Ladies, quit stressing! It’s shrinking your brain, killing your productivity and fueling somewhere between 60-90% of your health problems. Three out of four doctor’s visits are due to, you guessed it, stress, but strangely, fewer than one-fourth of Americans say their doctor supports them in managing stress[i].
Luckily not all doctors are uninterested or lacking the know-how to help us cope with health-threatening stress. In particular, a group of forward-thinking doctors at the International Institute for Restorative Reproductive Medicine have elected to learn more about natural ways to help women in particular reduce the negative effects of stress.
The International Institute for Restorative Reproductive Medicine is a growing network of health professionals who share the belief that patients deserve science-based, well-researched reproductive health care services. Specifically, these doctors believe in a patient-practitioner team approach with the cycle chart as the platform for determining if any intervention is actually improving reproductive health.
The Institute invited Dr. Christine Silverstein, RN and clinical hypnotherapist, to speak at their recent annual meeting.
In working with women who are trying to conceive, Dr. Silverstein focuses on helping women change negative self-talk, often using metaphoric imagery to dial into the subconscious mind. She highlighted the importance of educating women about the connection between chronic stress, their hormones, and how their reproductive system works. For instance, when stressed, an overactive “fight response” triggers release of prolactin[ii], a hormone that suppresses ovulation. It also diverts valuable blood and its nutrient away from the uterus and disrupts your periods.
So what’s a stressed-out woman who wants to understand her fertility to do? Firstly, make a five-minute daily habit of charting your fertility-related biomarkers (cervical fluid being the most useful). Be sure to add stressful events—an illness, a big presentation, a dramatic argument—to your chart. Next, connect with a trained natural fertility awareness method practitioner, just to make sure you’re making accurate observations. A good practitioner will be able to tell you what patterns are normal (ovulatory) and what’s a sign of stress (possibly anovulatory, meaning without ovulation).
As women, we are better than men at reporting that our stress levels are too high. Beyond the common tactics (exercising, listening to music), consider learning some cognitive behavior techniques (CBT) to stop stress at its source, i.e. your brain. As Silverstein points out, many women know they are chronically stressed but they have forgotten how to enter into a fully relaxed frame of mind. A little cognitive-behavioral coaching may be just what you need to fix your cycle, and maybe some other health issues.
If you don’t feel ready to see someone for Cognitive Behavior Techniques, you may like something more basic—like deep breathing. Most of us don’t breathe to our full capacity but it’s impossible for the “fight or flight” response to kick in when we’re taking slow, deep breaths.
[ii] For a definition of Prolactin, see: http://www.yourhormones.info/Hormones/Prolactin.aspx