The health benefits of reducing stress for faster fertility success
The reality is, most of us live busy lives. We spend the majority of our days rushing from one thing to another, multi-tasking at every opportunity and keeping up with the demands of the modern world. We don’t sleep enough or make time to nourish ourselves physically and emotionally. This can leave us feeling overwhelmed, stressed and burnt out and can have many negative effects on our health, as well as on our ability to conceive.
But stress isn’t all bad. From an evolutionary perspective, stress is a survival technique necessary to keep us from danger. It ensures our bodies are able to deal with threatening situations so we can stay safe.
So what happens when we experience stress?
A stressful event activates our sympathetic nervous system which releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol that get the body prepared to either fight the potential threat or run away from it (known as the fight or flight response).
The problem is, in our modern lives we are very rarely in these life or death situations but our bodies still respond to a stressful trigger the same way, whether it’s real or perceived. Basically, your body doesn’t know the difference between a physical threat like being chased by a pitbull or a hugely overwhelming to-do list!
And while an encounter with a vicious dog might only last 5 minutes (you’d hope), for many people today the perceived stress that comes with working long hours, meeting social obligations and trying to build a career and care for a family is chronic. That overflowing email inbox and trying to meet so many daily commitments never ends and it means our bodies are constantly on high alert. Not surprisingly, this ongoing release of stress hormones can cause a number of health issues.
5 benefits of reducing your stress levels
1) You’ll want to eat better
Being in a state of stress often derails our healthy eating patterns. Our adrenal glands make more of the stress hormone cortisol which stimulates appetite and causes food cravings – generally for foods high in carbohydrates and sugar. You might also find yourself drinking more alcohol to relax and unwind.
We also tend to have less willpower and time to make healthier choices when we’re experiencing stress.
2) You’ll Sleep Better
When you’re constantly in a state of stress, your body doesn’t allow you to sleep deeply and restoratively. High levels of adrenaline keep you slightly awake to ensure survival in case you need to jump up in the middle of the night to deal with a life-threatening situation1.
3) You’ll improve your chance of conceiving naturally
Stress can affect ovulation, cause loss of libido, lower sperm production for men and absent or irregular menstrual cycles for women, so reducing your stress levels is a really important factor in giving your body the best chance of conceiving naturally2.
4) You will improve digestive issues and nutrient absorption
When your body is under stress it directs energy away from all non-essential processes like digestion to reserve energy for a possible fight or flight situation. According to a seminar by renowned nutritional biochemist Dr Libby, 1 in 5 women have IBS symptoms that are likely to be related to stress (in particular bloating). Chronic stress leads to sluggish digestion, which affects the body’s ability to breakdown and use nutrients in food and can lead to potential deficiencies over time1.
5) You’ll get sick less often
An extended release of cortisol lowers your immunity defenses making you more susceptible to illness. Elevated cortisol levels can also lead to a state of chronic inflammation in the body which can cause many health issues from heart disease to autoimmune issues3.
Top 7 ways to reduce stress
In our modern fast-paced lives, stress is somewhat unavoidable, which is why stress management is so important to ensure we minimise its impact on our health.
- Reduce your caffeine intake as this produces more of the stress hormone adrenaline leading to even higher stress levels in the body. It can also increase your perception of stress, so should certainly be kept to a minimum in particularly busy or stressful times4.
- Avoid foods high in sugar and processed carbs as these can spike blood sugar and increase cortisol levels in the body, putting extra stress on your adrenals5.
- Aim to incorporate foods into your diet that support your body in times of stress. Leafy greens contain high levels of magnesium which is critical for coping with stress, while citrus fruits and berries are high in vitamin C which has been shown to reduce levels of cortisol. And you’ll be pleased to know, dark chocolate contains flavonoids which have relaxing properties too5!
- Address your perception of stress. By identifying stressful situations in your life and trying to remove them or see them differently you can start to shift your body out of a constant state of stress.
- Manage your time. Plan your schedule with a planner or calendar so you’re not trying to remember everything. Prioritise your to-do list and ask for help or delegate where you can.
- Incorporate calming activities like meditation, yoga and deep breathing exercises into your day. This will activate the parasympathic nervous system (the opposite of the fight and flight response) and help the body conserve energy and rest, reducing levels of the stress hormones in your body.
- Move your body. Exercise produces the feel good hormone serotonin, which has an uplifting effect on your entire body and can reduce the negative effects of stress.
These are just some of the simple ways you can restore balance to your nervous system and make the most of the benefits that come with reducing stress. But everyone is different so pay attention to what makes you feel stressed, what that feels like in your body and experiment with things that work for you to overcome this feeling and make you feel good.
1 2015 lecture with Dr Libby – The Perception of Stress. www.drlibby.com
2 Virginia Hill Rice’s Theories of Stress and Its Relationship to Health
4 Caffeine’s Effects are Long-Lasting and Compound Stress http://geti.in/14zGDmv
5 George Everly Jr. and Jeffrey Lating’s A Clinical Guide to the Treatment of the Human Stress Response
Guest Writer Taryn Williams
Taryn Williams is a certified Transformational Nutrition Coach passionate about giving women simple ways to achieve boundless energy, effortless weight loss, the confidence to totally love themselves and finally be free of the self-judgment and negative beliefs that are holding them back.
Get ready to start living an energized, healthy and happy life in a body you love at thehealthtohappinessproject.com
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Other Topics Worth Reading:
- Yoga For Better Sleep – Read and watch here
- Breathing Techniques to Reduce Stress – Read and watch here
- Techniques How to Relieve Physical, Mental and Emotional Tension When Trying to Conceive – Read here
- Get Your Confidence Back – Regain Confidence for Pregnancy Success – Read here
- Sleep and Infertility (Sub-fertility) – How Sleep Benefits Fertility – Read here
Fiona Boulton is a Fertility Specialist
(An expert in her field since 2007) and leader in Fertility Mind Mastery, Fertility Meditation, Fertility Yoga and Fertility Coaching –
helping people take back control of their fertility, faster.
Fiona is the founder of Awakening Fertility – Harley Street (Harley Street Fertility Clinic), London; Concept Fertility Putney; Chichester, West Sussex and Perth, Australia
- Huffington Post Fertility Writer
- Fertility Coach
- Fertility Support Group Co-ordinator for Harley Street Fertility Clinic and Infertility Network UK
- Nutrition Counsellor
- Public Speaker
- QiYoga® Founder
- Fertility Yoga Teacher Trainer (RYS 200)
- Fertile Lifestyle Motivator
- Fertility Support Group Facilitator
- Fertility Practitioner Training Co-ordinator
Through Fiona’s “transformation guaranteed” Fertile Lifestyle courses, Fiona helps navigate major transitions to detox your mind and body to help you effectively ‘think yourself fertile’; to change the map your mind has of your body and therefore change your physiology by clearing mental and emotional blockages to having your baby. Fiona’s work focuses on you taking back control by changing the internal and external environment of your cells so you can improve chances of fertility success.
Book your fertility consultation from the comfort of your home or come to the Harley Street Fertility Clinic for a transformative session with Awakening Fertility founder Fiona Boulton, here.