The Someday Isle of Women's Health Care - Tips to Lower Stress

I thought that if I was:

1. Patient with others

2. Kind, understanding and compassionate

3. Sacrificed so my children can have a better life than I did

4. Put my husband's needs ahead of my own; even have sex when I really need sleep

5. Make sure that I participate at church, school, social and community organizations

6. Volunteer for good causes

7. Made sure to be effective, efficient and productive at work

8. Stay organized at home and work

9. Stay up-to-date on technology, the news, and world events to be informed

10. Become financially successful

Then I would be satisfied, content and happy. Why am I not? I'm too tired.

May is Women's Health Care Month. A 21st century woman's daily new norm is overload, overwhelm, multitasking and staying "on." Women are paying a high price to "be all, do all and have it all." For most, they are wondering if there is going to be anything left of them after they finish their to-do lists. This ever increasing stress keeps the body in a state of ramped-ness. It is no wonder that heart disease is the #1 killer of women in the United States. Most know the ramped-ness as stress. But do you really know what stress is and what it does to you?

Stress puts the body in a state of constriction which I call the survival ego self. When you are in the survival ego self you become so disconnected from your body that you don't even feel the tension in your muscles until it has escalated into a painful cramp or spasm or you yell or scream or make a nasty negative comment to your loved ones. While stress is necessary for life, it can spiral out of control becoming detrimental to health. Stress helps you when it causes your body to fight an infection or heal a broken bone. It can make you push yourself to work overtime to complete an important project. Once it is completed, a little bit of rest and you bounce back no worse for wear.

But when you stay in an ongoing stressful state like working overtime, caring for aging or ill parents, or taking care of your own children with no down time for you, the stress begins to whittle away at your health: emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

Stress research shows that over 1,400 known physical and chemical responses take place in the body. Stress activates more than 30 different hormones and neurotransmitters![1] When this happens, your thinking becomes confused and distorted, your short term memory is suppressed and you become more reactive to things you wouldn't normally react to. This distorted perceptual stress soup is a mix of facts, confusion, and if we have unexpressed unprocessed trauma, it gets triggered as well.

Now everything is wrong and you pull out your list going back to the beginning of time looking for someone to blame for your present problem. Or, you just start beating up on yourself rehashing old negative self-talk tapes that lead you to Nowheresville. Your decisions from this reactive place don't consider consequences; you just react.

Another interesting thing about stress is that men and women deal with it differently. (Imagine that!) Studies have shown that when a husband and wife have an argument, his stress hormones decrease within the hour but hers are still high for another 12 hours. Other studies show that pregnant women who experience extreme stress have high levels of cortisol in their blood stream, possibly shutting up to 60% of the oxygen and nutrients away from the fetus. It is also believed that cortisol can cause the dendrites (the branches that contain memories) to shrink temporarily, causing memory blocks and that "going blank" experience. As cortisol levels decrease, the dendrites plump back up and your memory and thinking become clearer.

Research done at UCLA in 1998 showed that while most men and some women react to stress with the fight or flight response, women have another way to respond to stress. It is called "tend and befriend."[2] Women appear to be physiologically wired to reach out and communicate with each other, connecting in ways that help decrease stress and help one become calmer and less afraid. This instinctual "woman's way" is compromised in today's society because for almost everyone there is no time left in our 24/7 jam-packed lifestyle to have much tending and befriending.

Technology that looks like connection (cell phones, computers, computer games, tablets, etc.) is increasing our disconnection. No one can deny that we are living in challenging times, but mostly outside of our windows of stress tolerance. As a therapist, I see every day the devastation stress is causing to the human spirit and soul. Individuals and families struggle with stress escalation and become stuck in survival ego, disconnecting from the ones they love.

We can't stay in this place and survive. Women are the nurturers. Who nurtures the nurturers? What happens when they are not?

According to some studies, women who allow themselves to connect with each other release an essential calming brain chemical called oxytocin. A great book that explains our inner calming chemistry is The Chemistry of Connection: How the Oxytocin Response Can Help You Find Trust, Intimacy and Love [3]by Susan Kuchinskas. Oxytocin builds on our attachment/caregiving system. Oxytocin seems to counteract the metabolic activity associated with physiological reactivity from the stress reactions fight-or-flight like increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure and increased cortisol levels (which for women seem to go to their middle?) Our present day lifestyle is not promoting us to connect at a physical or emotional level. So, what do we do?

