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Stressed Out!

stress-thyroid

As this is being written we have less than 60 days until Christmas! I guess we are officially in the holiday season, right? So that means less than 60 days to buy gifts. Less than 60 days to make travel plans. Less than 60 days to prepare. Talk about stress! While stress is something we deal with on a daily basis, there is just something about the holidays that, unfortunately, brings about so much more. Since we are already aware of this we can learn to cope with the stress, but if you have a thyroid disorder you may want to avoid it all together.

I know you just laughed out loud at that, believe me I was laughing as I wrote it, because entirely avoiding stress just doesn’t seem feasible in our world, especially around the holidays! While it is almost impossible to have a stress-free environment, we need to learn to let go because it is wreaking havoc on an already hard-to-deal-with condition.

Your body does some interesting things when dealing with stress and through natural reactions and processes your thyroid suffers and, by extension, so do you. The process goes something like this; when under stress the brain releases CRH (corticotrophin-releasing hormone), which signals the pituitary gland to tell the adrenals that it is time to begin creating cortisol, widely known as the “stress hormone”. This is where your thyroid gets the short end of the stick. Both CRH and cortisol suppress TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone), the hormone that signals your thyroid to make the appropriate hormones, but that’s not all that goes wrong. CRH and cortisol also slows down the thyroid hormone conversion of T4 to T3. So just by being put in a stressful situation you have already slowed down your thyroid function.

Imagine what you’re doing to your thyroid if you’re under constant stress. Or even worse, imagine how much one stressful situation can affect an individual with hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid is already performing at a sub-optimal level.

When these situations arise don’t be surprised if you experience symptoms associated with hypothyroidism such as weight gain, fatigue, hair loss, sensitivity to the cold, and more (the list of symptoms of thyroid dysfunction seems to never end). Or if you have already been diagnosed with thyroid dysfunction, you may see your current symptoms worsen.

There is even a condition that is triggered by extremely stressful situations like childbirth, a heart attack, or a serious infection, and that condition is thyroid storm. While it is not very common, it can happen and individuals with under or poorly treated hyperthyroidism are at a higher risk. Thyroid storm is a very serious condition that needs immediate medical attention. It is believed to come about because of the high levels of certain hormones being produced in the body when it’s under stress such as dopamine, epinephrine, or norepinephrine. The symptoms include fever, rapid/irregular heartbeat, vomiting/nausea, tremors, anxiety, and delirium.

Understanding what stress does to your thyroid may give greater cause to try avoiding stressful situations, especially around the holidays. If that is something that you can’t imagine being able to accomplish, don’t worry, you are not alone, but you do need to learn some ways to counteract the stress.

One of the most important things you can do for your thyroid and your body as a whole is sleep. When we sleep our body is rejuvenating itself and preparing us for the next day. It can also help relax your adrenal glands so as they are not consistently working overtime by putting out the stress hormone. Unfortunately, sleep falls to the wayside around the holidays because we feel that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. While this may be true when preparing, you have to force yourself to get a good amount of sleep every night.

If more sleep just isn’t in the cards for you or you feel you are sleeping a good amount already, try eating! I don’t mean run to the nearest donut shop and order a dozen for yourself, I mean eat certain foods that are going to help your adrenals. Foods such as starchy vegetables or nuts can stabilize your blood sugar and make things better for your adrenal glands. There are also some things you should stay away from such as coffee and alcohol which can put additional stress on the already overworked adrenals.

Another helpful activity is exercise. I know, I know. Who wants to think about exercise around the holidays? While exercise may not be on the top of our list during the holiday season it can definitely be a stress reliever. As many workout gurus have told you, exercise causes you to feel happier and more energized afterward, and they do have a point. Exercise causes the body to release endorphins, also known as the happy hormones. These hormones can help combat stress and put you in an overall better mood.

Stress is a reality that we all know oh too well, but that doesn’t mean we should allow it to jeopardize our health! Take time to relax this holiday season. Do you have any stress-relieving activities? Share them with us below!

About the Author

Naomi Parker

Patient Advocate

Naomi Parker is a patient advocate that is enthralled by the medical field. Hypothyroidism became a topic of interest over the last few years while she worked amongst alternative medicine doctors as a front office assistant. She believes that information is key and strives to become better informed so as to help others achieve success and wellness.

Naomi has written various articles concerning hypothyroidism including information on diagnostics and treatment. She enjoys learning alongside others and passing on vital information regarding this condition. Naomi is actively monitoring and writing for the National Academy of Hypothyroidism both on the site and social media.

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samantha steven
3 years ago

I’ve been battling with thyroid problems for 10+ years. Your easy yet persuasive words here are keeping motivated to challenge this battle in every way I can :)
Thanks, Samantha

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