Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is mostly associated with infertility or weight management issues. However, stress management for women with PCOS can be a huge issue as well, but it is sadly ignored by most practitioners, leaving women confused and feeling alone in their battle. Hormones and emotions are connected, and anyone telling you the contrary has no idea what they are talking about. On top of that, we can add the anxiety and depression that many women with PCOS suffer from. Confusing, sometimes embarrassing symptoms, infertility, people who don’t understand and unbalanced hormones can be a recipe for disaster.
Women with PCOS often feel tired, find it difficult to manage stressful situations, have less patience, and have severe mood swings. The even bigger problem is we are made believe that it’s either normal or that it is all in our head and we should “calm down”. If this is you, I want to tell you, you’re not alone. And it is not all in your head! You’re not crazy. Truly putting an end to these symptoms requires you to put PCOS into remission. This can be done through lifestyle changes, including the foods you eat, exercise and relaxation.
Why stress management for women with PCOS is crucial
I’ve talked previously about dietary changes that help PCOS. While the foods we eat can impact our mood – for instance, caffeine is likely to increase anxiety – there are more lifestyle changes you need to focus on. Stress management is equally important. You can eat all the right foods, but if you never address stress, it will become a chronic issue. PCOS and chronic stress have been proven to be linked, as is the risk of Alzheimer’s, heart failure and premature aging. Before you start to panic, know that stress management for women with PCOS is not impossible! Quite the contrary. Here are a few easy things you can do.
Easy lifestyle changes that can help you manage stressful situations
No, I’m not telling you to quit your job, dump your significant other or find a babysitter for your kids. Prioritizing self-care does not mean that. However, as women, we are incredibly good at putting ourselves last, at caring for everyone else’s needs before our own. When was the last time you looked at your weekly schedule and wrote down something that can qualify as “me time”? When was the last time you made it a priority to have at least one activity YOU enjoy and want in your week?
We usually write all our work tasks, then there are chores, and laundry, and that friend who needs a hand. And without knowing, the week is gone, and it was all divided between “I must do this, I should do that”. It’s time to put “I want to do this” on that list. One thing at a time, one activity per week. Go for more if your schedule allows it. What I’m saying is, you don’t have to do big changes immediately. Start slow, right where you are. You’ll be surprised how good it feels!
An easy and quick way to calm yourself in stressful situations or when you feel you’re losing your patience is meditation. It doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t need a quiet room, yoga outfit, or sit cross-legged on the mat. Meditation can be done anytime, anywhere, even with the eyes open, by simply focusing on your breath. If it all still sounds scary and weird, check out these tips to convince yourself of how easy and amazing this practice is.
This is actually an easy way to include that “me time” in your schedule. However, don’t just focus on working out for weight loss. It’s a trap in which many women fall into. You are told to lose weight, so you find an exercise routine that kicks your butt, makes you sweat and leaves you feeling exhausted. I could give you a thousand reasons why this is wrong, but it will be the focus of another article, where I will talk all about working out for PCOS.
For now, I’ll just say this: if all your workouts leave you feeling exhausted, you’re only adding to your stress levels. It might not feel that way initially, at least not psychologically, but your body feels that as stress! So find a workout that makes you feel good. Sure, you want to feel like you are working, you might feel a little sore. But overall, your mood should improve. It should not make you feel like all you can do is crawl in bed. It should not make you feel like you’re about to give your last breath.
Personally, I would suggest yoga or even swimming if you can. Walking or light jogging, if the weather is nice and you live in an area where you can get out in nature are also fantastic ways to reduce stress.
Don’t use energizers
Coffee, Gatorade, and other energizing drinks can have a very negative impact on your body. They will actually put you under more stress, give you anxiety and leave you exhausted by the time their effect wears off. Do your best to stay away from those. When that pesky PCOS fatigue hits, find other ways to energize. If you can’t nap, try taking a short walk outside. I know it sounds counterintuitive to take walks when you want to sleep. But if you know you’ve had a good night’s sleep, then this can be a very good energizing technique.
If you did not sleep well, things are more complicated, because your fatigue’s best remedy is sleep. Try to address the reasons behind your lack of proper sleep first. This could be finding a good night time routine that calms your brain, staying away from technology in the evening, and even not exercising before bed.
Find a community that supports you
One of the reasons why women with PCOS and other hormonal imbalances and up depressed is the feeling of isolation that often comes with the condition. Though not rare in general, it is uncommon enough that many women find themselves with no one around to understand. While it may be difficult to educate those around you about your condition, you can find a group of women who are going through the same thing. Luckily, we live in the age of social media, so look for online groups of women with PCOS.
Soon I will launch the Crimson Confidence community. So if you are looking for a community of women who want to take their hormonal health into their own hands, I’ve got you! I want to create a place where you are not judged for who you are or the choices you make. Whether you want kids or not, are single or married, gay or straight, you have the right to be healthy! Subscribe to be notified when the doors to the community will open.
On top of lifestyle changes, natural supplements and therapies can also be of great help. Don’t forget that even supplements can have side effects and interactions with other medications, so always consult with a physician before starting new supplements (especially if you are on other meds).
Acupuncture is amazing in managing stress, reducing anxiety, and even for insomnia. As an added bonus for women with PCOS, acupuncture can encourage healthy ovulation, thus help regulate periods. It is probably one of the safest natural remedies, as it doesn’t have side effects. You should know, however, that it is not a quick fix. You will need many sessions, even months, to obtain lasting effects. The calming effects though should be felt as soon as the first session. I remember during my first few sessions, I would fall asleep as soon as the practitioner was done placing all the needles.
- Magnesium is such an amazing supplement for calming the nervous system! It is the perfect tool for stress management for women with PCOS, but not only for them. Bonus effect: if taken the week prior to your period, it can help reduce cramps!
- Rhodiola is an adaptogenic herb that helps your body better manage stressful situations.
- Licorice also helps reduce stress and it can also lower testosterone! Be mindful of this supplement as it can affect blood pressure and it can also have a laxative effect. If you have high blood pressure it is not recommended.
- CBD oil – this has been amazing for me for anxiety. Definitely do your research, as there are some that say it affects estrogen levels. There are no official medical studies, so at the end of the day, there’s no way of knowing. My personal experience with CBD has been great.
- B vitamins are perfect if you are constantly tired.
- Check your vitamin D3 levels, as they are often low with PCOS. Also, if you bleed for extended periods of time, check iron levels and make sure to supplement if you are low.
Stress management for women with PCOS is definitely possible. Maybe you won’t be able to incorporate all the ideas in this article immediately, but don’t worry! Every step you take counts. Even if you can only choose one of the things I mentioned. I would also like to say you should focus more on lifestyle changes and less on supplements. Sure, supplements are great and usually a crucial part for women with PCOS. However, you really can’t out-medicate a bad lifestyle.
Don’t forget to subscribe for more tips on PCOS and other hormonal imbalances and be notified when the doors to the Crimson Confidence community open, along with an amazing masterclass dedicated to women who struggle with hormonal imbalances.