The link between PCOS and Stress
As you may have read in many of our other articles, PCOS is a common endocrine disorder affecting individuals of reproductive age. Whilst the diagnostic criteria remain the same, the signs and symptoms of PCOS can vary drastically from person to person.
Therefore, unsurprisingly, how individuals are affected by external factors can also vary. One of the factors that can impact both the cause and worsening of PCOS is stress.
However here we’re going to look into stress management and coping techniques that may benefit individuals who are negatively impacted by the effects of stress.
How can I lower stress to help with PCOS symptoms?
Progressive muscle relaxation
PMR is a relaxation technique that has been around for many years. It involves tensing or tightening of one muscle group at a time, followed by a phase of relaxation with the release of tension. Usually individuals start from the bottom of the body and work their way up to the top, it can be practiced seated or lying down, preferably in a comfortable and quiet environment.
Research has found it can reduce stress-related activity in the brain, which is similar to the effects also seen with anxiety medication. As well as stress-management it is thought to be one of the top 3 non-pharmacologic treatments for improved sleep.
Guided recordings can be a great place to start if this is something new you’re trying out.
Movement for PCOS stress reduction
The area of the brain responsible for stress control is called the hippocampus. Research has shown chronic stress can shrink this area of the brain, actually decreasing our ability to deal with stress!
Interestingly studies measuring regular exercise, have been found to increase the size of the hippocampus. Suggesting if we incorporate regular movement into our routine, we will be more able to cope with stressful situations.
As well as benefiting stress levels, regular movement has been found to be beneficial for the quality of life and psychological wellbeing of individuals with PCOS.
Deep breathing or meditation
Meditation has been around for many years and has been proven to be an effective coping strategy.
In fact, it has been found to change specific brain regions associated with feelings of stress. Furthermore, brain scans throughout meditation, have shown increased activity in brain regions that are correlated with decreased anxiety. As research has found individuals with PCOS show a higher prevalence of anxiety, the practice of meditating may be beneficial in more ways than one.
Keep in mind that meditation takes practice and patience, apps such as calm and headspace can be really useful when first trying this out.
Lifestyle techniques can be a really helpful way to help manage PCOS symptoms. If stress is something you feel negatively impacts your day-to-day life, incorporating any of the above may be beneficial.
It’s important to try things out and find things that work well for you. Our healthcare practitioners are here to support you with this and more.