Our Hormones

Courtesy of sarahmantellphotography.com

If we ever we need evidence in our own lives that the mind and body are as one, look at the times you have been through hormonal changes yourself.  For women it is easy to      relate to the first day of a period as the most likely time our emotions are affected by the delicate balancing act. Even while losing the plot over some mild indiscretion, we are thinking ‘this is over the top but I can’t stop myself, the words are just pouring out of my mouth’. We are likely to burst into tears for no real reason and feel very sorry for ourselves. Then the blood flows and equilibrium returns, unless your hormones are out of balance.

Pregnancy and giving birth is also a time when a woman’s hormones go through many changes and again our emotions join in the roller-coaster ride.  Sometimes they do not get back to perfect balance easily or quickly and we call this ‘post natal depression’ or ‘baby blues’. Getting pregnant in the first place also requires the hormones to be balanced correctly. The stress hormone Cortisol plays a big part in blocking pregnancy. This is to protect us in times of danger or famine from bringing babies into a difficult situation as any Baby Boom’ will attest; they happen just after wars or recessions not during them. So it works both ways, stress hormones are released into our body when our emotions indicate a threat to our survival to give our offspring the best chance of theirs.

If this isn’t enough we also have puberty and menopause to deal with, again at both these times massive hormonal changes affect our emotional selves.

Men do not escape as easily as you would think at first glance, or is that just from a woman’s perspective?  Puberty hits boys hard, not only physically but also emotionally.  Think of a teenage boy and you can be forgiven for thinking that the sweet loving boy you brought up has been abducted and the aliens left you one of theirs.  Don’t worry, the boy you know and love will return sometime in his 20’s when his hormones have settled down.

All is fine for a good few years until he hits his ‘mid-life crisis’, or the male menopause as it is affectionately known.  His emotions are again all over the place and he starts to feel he hasn’t achieved enough, maybe if he changed something on the outside to make him feel the success that everyone else seems to have, he’d feel better.  He may start by buying a sports car but when the feelings, which are on the inside, do not get better he feels a dissatisfaction with his life.
‘… If you think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, maybe it is time to feed your own! …’

Our hormones are not a design fault, they prepare our body for the phase of life we are in at that time, to do what we need to do to survive.  The only problem is we do not live a natural life any more.  Stressful situations release hormones in our bodies to protect us but stress is no longer just about a physical short term threat, it is much more likely to be on an emotional level which is harder to spot.  This causes an imbalance in the hormonal system and around and around we go!

It is no wonder we go into the final phase of ‘fight or flight’ which is ‘freeze’.  Do nothing, pull the covers over our heads and hope that the world, or the predator, or depression as it sometimes labelled, goes away.

Cortisol is produced by the adrenal gland along with adrenalin in response to a stressful situation.  This increases blood pressure and blood sugar and suppresses the immune system so that all energy is directed into the ‘fight or flight’ response, ensuring short term survival.

Cortisol also increases gastric acid secretion and appetite to encourage the consumption of calories, especially carbohydrates, thus giving us energy to escape the ‘danger’.  It also shuts down the reproductive system increasing the chance of miscarriage and in some cases temporary infertility.  This affects both the female egg and the male sperm.  Fertility in both men and women can return when Cortisol levels return to normal.

The first steps to recovery with all of these symptoms and more is to look inside for the answers, learn to relax, live in the present and reduce stress.

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My name is Gill Matthews and I am a qualified and experienced professional therapist, having been in full-time practice for 29 years. I belong to recognised professional organisations and can offer a high level of expertise to help with all aspects of the mind-body connection.