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“I’m so stressed out right now”

“This day has been so stressful”

“I think I’m burning out at work”

“I have so much on my plate”

How many times have you said these phrases to family, friends, or even just in your head? Anxiety and stress are very common feelings many face everyday.

For some, it can be small situations in the workplace or at home that put you a little on edge but for others it can be extremely isolating and feel like everything is out of control. It’s important to know when to ask for help, either from loved ones or specialists like doctors and therapists.

April is Stress Awareness Month 2023, so we’ve written this blog to highlight exactly what stress is and how it affects your body, and the ways to help naturally reduce and relieve it.

Stress and how it affects mental health

When you’re stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. This is your body’s natural response to stressful situations – it’s when your body can’t manage your cortisol levels properly that you start having problems.

If your cortisol levels stay high for too long, it can cause issues such as:

  • Weight gain
  • High blood pressure
  • Sleep problems
  • Lack of energy
  • Brain fog

All symptoms of stress can have a negative impact on your mental health. With lack of energy and inconsistent sleep, you become moodier, more irritable and easily overwhelmed. This can lead to issues such as exhaustion, anxiety and depression.

How your menstrual cycle affects your mood

It’s no secret that the menstrual cycle can have a huge impact on your mood. From feeling moody and irritable during our period to feeling energised and creative during ovulation, your body goes through a wide range of emotions each month.

By understanding how your hormone levels fluctuate throughout the month, you can better manage your moods and take care of yourself.

The four phases in a menstrual cycle

1. Menstrual phase

The menstrual phase is the first phase, when Mother Nature comes knocking and you get your period. At this stage you may feel irritable, have headaches and cramps, tender boobs, and mood swings.

2. Follicular phase

The follicular phase starts when on the first day of your period, but unlike the menstrual phase, carries on until the ovulation phase. Once your period ends (usually after five days or so) your mood begins to lift and you may feel more energised and sociable and have a high self-esteem.

3. Ovulation phase

Around day 14 of your 28 day cycle is when you get to the ovulation phase. This is where your body releases the egg. You’ll feel energised, with an increased libido due to a spike in oestrogen levels.

4. Luteal phase

The final phase is the luteal phase. If you don’t get pregnant, your body will have decreased levels of oestrogen and progesterone. This is where you start getting PMS symptoms such as bloating, trouble sleeping and food cravings. Then, you’re right back at the start of your cycle again.

5 ways to reduce stress naturally

Stress can have a serious impact on your mental and physical health. Fortunately, there are several ways to reduce your stress levels and improve your overall well being, naturally.

By taking the time to identify what is causing your stress, and then finding ways to deal with it, you can make a huge difference in how you feel.

1. Deep breathing

Taking deep breaths helps to lower your stress hormone levels and makes you feel more relaxed. Meditation can also help reduce negative feelings and allow you to take a minute or two to relax.

2. Physical exercise

Not only does physical exercise help you to burn off excess energy, it also helps to release endorphins which make you feel better mentally and physically. Going out for a jog or walk, or taking part in a fitness class will release all the hormones and chemicals in your body to make you feel more like yourself.

3. Get outdoors

Spending time in nature is another great way to reduce stress levels. Nature has a calming effect on the mind and body and can help you deal with feeling overwhelmed or stressed out. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed, take some time out for yourself and go for a walk in the park or take a hike in the woods!

4. Spend time with friends

Getting quality time to catch up, gossip and have a laugh with friends is key to relieving stress. Whether it’s a morning coffee, pizza evening or even just a phone call, taking time out to spend with the people you love will naturally get you in a better mood.

5. Get enough sleep

When you don’t get enough sleep, you’re more prone to feeling stressed out and overwhelmed, which can have serious consequences for your mental and physical health. Most adults need between seven to nine hours of sleep each night.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, always talk to either a loved one or doctor so you can get the advice and help you need.

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