1. Hit the pause button for at least 5 minutes a day even if it is in one minute increments.

2. Just take that pausing moment to close your eyes and breathe.

3. Remember mistakes are for learning, not for beating yourself up. Learn the lesson, apply it and move on.

4. You know these: healthy food, moderate exercise, good night's sleep. Put your knowing into action and DO these.

5. De-cluttering your home and work space can reduce stress.

6. Create and maintain a support system.

7. Pray and meditate. Ask and Listen.

8. Connect with nature.

9. Ask for a hug.

10. Decrease multitasking. (I know this one is hard but try doing one thing before starting something else. It has really helped for me to do this. It feels like I'm barely moving but I'm actually getting more done!)

You are neurophysiologically and spiritually made to be in relationships. In order to thrive in life you need healthy, loving and safe relationships.

However, stress will take you out of relationships and put you in your survival ego. You will then become disconnected from yourself and then others. You cannot be in survival ego and connected at the same time. This is what drives the loneliness, isolation and violence in our world: disconnection. It is not your natural state. You need to be calm and connected to your heart to emotionally connect to yourself and then others. That is why self-care is so important. Without it we shrivel. Your family, friends, work and community do not need you shriveled.

We all need you blossoming into the creative wonderful soulful woman that lies underneath the survival ego. We need you healthy, joyful, and loving. We take care of what we value. Take care of yourself; you are valuable.

Women's Health Clinics: Dignified and Personal Experiences

Women's health is a peculiar thing. While each woman is very unique and has her own ideas of what is and is not right for her body, there is a lot of talk politically and religiously speaking about what a woman should and should not do with her body. While it seems that everyone, everywhere wants to chime in about these things, it is still well within the rights of a woman to have her health be the personalized and dignified health experience that it should be. Luckily, there are women's health clinics that will provide all of the service, information and education that is needed when making potentially life changing decisions.

When dealing with abortion, women need a health clinic experience that isn't just about collecting a payment and getting in and out as quickly as possible. Instead, these experiences start with counseling. The most successful women's health clinics treat the women with respect. They talk to the women about what they are thinking and feeling. Abortion is an emotional decision for most women, so being in a caring environment with someone who knows who they are talking about and what they are doing, can provide the woman with a lot of consolation and information that they are doing the best thing for themselves.

Women can also be educated about the difference between surgical and non surgical abortions. Pregnancies can be terminated in both ways, but there are different reasons and different requirements in terms of timing that need to be considered. While being educated in counseling, the woman can learn about the different methods of termination, so she knows what her options may be, and what each option entails. The level of education and support is important, so that a woman knows exactly what is happening with her body and she'll also know what her options are and why those options are the best for her particular situation.

Women who receive all of this information in a constructive and supportive setting are more likely to end up making the decision that is right for them. There is no pressure, just straight forward information that allows them to make decisions based not just on emotion or information that they have heard from a friend or family member, so they are able to come to a conclusion that will give them the most peace of mind.

Women's clinics that can provide this well rounded, respectful and education are out there and will help women from all walks of life. Clinics are there to provide health services to women who need them, and to educate them about their bodies so that they can remain as healthy as possible, and so they can choose to carry children to term, if they want, that will be happy and healthy. An educated women is always a happier, healthier woman, and they are judgment free, allowing a woman to get the information she needs, as well as the services she needs to live the life she has envisioned for herself.

Women's Health: What To Do To Stay Healthy

The focus on women's health is important because more times than most, it isn't only the wellbeing of the fairer sex that's at stake. Many turn out to mother children and if their health isn't at its peak, it can mean health conditions and weakened immune systems for their babies.

Eating right

The first order of business is a healthy diet. The six basic nutrients we learnt about in school (to recap, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and water) make up the core of healthy diets and must be consumed in proportionate quantities. Since we all have different nutritional requirements, a dietician in consultation with a doctor can chart a healthy eating plan to match body needs.

Most foods today are made up of ingredients that aren't good for health. Items high in cholesterol, sugar, sodium and saturated and unsaturated fats should be eliminated from a diet or at least kept to a minimum. On the other hand, whole grains, fish like salmon which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fresh fruits and vegetables, low fat milk and milk products and polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats can do women a world of good.

Food allergies are a relatively common problem which forces people to eliminate certain items from their diet. The same applies to those with lactose intolerance. In such cases, substituting problem foods with those that don't cause adverse reactions is the only solution.

Physical activity

Exercise and motion are the keys to keeping obesity at bay, improving blood circulation through increased heart rate, keeping joints flexible, muscles toned, enhancing sex life, and boosting good moods.

Working out three or four times a week is recommended and a gym isn't always required. Short walks of 10 minutes spread out three or four times a day is enough. Engaging in sports, running and jogging are also great ways to work out.

Women who perform a lot of household chores manually are fitter than those who rely on machines. But since most of the population uses equipment, it's necessary to supplement this with regular exercise.

