Understanding the role of stress
I’m not sure where to turn. I’m 45 and my body aches constantly. I’m experiencing anxiety for the first time in my life, I’m too exhausted to exercise and everything that used to be easy—sleep, sex, digestion—all seem like hard work now. My friends call this perimenopause. I think that stress might play a role. What do you think?
You are not alone. (Your story sounds familiar; it actually sounds like me!)
The short answer is: trust your intuition; if you think stress is playing a role, my bet is that you are right!
In my early-to-mid 40’s, I was burning the candle at both ends with a business, two young kids and an aging mother. I really wanted to point a finger at perimenopause, but what I learned when I started researching this important health topic was the role of stress, and how, if left unmanaged, can really disrupt every system in our body—from hormones to sleep and more.
One of the very first women’s health experts I met was Dr. Bal Pawa, a physician, pharmacist, co-founder of the West Coast Women’s Clinic in Vancouver, and most recently, the author of The Mind-Body Cure: Heal Your Pain, Anxiety and Fatigue by Controlling Chronic Stress.
Dr. Pawa taught me how everything is connected. If you are sleep deprived, it is going to affect your mood, ability to exercise and will most likely lead to brain fog. If you are anxious, it could be because you aren’t getting enough sleep, or exercise or both. It’s such a vicious circle!
“Women often want to blame estrogen and progesterone,” says Pawa.
“But what we are failing to tell women is that if we can’t manage our stress (our cortisol hormone), we are going to have a harder time with our female hormones—that’s the big connection!”
Pawa likes the analogy of the gas pedal and brake pedal in a car. Having your foot on the gas pedal all the time will cause your body to be in a constant state of “fight-or-flight”—and that leads to disease. 75% of disease is caused by continuous and excessive stress.
Pawa helps women connect the dots between their physical experiences—everything from heartburn and insomnia, to anxiety and low libido—back to stress.
She then teaches women to use the brake pedal because that allows rest and repair to occur. So instead of “throwing a pill at every ill,” Pawa wants women to learn how to turn on their own “internal pharmacy,” which includes a prescription of meditation, paying attention to how she eats, exercises, rests, and to really practice prevention, so there is less need for medical intervention.
Learn more by watching this exclusive class called "Sleep, Stress & Sex":