unable to fall asleep or stay asleep, waking up multiple times a night to urinate. Because constant activation of our stress response our thyroid function and metabolic health will also be affected and we may start to feel cold more often. 

Does this sound familiar?

If so, don’t panic! Understanding the pattern is the first step in taking back control! When we recognise the signs we are able to make different choices rather than repeating the same habits of behaviour. Here are some simple things we can do to reduce stress and its impact on us:

  1. Eat regular meals to balance blood sugar and blunt stress hormones.
    – Eat within 30 minutes of waking even if you do not immediately feel hungry.
    – Plan ahead to make sure you have regular meals and snacks throughout the day especially if you have additional dietary requirements that make eating on the go a challenge. I now see this as an extension of planning the snacks and foods for my daughter – I do the same for me!
    – Remember to combine a protein with a carbohydrate and some fat for optimal blood sugar balance.
  2. Get outside in the daylight and move your body each day. 
    Getting outside for a walk in nature ideally in the mornings can do wonders not only for our mental health, but also helps lower our stress hormones and set us up for great sleep later in the day.
    Even if you have a sedentary job, take breaks throughout the day and get moving. Park a little further away and walk the last part of your journey to work or take your trainers with you and walk in your lunch break. 
  3. Prioritise sleep.
    – If you are neglecting sleep or finding that sleep is an issue, work on optimizing sleep. Lack of sleep is a further stressor on the body, which will exacerbate your stress symptoms. 
  4. Rest. 
    – This is so important! If you are feeling tired or fatigued, this is your body telling you to take a break. This includes your workout regime. Rest is where the magic happens so listen to your body!
  5. Re-evaluate your life load, prioritise and learn to say NO! 
    We cannot be all things to all people. Particularly if our role in life involves caring for others. We have to prioritise our own needs in order to have energy to look after others. This is not selfish so please do not feel guilty. Plan 15 minutes of non-negotiable me time each day.

Let me know if you have tried any of these tips and how you got on.  If you would like to have a one-to-one chat with me to see how lowering your stress can help your health flourish, then book in a discovery call with me or drop me an email and let’s get you started on your healing journey!

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