Regular checkups

Certain health conditions are prevalent among women and some can be fatal if left untreated. Regular checkups can prevent them. Following are a few must-do's for the fairer sex once they hit their 20s.

Complete physical: A complete physical consists of testing cholesterol, blood sugar, vitamin deficiencies, thyroid and kidney/liver function. It should start from the age of 20 followed by three to five year breaks for the rest of their lives.

Pap smear: A Pap smear is a procedure that checks for cervical cancer. Women aged 21 should begin the test followed by the same every two or three years. Once they hit 30, the test should be combined with one to check for HPV, a sexually transmitted disease, and followed by checkups every five years.

Mammogram: Where a Pap smear checks for cervical cancer, a mammogram does so for breast cancer. Women aged 40 and above are encouraged to undergo checkups every two years. If there's a genetic predisposition to the disease, starting from the age of 30 is recommended.

Colonoscopy: A colonoscopy is a diagnostic tool that checks for colorectal cancer. Women aged 50 and above are more prone to developing the disease. However, getting a colonoscopy every 10 years drastically reduces its lethal outcome.

Fibroids and the Detection of Uterine Fibroids

Approximately 30 to 40% of women suffer from uterine fibroids that are usually benign growths that are found on the uterine muscle. Fibroids and their treatment continue to be researched and one of the important factors known is that they mainly affect black women. Women of other races are also affected but to a lesser extent. This article discusses fibroids and the detection of uterine fibroids.

It is important to know that most fibroids do not require any treatment and do not cause problems. Other fibroids however may cause heavy menstrual cycles. The heavy blood loss associated with these heavy periods can lead to anemia or debilitation. In other cases, these heavy periods can lead to a condition known as "compression syndrome". This condition affects the adjacent body organs such as the bladder leading to frequent urination, or bloating and constipation.

Fibroids can also press on the nerves and lead to backache or a bulging abdominal area that is aesthetically displeasing.

It can also be confusing to determine if you have fibroids or ovarian cysts. A doctor will be able to give a proper diagnosis. An ovarian cyst is a fluid filled sac on the ovary that may also develop in the fallopian tube. A fibroid on the other hand is a muscle growth that is solid and smooth that develops on the uterus walls. Both are usually benign (non-cancerous).

Fibroids usually develop during the later reproductive years and have been found in women over 35 years of age in 1/3 of the cases. As previously mentioned, they mainly affect black women or women who have a family history of fibroids.

Fibroids do not usually produce symptoms in most women and are usually detected in much the same way as ovarian cysts though normal pelvic exams. An ultrasound can also be administered to detect the fibroids. An ultrasound can also differentiate between a fibroid and an ovarian cyst.

Uterine fibroids usually become a problem when they become large in size thus leading to increased pressure on the bladder or rectum or a protruding belly. Large fibroids can also lead to heavy periods or severe pain in the pelvic region.

Fibroids are most common in the uterus or womb and are benign. They usually develop in the uterine wall and attach to the wall. They can also migrate outside the uterus. Fibroids can develop as a single tumor or develop into clusters of tumors.

Fibroids - When to Seek Medical Treatment

1. Pain in the pelvic region or abdominal area

2. Heavy or irregular menstrual cycles or bleeding or spotting between periods

3. Night sweats or if you experience fever

4. Unusual increasing abdominal girth

5. Fertility concerns with inability to fall pregnant or other pregnancy concerns

Immediate medical treatment should be sought if any of the following occur;

a. Prolonged or intense abdominal pain or severe and prolonged pain in the pelvic region.

b. If the menstrual cycle involves heavy bleeding that soaks up more that three pads or tampons each hour.

c. If you experience dizziness, shortness of breath or chest pain due to vaginal bleeding, etc.

d. If you experience vaginal bleeding related to possible pregnancy or current pregnancy.

Uterine Fibroids - Test and Exams

a. Endometrial biopsy - A small tool is used to get small samples of tissue from the uterus.

b. Trans-vaginal or Pelvic Ultrasound - Sound waves are used to give your physician a view of your pelvic area in order to determine the size, number and shape of the fibroids.

c. Hysterosalpingography - A dye is administered into the uterus and fallopian tube. An x-ray is then used to identify the fibroids.

d. Hysteroscopy - A small fiber optic camera is used to view the uterus through the cervix opening.

e. Laparoscopy - A Small fiber optic camera is also used here that is inserted through the abdomen in order to view the internal organs.

Before fibroids become severe, there are various holistic or natural remedies that have been shown to work wonders in treating and curing fibroids. These are preferred by a growing number of women because they are less invasive and the sufferers can avoid surgery some of which includes a hysterectomy.
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