It’s no secret that the modern lifestyle charges women with more responsibilities than ever before; what with kids, careeers and relationships to juggle, stress always seems to be chasing at our high-heels. At particularly busy times of the year, stress can escape its bounds to wreak havoc on bodies and minds and has been proven to be of serious detriment to health and wellbeing.
With recent studies suggesting that females feel the physical effects of stress more intensely than members of the opposite sex, it’s worth exploring the biological particulars of the relationship between stress and women’s health.
Stress – especially of the chronic kind – often has its most observable physiological impact on eating patterns. When women are more anxious or worried than usual, any prior or extant eating issues are exacerbated, meaning that some will tend towards larger portions and more “junky” food while others will lose their appetite entirely. If you’ve suffered from any form of eating disorder in the past, it’s smart to be alert to the psychological effects of stress so that you can correct any unhealthy habits before they reemerge.
Source: Global Publishers
The physical responses that accompany stress can cause a litany of aches and pains in the abdominal region of the body. Acid reflux, for example, has been shown to worsen when stress is at its peak while existing stomach ulcers likely act up if you’re tied up in (mental) knots too. Nausea and vomiting are also commonly mentioned symptoms of stress in the female population.
Lastly, sufferers of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (of which there are more women than men to start with) often report increased discomfort during rocky times in their work or private lives. Some women find that meditating or practicing yoga can alleviate the physical distress associated with IBS and other stomach problems.
In stressful situations, the heart pumps harder, and the blood pressure climbs. It’s true of both genders that the risk of respiratory failure – that is, of suffering a stroke or a heart attack – increases if stress is sustained. Specific to women, however, is the biological truth that pre-menopausal females are afforded some protection from stress-induced heart disease by the hormone estrogen.
Despite the aforementioned shield-function of estrogen, chronic stress can also halt the production of this essential hormone, which (among other physical consequences) can lead to a dip in libido. Not only that but women with a higher level of the stress enzyme alpha-amylase have been found to be less fertile.
And while we’re talking about sex hormones, it should be noted that androgens spike in women’s bodies when stress is a factor, commonly manifesting in those nasty breakouts that we’d all prefer to avoid.
General Bodily Burnout
When we’re under stress, our brain’s hypothalamus sends messages to our adrenals to release cortisol and adrenaline. This is okay if stress is temporary and the ‘fight or flight’ response is quickly reigned in – if prolonged, however, the adrenals can become exhausted, or fail entirely. The resulting lethargy is made no better by insomnia, another common side effect of stress.
Regular, gentle exercise can serve as a fixative to both of these issues, facilitating the release of built-up tension in movement and improving sleep quality. Investing in some light fitness equipment for the home makes exercise convenient and accessible for those rare minutes that you have spare.
As this list would suggest, the long-term effects of stress on women’s health and wellness are no fun – but if you follow the age-old dictum that conflates body and temple, it’s perfectly possible to anticipate and manage stress before it truly rears its unwelcome head.
Alex Cordier is based in Auckland, New Zealand and has worked n a variety of roles within the Tourism, Hospitality and Business Sectors. Writing and travelling are her passion, and these have led her to several parts across Asia and North America. She enjoys writing about anything under the sun and has been published in various websites on topics ranging from Travel, Home Living, to Health and Lifestyle.
*Disclaimer: The ideas and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of Zensorium.
Interested to become a Guest Writer on our Blog?
Read our guidelines to find out more!
Zensorium | Major stress trends across the world
Zensorium | Do you really know when you’re stressed?
Zensorium | Stress: Impact on habits and goals
Zensorium | Understanding and Managing Stress
Zensorium | 5 Healthy Ways to Relieve Anxiety
Follow us on: