by Christine Tentilucci
The term “mind-body connection” can evoke a multitude of subjective definitions. One interpretation is the relationship between mental stress and physical health. Research illustrates that stress that affects the mind directly relates to the health of the body. Therefore, mind-body awareness — remaining aware of how our mental and emotional state correlates to experiences within the body — can be a valuable tool in managing the stress response.
When reacting to stressors, the body releases cortisol, known as the “stress hormone”. If the mind is in a continual state of stress, the cortisol level remains constantly elevated, wreaking havoc on a number of the body’s functions. Chronic stress has been linked to digestive disorders, suppressed immune function, internal inflammation and even cancer.
Women’s health is significantly tied to the body’s delicate balance of hormones, which includes cortisol. This is why decreasing the stress response, and conversely increasing the relaxation response, is a key component of women’s health. These are just a few ways increased stress can affect women’s health:
Periodic Periods. Considering cortisol is part of the hormonal system, it’s no wonder that stress may cause irregular periods.
Bouts of Blemishes. Ever wonder why pimples often pop up during times of stress? Raised cortisol levels can cause excess oil production, contributing to acne breakouts.
Tummy Trouble. Prolonged stress can increase stomach acid, causing indigestion, discomfort and the potential development of IBS or ulcers.
Distressed Sleep. Mental stress and the accompanying mind chatter can be a sleep-interrupter. Plus, a common side effect of increased cortisol is a pattern of waking up during the night. Lack of sleep can lead to fogginess, irritability and low energy, causing more stress and continuing the cycle. The body’s functions rest and reset during the sleep cycle, making healthy sleep a n important part of lowering the stress response.
Weight Woes. Research has linked heightened levels of cortisol to weight gain and belly fat. In addition, stress may trigger emotional eating and increased cravings. To add insult to injury, cortisol-related weight gain can be difficult to reverse, making weight loss a more challenging task.
Seeking advice from a trusted healthcare provider is important for any woman that thinks stress and cortisol may be affecting her health, but mind-body awareness should also remain integral to her day. Take time to stop, breathe deeply and be aware, and then explore ways to turn down the volume on stress.
Christine Tentilucci is the marketing manager for Inner Spa, a fully organic, holistic, eco-friendly wellness spa in Newtown. For more information, call 215-968-9000, email Christine@InnerSpa.org, or visit InnerSpa.org and InnerVitalitySpa.com.
May 2016 Issue