Children, work, and running a household mean one thing to weary women: stress. Here, Marla Ahlgrimm answers common questions about how stress affects the body and mind.
Q: Why am I so tired all the time? I’m stressed at work, but I get plenty of sleep.
Marla Ahlgrimm: Even if you’re slumbering peacefully (which, if you are truly stressed, you probably aren’t), your body releases a hormone known as cortisol when your mind is under pressure. Cortisol offers a burst of energy to help get you through the rough spots, but burning so much energy in a short time frame can leave you sluggish afterwards.
Q: I can’t seem to get (or stay) aroused anymore. It all started when I took a new position at work. Could stress be the cause?
Marla Ahlgrimm: While men use sex to relax, women have a much harder time getting “in the mood” when their minds are elsewhere. This is especially true for women facing long-term stress as the body reacts by altering the amount of estrogen it produces. This missing hormone could leave you uninterested in doing anything in your bed other than sleeping.
Q: Can older women really experience breakouts when they are stressed?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Absolutely. Androgens are chemicals released when you feel anxious and these male-dominant hormones make themselves known all over the body. Rashes and acne along with excess oil and enlarged pores are common.
Q: My doctor says stress can actually affect my memory. How?
Marla Ahlgrimm: There is a form of stress known as “trauma stress.” This happens when you feel threatened. If you’re worried about losing your job, for instance, you may begin to obsessively worry about how to care for your family. This triggers a shrinkage in the hippocampus, the part of your brain that forms and stores memories.