PCOS + Stress

This article was written by my previous Nutrition Grad Student, Kimmie Singh. She is a fat woman of color who experiences PCOS. You can find out more information about her work now as a dietitian here.

Who isn’t stressed? Everyone has their fair share of worries and concerns, and people with PCOS are no exception. PCOS is definitely a cause of some of my stress. 

One thing that stresses me out is all of the co-morbidities that are associated with PCOS:

  • type 2 diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • depression
  • cardiovascular disease
  • and the list goes on.

There’s hope: reducing your stress can help reduce your risk of developing many PCOS-related co-morbidities. It can also help you manage your PCOS.

The majority of people with PCOS have insulin resistance (more on that here), making their cells less sensitive to insulin causing a reduced ability for cells to take up glucose. Stress actually intensifies insulin resistance. Your body responds to stress by increasing your blood glucose level and releasing hormones that make the cells even less sensitive to insulin, so less glucose can enter the cells.

Everyone’s body has a natural reaction to stress. People with PCOS have stronger physical responses to stress compared to people without PCOS. This stronger response to stress increases the risk of depression, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes.

Want to find a way to treat your PCOS without dieting?

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Managing stress is important for everyone’s health, and it’s really important for people with PCOS. 

I know how stressful PCOS is. I know how serious it is, and how overwhelming it can be, but you only have one body.

If your body has PCOS, it’s not any less valuable.

It’s different.

It has different needs, and helping your body meet those needs can make managing your PCOS a less stressful process.

Mindfulness activities are proven to reduce anxiety, stress, and even improve the quality of life among people with PCOS. I want to share my favorite stress-reliving activities with you. Take these tips with a grain of salt, and if they appeal to you, I encourage you to trust your instincts and try to be mindful about the process.

My top 5 stress relieving practices are:

  • Laughter- Everyone who knows me knows that I love a good joke, and on a stressful day I always find humor to be a reliable source of de-stressing.
  • Yoga helps me clear my mind and bring me back down to earth. It also helps me feel super connected to my body and leaves me with a compassionate attitude toward my PCOS. A good yoga session always brings me to a peaceful mental space. One to try: Curvy Yoga with Anna Guest-Jelly.
  • Social support helps me in more ways that I can describe. If you haven’t joined our Facebook group yet, I invite you to join us. We would love to have you.
  • Nature- I can’t lie, I have a love-hate relationship with nature. I’m not a fan of bugs or humidity, and, unfortunately, North Carolina has ample amounts of both. However, nature still has a magical effect that makes me feel grounded and mindful.
  • Meditation- there are so many types of meditation, and if you are new to meditation, I recommend started with a guided audio meditation. Insight Timer is one of Julie’s favorites and recommends their Yoga Nidra Sleep Meditation. Meditation can feel awkward at first, and after a couple minutes I usually feel a strong calming presence throughout my body.

Want to explore more non diet options to help manage your PCOS, promote health AND healing?

Click here for details on Julie’s PCOS and Food Peace course.

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Resources:

Benson, S., Arck, P., Tan, S., Hahn, S., Mann, K., Rifaie, N., . . . Elsenbruch, S. (2009). Disturbed stress responses in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 34(5), 727-735. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2008.12.001

Blood Sugar & Stress. (n.d.). Retrieved June 14, 2017, from https://dtc.ucsf.edu/types-of-diabetes/type2/understanding-type-2-diabetes/how-the-body-processes-sugar/blood-sugar-stress/

Pasquali, R., & Gambineri, A. (2012). Mechanisms and Treatment of Obesity in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Contemporary Endocrinology Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, 217-240. doi:10.1007/978-1-59745-108-6_14

Stefanaki, C., Bacopoulou, F., Livadas, S., Kandaraki, A., Karachalios, A., Chrousos, G. P., & Diamanti-Kandarakis, E. (2014). Impact of a mindfulness stress management program on stress, anxiety, depression and quality of life in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized controlled trial. Stress,18(1), 57-66. doi:10.3109/10253890.2014.974030

The Worn Out Mom Holiday Survival Guide

Mom Holiday SurvivalHoliday pressures lead many of us to rely on mile long to-do lists, with attendant feelings of inferiority rather than attending to self-care. Don’t you just love the warm fuzzy holiday feelings of peace and joy?!? (Sarcasm intended.)

Many moms feel the month of December is all about providing experiences for everyone else, and typical self-care strategies just don’t fit in. This month, many people put themselves on the bottom of the priority list. While this may help your family attend more holiday parties or have more decorations around the house, ignoring self-care has its consequences. For example, attending your regular weekly yoga class may be tough to squeeze in, yet doing so will help you feel less stressed, sleep better, and be more present this holiday. Remember, self-care is not selfish.

In order to promote health and mindfulness, consider these three sanity saving pointers:

Have One Hot Meal Sitting Down Per Day

I remember that, when my children were infants, I rarely sat down. As the primary caregiver, I was constantly attending to their needs. I have memories of changing diapers, feeding them, keeping them from pinching the dog, keeping them out of the cat litter, and otherwise protecting this fragile new human. I was sleep deprived, and constantly ate on the run–with one hand. If I couldn’t eat something with one hand, I didn’t eat it. And I wondered why I felt like a chaotic mess!

I read a recommendation from Geneen Roth that changed a big portion of my self-care. She wrote that we all need to sit down and eat one hot meal on a real plate each day. The food choice wasn’t important; rather, it was the time spent sitting and focusing on the meal that was important. This recommendation spoke to me, because I connected with this being an opportunity to nurture and nourish my mind, body and spirit. And, oh boy, I needed that!

Even during chaotic holiday schedules, be sure to give yourself at least one eating opportunity each day to eat mindfully, focusing on just that. You’ll find that it calms you and reenergizes you– so you can continue to keep your little human from sticking metal into electrical outlets or eating the dog food.

Stay Off Pinterest and Other Ways to Avoid Comparison

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” I think this quote by Theodore Roosevelt needs to be on the Pinterest disclaimer page. Holiday traditions and activities involve limitless options for creativity. This is cool–for those who love hodge podging or baking decadent desserts–yet it can lead the rest of us down the dark dreary place of comparison and perfectionism.

Instead of looking into what everyone else is doing, consider the holiday traditions that give you the most joyful feelings. What do you remember as a kid that you want to pass on? Give yourself permission to pick the ones, if any, that you have the mental bandwidth for this holiday season. Resist the urge to search online for what you should be doing. Focus on what you want to do, and practice being okay with limiting the choices. To do this, you may want to avoid some social media, like Pinterest or Facebook, until the urge to compare goes away.

By the way, I love this recommendation so much that I’m deleting the Pinterest app from my phone as I type this! Wheee, that felt good!

Move Your Body in a Way that Feels Good

Human bodies are meant to move, and I don’t mean on treadmills in the “no pain no gain” fashion. Our bodies are designed for movement to promote health and well-being.  Our body also has ways of letting us know that the movement we’ve chosen is one worth repeating by the pleasure it gives us.  By staying aware of your body’s response, you’ll know what your body needs and wants. You’ll know that you’re moving in the right direction (nice pun, right?!?) when the movement feels good.

As you experience the holiday, notice what your body is craving. Do you want to dance to your favorite holiday songs? Take a nighttime stroll to admire the lights? Do you crave stillness? Attend to your body’s desire to move or not, and you’ll notice more connection to the present–and less chaos with what life throws your way.

Happy holidays friends!