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Stress and Surgical Menopause

One aspect of Surgical Menopause and balancing hormones with Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) that can be a great frustration to women is that even when a good hormonal balance is achieved it is not fixed thing. Meaning that even if you have found your “sweet spot” with your HRT and the accompanying dose, it can be shifted, seemingly overnight by factors both externally and internally. This is especially true when it comes to the impact of stress on our post-operative bodies.


How Stress Impacts The Body In Surgical Menopause


It may appear that there is nothing you can do to avoid stress in your life. Whether it’s financial stress, stress from work responsibilities, stressful relationships with friends and family, stress has the ability to come at us from every area of our lives. Stress is not good for anyone’s health, however for women in Surgical Menopause; it can be particularly damaging as we no longer possess the physical reserve to draw from. 


Basically, whether we are in Surgical Menopause or not, when we encounter major stressors in life, our bodies go into what is commonly referred to as “fight or flight” mode. This is the physiological response embedded in our DNA inherited from our ancestors and it occurs in response to a perceived threat. The human body is essentially hard-wired to respond to stress in ways meant to protect you against threats from predators and other aggressors. In “fight or flight” mode our body shuts down all processes not necessary to our physical survival and pools those resources towards our survival response.


The body handles stress by producing a hormone known as cortisol.  For women in Surgical Menopause the issue arises in how cortisol is produced in the body. Cortisol is produced by our adrenal glands utilizing progesterone precursors or progesterone itself. Women in Surgical Menopause only have a limited supply of circulating progesterone, therefore when our body is stressed it strips away our reserve in a way that it does not in women whose bodies are actively producing progesterone through their ovaries. In effect every molecule that is converted to cortisol is one less that we have available for our hormonal use.


The result of stress in Surgical Menopausal bodies is that our hormonal balance becomes thrown off and we often notice symptoms of or relating to low hormone levels such as mental or physical fatigue, hot flashes, emotional moodiness and instability along with other hallmarks of unbalanced hormones. Unfortunately women in Surgical Menopause pay a price for allowing stress into their lives that can be almost immediately felt, and our hormonal balance may be thrown off for many days following a particularly stressful period or life event.


Coping With Stress In Surgical Menopause


Stress in Surgical Menopause may not be something we can avoid entirely. Having a health condition for the rest of your life which requires ongoing maintenance and attention is no walk in the park, add the stress of regular life on top of that and you’ve got quite an obstacle course ahead of you.


The best method of managing stress so it does not negatively impact your health and hormonal balance is to have a plan in place for how to deal with it when you encounter it.


There are several natural means of coping with stress or keeping your stress levels low that have been scientifically proven such as yoga, meditation, exercise, and deep breathing. Any of these are a great practice to get into, some only require 5-10 minutes a day but the benefits can have a positive ripple effect on the rest of your life.


Another effective method of dealing with stress is to avoid situations and people that you anticipate will be stressful whenever possible.  This one may require more house keeping and evaluating, but it is a very effective approach. Sometimes the best way to avoid stress is to remove people, situations and other triggers from your life.


Finally, it is important to keep in mind that even if you have allowed yourself to get worked up or stressed out and your body is paying the price of feeling poorly, do not use this as an excuse to beat yourself up and bring more stress into your life. Just as hormonal balance was achieved prior to the stressor,  after a few hours, days, or weeks if you can remain calm and avoid triggers your body will  in all likelihood return back to the balance you had before the stressful encounter.

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