By staff writer, Marissa Cohen; Image via Pinterest
Is your Anxiety a Hormonal Imbalance?
In our modern world, being anxious seems to be the “default” setting that most of us are operating on. With demanding jobs, news blasts, social media, and complicated relationships, it’s hard not to experience anxiety. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.” However, just because anxiety is common doesn’t mean that it’s normal. Our repetitive thoughts and worries shouldn’t be running the show. While outside factors certainly contribute to anxiety, when it comes to any mental health disorder, a hormonal imbalance may also be at play.
The Anxiety-Hormone Connection
The female cycle is characterized by the rising and falling of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Progestogen peaks in the second half of the cycle and creates a sense of calm and connection. According to Dr. Jolene Brighton, progestogen stimulates GABA receptors, which suppresses neuroexcitatory neurotransmitters that contribute to anxiety.
The problem occurs when progestogen and estrogen levels are out of balance. When we find ourselves in a state of constant stress, the body prioritizes preparing for the perceived stress over fertility. In what is known as the “pregnenolone steal,” your body steals away from producing progestogen in order to make cortisol, the hormone responsible for the “fight-or-flight” response. Likewise, estrogen dominance is accompanied by symptoms like PMS and feelings of anxiety since low levels of progesterone can’t offset excessive estrogen in your system. The result is a vicious cycle of stress contributing to a hormonal imbalance, which in turn amplifies feelings of anxiety.
How to Cope and Feel a Sense of Calm
Whilst there is no magic way to boost progesterone, the best thing you can do is to reduce your physical and emotional stress. Every time your body releases cortisol in response to stress, it further depletes your levels of progesterone.
Here are some simple ways to relieve anxiety:
- Exercise: If we learned anything from the movie Legally Blonde, it’s that endorphins do make people happy!
- Meditation and deep breathing: The prismatic nervous system parasympathetic nervous system allows us to relax and recover from stress. By slowing our breath and calming our mind, we are able to tap into this side of our brain.
- Talk it Out: Instead of bottling up your thoughts, try speaking with a loved one or a professional to help sort through your stress.
- Reduce Caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulant that in high doses can contribute to anxiety. If you are experiencing high levels of stress, try reducing your intake of coffee, tea, energy drinks, and even chocolate.
- Prioritize your Schedule: Having a never-ending to-do list is a sure way to feel overwhelmed. A helpful strategy is to decide upon the most important tasks and those that are secondary. Additionally, avoid overcommitting to anything that is unnecessary or doesn’t bring you joy. We all have the same number of hours in a day, and it is our choice how we spend them.
- Hormone balancing herbs like chaste tree berry: A 2012 study showed that ingesting chastetree berry for two weeks produced an anxiogenic-like (anxiety-reducing) effect on the body. Bootsy Health's 120ML organic chastetree berry is sustainably sourced from Croatia, the herb's region of origin and bottled here in the USA to ensure optimal potency and quality.
Finally, in her noteworthy Ted Talk, Psychologist Kelly McGonigal reveals evidence that it may not be stress itself that is detrimental. Rather, she argues that it is our negative perception of stress that is harmful to our health. A happy mind may lead to happy hormones, and the reverse.