Did you know that stress hormones affect women differently? Did you know that women hang on to them for longer than men? Did you know that one of the primary sex hormones in women, oxytocin, is what drives women to tend and befriend? But that this might be why women have a tendency to take on more than they should potentially resulting in overloading, overcommitting, and overstressing? Oxytocin, the so called tend and befriend hormone may mean that women are more prone to multitasking and overtasking themselves triggering stress hormones
Get a handle on your hormones
To get to the heart of what’s causing the stress and distress in your life, it might help to understand stress hormones.
There are a number of these, which your body releases in times of danger. They work to mobilise glucose which your cells need to fight or take flight — just as you would fight for whatever reason primeval woman would have done or take flight i.e run away from danger when your ancestors needed to move, and move fast. Stress hormones also raise your heartbeat and your blood pressure for the same reasons.
Little stress, big impact
It doesn’t have to be a major stress that triggers your stress response. It can be a daily niggle — from traffic to tight shoes. And so can taking on too much. Once whatever is stressing you passes, your stress hormones normalise. But if stress is your daily companion your cortisol level goes up — and stays there.
The result can be a whole range of illnesses including:
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- Anxiety and depression
- Memory and concentration problems
- Digestive problems
- Heart disease
- Sleep problems.
A result of too much stress for too long includes weight gain. That’s because high levels of glucose which, when not burned off, are changed by your body into fat. One of the places that this conversion takes place is the liver and fat can be stored around the middle region. Hence belly fat.
Belly fat is different to the type of fat on other parts of your body. It lies deep inside your body covering and coating the internal organs or viscera (which is why belly fat is also sometimes called visceral fat).
Belly fat is also different because it contains four times as many receptors for cortisol as any other type of fat, which keeps cortisol high and ever increasing.
What can you do to zap your stress hormones and boost your physical and emotional wellbeing?
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Enjoy a healthy mixed diet — natural and colourful. These foods provide vital protective vitamins, minerals, plant pigments and fibre. Fibre hangs onto the sugars in foods releasing them slowly so that your body isn’t stressed by large amounts of glucose flooding the bloodstream followed by a sharp drop as your body tries desperately to normalise it. Plus, you body won’t need to turn excess glucose into fat. Remember, the body treats alcohol in the same way as sugar (which promotes the production of a type of fat called triglycerides). so reaching for a glass or two won’t actually help was stress.
Up your omega-3s. Even more research has shown that consuming a diet right in omega-3 fats from vegetable products (such as walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, green veggies and pulses) and long chained omega-3 fats (from algae or ethically sourced fish and fish oils). Try around 2g per day to lower your cortisol levels.
Work with your fight or flight syndrome. Fighting or taking flight (in the form of exercise such as boxing which means no one get harmed and running or walking which mirrors your flight syndrome) are excellent ways to reduce stress levels and burn cortisol and burn fat – including belly fat and ridding your body of all those extra cortisol levels, too.
Choose yoga or tai chi or both. Add some Pilates if you can. Two of these ancient wisdoms combine mindfulness and deep breathing — the first two help you slow down your heart rate and blood pressure since deep breathing tells your body to slow down and fights the stress response. Bringing back the calm may help you find the time to make better choices and mindfulness has been shown to reduce belly fat in women according to researchers from the University of San Francisco.
Cut something out. Taking on too much is typical for many women so think about making a list of all the roles and responsibilities that you have. Do you tend to tend and befriend? You’re hardwired to. but see if you can cut the list and think about where you can ask for help, too. Multitasking is great. but overdoing it is bad for your health.
Take time for yourself. It’s not selfish — it’s is vital. Take the time to do something you love and make time for exercise. It’s not a luxury — it’s a necessity so book it into your diary like you would an important meeting and make sure you keep it. Do it for you. Do it for those who love you.