The Impact Of Stress on Health And Hormones

Is your body experiencing stress?  Could it be happening, and you don’t even realize it?

This week I recorded my first video blog for Stressed, Depressed, and Overwhelmed, a new project that I am working on with Jennifer Kennett of Eastside Family Counseling.  You can find a link to that video at the end of this post.

I wanted to talk about stress, and the effects that it has upon our health and well-being.

You may already know that I am a registered nurse, an integrative medicine health coach, and a Nia teacher.  These three things connect me to a lot of different people, from different walks of life, living in different circumstances and situations.  The one thing that most of the people I know have in common is that they all experience some sort of stress.

Stress can come from many places – we feel emotional stress when we have conflict in our relationships or work life.  Our body feels stress when our diet is not supporting our health, when we have food intolerance or allergies, or when our body is subjected to toxins. Lack of sleep can put the body under a lot of stress, and sometimes genetics can predispose us towards experiencing more stress.  If you want to learn more about what kinds of stress may be impacting your health, you can sign up here to received The Stress Checklist.

People are resilient, our bodies were designed for survival – today the stressors are different, but historically, humans had to run from predators.

Imagine that you had to run away from a tiger… your body would use hormones, like corstisol and epinephrine, to stimulate the body and support it while it tries to stay alive.  The body focuses on constricting muscles and increasing bloodflow to enable an escape from the dire situation of being chased by that tiger – the body is NOT focusing on digestion, or rest, or sex, or any kind of broad thinking.  The tiger has our full attention, both mentally and physically.

Although tigers don’t literally chase us any more, modern day society does often keep us in that same chronic state of “fight or flight”.

I like to use the idea of ‘buckets’ filled with hormones when I am talking about this – it makes for an easy analogy.  So imagine, if you will, a bucket filled with cortisol, that we keep on hand inside the body, in case we experience a stressful event.  And then imagine another hormone bucket – with testosterone, estrogen, thyroid, melatonin, and more.  These hormones are keeping our energy levels high, our attention focused, our sleep patterns healthy, our sex drive awake, and our mood cheerful.

Ideally, these buckets would be moderately full, all of the time, and the body would be in balance, and we would feel great.

However, when we are under constant stress, the stress punches holes in the cortisol bucket, and the cortisol leaks out.  As the bucket empties, the body tries to keep refilling it, because our body’s priority is on survival… and so the body steals from the other hormones (e.g. estrogen, testosterone) to make more cortisol to run from the predator.  And all the while, the stress is just punching more and more holes in that bucket.  This is never going to end well – it seems obvious that eventually ALL the buckets are going to be depleted.

As we mentioned earlier, all of these hormones are essential to our well-being, they affect our mood, our vitality, our energy levels, and our ability to focus.  Without them, we do not feel good, or function well.

Knowing this, the primary goal is to reduce the stressors in our lives so that we can patch our stress bucket and balance our hormones in order to feel better. This is where we will be focusing our work with Stressed, Depressed and Overwhelmed.  If you would like to learn more about the work that we are doing, please visit us at


Watch the video that accompanies this blog post here:





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