Energy Levels

The Real Reason You’re Feeling So Crummy During the Holidays

December 15, 2022

Hi, I’m Angela
I'm a functional medicine practitioner & hormone expert working primarily with women in their 40's and 50's to create lasting health.
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The holidays are here and, instead of the typical excitement many feel during this time of year, you may be feeling anything but – lethargic, irritable, bloated– symptoms that hormones-approaching or at middle age can bring. For those women in their 40s and beyond experiencing these uncomfortable hallmarks of hormone change – it’s OK! We know why you’re feeling this way and what you can do about it; its time to accept these inevitable changes saying yes to life with a positive outlook. Keep on reading to learn more about understanding your hormone signals & finding ways to feel better as quickly as possible during holiday madness so you can enjoy spending time family and friends.

A Woman, A Holiday and Stress

What can happen sometimes if you’re a woman in your 40s, 50s or maybe a little bit outside this age range, is you probably are having changes to your hormones, meaning your estrogen and progesterone levels are on the decline. 

As a woman gets closer to menopause, her hormone levels start to go down. This can cause some common symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and trouble sleeping. But sometimes these symptoms are not caused by the hormones. They are caused by other things going on in a woman’s life that make the symptoms worse.

Now circling back to the holidays, this busy time of year, I find one of the things that makes things worse in this category from a symptom perspective is stress. If you feel like you can’t keep up or get everything done, it’s probably because you’re stressed out.

As Progesterone Lowers

Cortisol is our primary stress hormone. When we are stressed, our body makes more of the hormone cortisol. This can cause problems with our other hormones. Especially for those women in the age range mentioned above, hormone levels are already lowering and changing. So if you’re under more stress, it creates more imbalance and sometimes it can even cause those sex hormones to lower more quickly. As a result, there is hormonal imbalance. 

One of the hormones that lowers more quickly is progesterone. Many women, when they have low progesterone symptoms, which is very common in this age range, feel more tired and their breasts may be sore. They may also feel moody as they get closer to their cycle.

Some may not even be having a cycle anymore. They may have transitioned into menopause. These women experience having low moods all the time, become more irritable, but also have ups and downs with their moods. In general, they just don’t feel like their balanced, happy self.

Additionally, they will encounter: 

  • weight gain, especially around the waistline
  • generally not have that much energy, and 
  • brain fog 

We want to understand that some of these symptoms are normal if your progesterone’s too low for your age, but it doesn’t feel good to have these symptoms. So we have to figure out what we can do about it. 

Cortisol and its Stealers 

There is an answer to this. One of the solutions have to do with lifting some of the stress.

When we have high stress and our body’s producing more cortisol, it’ll steal progesterone. Progesterone decreases more quickly than our other female sex hormones when we transition into menopause. Body systems will steal the already low progesterone to make cortisol, therefore creating an even bigger imbalance and make those symptoms even more elevated.

Often, women tell me it makes them feel almost crazy. They feel like they just can’t focus, can’t get things done in life and basically don’t know what’s happened to them. But really, most of the time, some of the solutions can come from slowing down and allowing the body to not pump out as much cortisol

I understand sometimes this is easier said than done, especially around the holidays. But sometimes we need to just step back, take a deep breath, and think of things we can do to allow our bodies, nervous system, stress levels, to calm down. 

Stop and Calm Down 

Here are three quick tips as to how you can start to rebalance cortisol and stress response. 

1. Some of the easiest steps to do this is to step outside, go for a short walk, try and get out in nature. 

Try to go outside, even if you don’t live near nature. If you can, great! If you can’t, still try to go outside and move your body for 10-15 minutes. This will be enough for you to start resetting cortisol levels. Doing this facilitates a change on how the hormones are being processed and produced in our bodies.

2. Try and take some deep breaths. 

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but don’t forget that a few simple mindful breaths here and there can make all the difference by helping you to relax and reclaim some control. Concentrating on what breathing in and out could be just the thing you need to destress in any moment. That calming, centered feeling usually follows shortly when we focus on our breath instead of rushing through it. Soothe your frazzled nerves by simply getting present in your breath as if you were dwelling in that moment. Taking even a few seconds to really press pause and get into your rhythm can change the way you see obstacles or setbacks.

This brings us out of fight or flight response, the continuous pumping out of cortisol. 

3. Get Enough Sleep 

Create a nightly sleep routine that encourages restfulness. Establish a set of consistent bedtime routines, such as shutting off electronics an hour before going to sleep. Make sure you have time for decompression before lying down for the night as your body needs time to calm down and release physical tension. Aim for at least seven hours (ideally 8–9 hours) of sleep each night. Give yourself plenty of time to rest and recharge so you can tackle the next day with plenty of energy and focus. 

When we sleep properly and enough in the night, It allows our cortisol to rebalance even if we are living a busy or possibly a high-stress lifestyle, or we have just a stressful time leading towards the holidays. 

Aim to Enjoy, Not just survive

Your low progesterone, which is normal, could get even lower if we don’t help ourselves get a handle on our stress. This is so common and so know you’re not alone in this. It does seem like the to-do list is endless and most of the time, it ramps up over the holidays. We need to ask ourselves how we can make our symptoms better so we can enjoy the holidays with our family and friends. We don’t want to feel so sick that we can’t have any fun during this special time of year.

It is not only important during the holiday season to be happy and balanced. You want to feel like your best self all year long. Right now is a good time to start thinking about how you can lower stress or how you can respond better to stress. Try using some of the techniques enumerated in this post. 

Try and slow down. Try and allow yourself knowing what’s happening inside your body with the sex hormones as you get into your 40s and beyond. You do need to allow your body some time to relax and unwind. It’s absolutely essential for the balancing of your hormones. 

If you’re nodding your head in agreement as you read this, it sounds like you might benefit from some stress relief during the holiday season. We know how difficult it can be to keep up with everything on our plates – work, family, social obligations – and still find time for ourselves. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and would like some help managing your stressors this holiday season, schedule a discovery call with us. We’ll assess your situation and put together a plan to help get you through the holidays feeling calm, collected and most importantly, enjoying yourself!

Make this holiday season the best one yet by taking simple steps towards improving your wellbeing. I am here to help you customize a plan that will have lasting effects and make it easier for you to enjoy life stress-free. Contact me with any questions or concerns. I’d be happy to schedule a discovery call with you. During this call, we can discuss your symptoms in more detail and come up with a plan tailored specifically for you.

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DISCLAIMER:  The information in this email is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content is for general informational purposes only and does not replace a consultation with your own doctor/health professional

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