Are You a Rushing Woman?
I finished up a book that I highly recommend to all the busy, stressed ladies out there. (Assuming this addresses most women — myself included) It is called Rushing Woman’s Syndrome by Dr. Libby Weaver.
For the past decade or so I pushed my time to the limits — between relationships, school, work and creative projects I’ve stressed often about one thing or another, and felt so overwhelmed at times. I tend to continue this pattern in my life today (though I am more conscious of it now).
Looking around it is easy to see that we are distracted and overstimulating ourselves — constantly connected, constantly pulled into different directions with the many hats we wear — wife, mother, sister, friend, business woman…. etc.
In her book, Dr. Libby describes the “Rushing Woman” as holding some of the traits below. Do you relate to them as much as I do? 🙂
- Has low progesterone, problems with periods
- Digestion problems, including bloating/IBS
- When asked how you are doing common response is “Busy” or “Stressed”
- Loves coffee (and needs it)
- Cravings for sugar — especially mid-afternoon and close to menstruation
- Over reacts easily and feels panicked easily
- Sleeps too little, and/or not restoratively
- Compromises sleep to get jobs done late at night
- Feels anxious without cell phone
- Has no solitude, time to self
- Has a “to do” list that is never crossed off, feels overwhelmed often
- Does not like to ask for help, yet has a hard time saying “No”.
- Exhausted — especially in the afternoon
- Finds it difficult to relax (without wine, Lol)
- Beats self up for not being good enough wife, mother, sister, friend, business woman… etc
- Constantly looking for more ways to feel love
With the advancements in today’s fast paced world, most of these stressors are psychological, rather than physical, and stick around for much longer.
The role of stress is interlinked with sex hormone health problems — endometriosis, PCOS, infertility and the sheer exhaustion that affects so many women. It throws everything off balance.
The Impacts of Stress Hormones and Low Progesterone
In her book, Dr. Libby explains the interplay of the nervous system and the endocrine system. The nervous system controls balance through nerve impulses, while the endocrine system releases hormone messengers into the bloodstream.
There are two parts of the nervous system — the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic system (PNS). The two systems are designed to balance each other out.
The PNS conducts processes out of our control like heart rate, respiration rate, temperature control, immune and hormonal systems. The SNS is activated by stress and stimulates the body’s stress hormones — adrenaline and cortisol.
The adrenals are part of the endocrine system (along with the pituitary gland, thyroid, parathyroids and the ovaries). The adrenals are where these stress hormones are made, and with today’s constant stressors, they are often in overdrive, religiously pumping these hormones into the blood stream.
Adrenaline communicates to every cell in the body that life is in danger. It is designed to help escape the body from pending danger and sends it into “fight or flight” mode. When the body is in a near constant state of red alert (from psychological stressors) then life is lived in a state of tension — not healthy.
When the body is in this mode then blood supply to the digestive system is diverted to the arms and legs (to prepare the body to get out of danger) and reproductive functions are downsized (since they use a lot of energy and are not needed for immediate survival). Also, the body does not think it is “safe” to bring a baby into the world, so the adrenals stop producing progesterone.
Adrenaline makes the heart race, granting a jittery feeling. It communicates to the liver and muscles that energy is required and converts glycogen into glucose and dumps this into the blood (raising blood sugar levels).
By the way, caffeine is a powerful drug that drives the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline — putting the body in red alert. Coffee is a big no, no if you ever want to achieve balance. Time to kick the habit 🙂
Cortisol is the long term stress hormone. It is produced when stress goes on for a while in the body. Since the stress has been present for awhile, the body believes that there is imminent danger, so it holds onto body fat for survival. This is why the over presence of cortisol makes it hard to lose weight.
With too much cortisol for too long, eventually the adrenals will essentially shut down. This starts with what has been termed adrenal fatigue leading to adrenal burnout. At a burnout point, cortisol is negligible and fatigue is ever present.
Calming, anti-anxiety progesterone is typically low due to too much cortisol and too much estrogen (picked up from the environment). Without progesterone, the natural inclination is to overreact to things, especially leading up to menstruation (when progesterone should peak).
Some symptoms of low progesterone include low mood, unexplained weight gain, inability to lose weight, challenges conceiving, fluid retention, poor thyroid function and anxiety. Progesterone is like an anti-depressant and anti-anxiety agent — crucial for clear thinking.
A lot of women with endometriosis have estrogen dominance (or low progesterone). I believe that I have this issue — but am testing my hormones via saliva next month to be sure.
Does any of this relate to you? 🙂
Promoting the PNS to Reduce Stress
Your rituals create your life. Get some good ones!
– Dr. Libby Weaver
When we rush, rush, rush around trying to be superwomen all the time, our SNS starts to dominate. It is so, so important for the PNS to be in line in order for the rest of our hormones to be in line.
Sleep allows the body to access the rest and repair part of the PNS. Going to bed at the same time and getting up at the same time sends a powerful message to the endocrine system. If we don’t sleep enough, then the PNS systems suffers. It is best to get to bed prior to 10 PM so the body takes advantage of the human growth hormones produced during this time — which are necessary for repairing the body.
The breath is the only way to consciously affect the PNS. According to Dr. Libby, the breath is the cornerstone of an adrenal support solution. Deep breathing should be a daily activity. She suggests linking it to another daily activity — like showering 🙂
Deep breathing communicates to every cell in the body that you are safe 🙂 Deep breathing should be done in a deep diaphragmatic way — in other words, make sure your tummy moves in and out.
Rather than focus on high intensity exercise, SNS dominant women should do gentle exercise like tai chi, qi gong and restorative yoga — anything that focuses on the breath. If you are dominated by the SNS higher intensity exercise only adds additional cortisol to the mix — making balance even harder to achieve.
Solitude helps decrease stress hormones too. Taking 10 – 15 minutes to meditate — sitting in silence with focus on the breath has such a grounding effect — very calming — and so good…
When the PNS dominates then a magnificence can return to our lives. Dr. Libby describes this as a wonder within — reawakening the little girl in us 🙂
On the Positive Side?
The more time I spend on this natural journey to healing, the more and more I realize just how important the impacts of stress are in relation to my pain levels with endometriosis. There is nothing like a stressful situation (or the continuation of this stress) to flare things up.
I’ve really started to pay more attention to the time that I make for myself. I’ve made a point of including rest and relaxation into my days and my weeks. Taking into considering my minimum requirements for self care.
When I take the time to breath deeply everyday and commit to healthy practices like yoga and meditation, I notice that normal stressors do not bother me as much. I am better equipped to evaluate stressful situations in a calm, collected manner, rather than freaking out! Lol.
Amidst all the chaos of life, it is important to remember the most important people in our lives — ourselves. It is important to disconnect from all the messes outside and reconnect inside — each and everyday. For when we set healthy intentions and keep our promises to ourselves, then true healing and balance occurs.
So take the time to breathe today…. take the time to express gratitude for the true beauties in this world. Slow down….