7 Hidden Sources of Stress that May Sabotage Hormone Balance
15 Jan 2019

7 Hidden Sources of Stress that May Sabotage Hormone Balance

We’re all familiar with the usual suspects that cause us stress. Work, money, and family relationships usually top the list. Stress is a huge problem for women whose hormones are out of balance because the cortisol that is released in a stressful situation worsens all of the imbalances. Your body requires cortisol to live so it preferentially uses hormone precursors like pregnenolone to make it; often at the expense of your sex hormones.

But what about hidden sources of stress? There are many things we don’t generally think of as stressful that our bodies perceive as just as stressful as the usual suspects. Let’s take a look at these 7 hidden sources of stress (and what to do about them).

Skipping meals

When you skip a meal, your blood sugar drops, which causes an interruption in your ability to think straight. Your brain uses glucose to run efficiently and if there is not enough, your body does not function at 100 percent. Low blood sugar causes people to feel irritable, confused and fatigued. The body begins to increase production of cortisol to raise blood sugar, leaving us stressed and hangry.  

Air conditioning

Air conditioning can make you feel groggy. That’s because cortisol spikes early in the day to get us up and at ’em. But a Japanese study found people who lived, slept and worked in A/C took an extra two hours to see that cortisol wake them up in the morning. The body needs variations in temperature to maintain the correct circadian pattern for cortisol.


If you have to move things around in order to accomplish a task in your home or at your office or you feel overwhelmed by all your “stuff,” it’s a strong signal that clutter has prevailed. And it might be stressing you out more than you realize.

2010 study in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology looked at dual-income married couples living in the Los Angeles area who had at least one school-aged child at home. The wives in the study who perceived themselves as having a cluttered home or a home that needed work tended to have increased levels of cortisol throughout the day. They started and ended their day stressed out.

If you’re ready to be ruthless and create space, you can read more about how to tackle that project here.

Eating too few calories

When women gain weight, their first instinct is to cut calories. Often dramatically! This approach can quickly backfire.

A significant calorie deficit will result in weight loss, but often it’s at the expense of your muscle mass and metabolism. If you skimp on protein, you lose muscle mass. If you skimp on good carbs, you can lose both body fat and muscle. If you skimp on calories overall, your body perceives this as stressful and goes into “starvation mode” which results in a rise in cortisol levels. This encourages your body to hang to all the calories it can get and makes weight loss very difficult.

TweetWhen women gain weight, their first instinct is to cut calories. Often dramatically! This approach can quickly backfire.


Social media can create stress from fear of missing out (FOMO). We get bombarded by images of how our lives could be different or better via the social media feeds of our friends and network. Remind yourself that social media feeds are nothing but distorted and heavily edited reality. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.

Health anxiety

The number of women I talk to whose lives are profoundly affected by health anxiety is staggering. As they enter perimenopause, every new experience their body has becomes fair game for free-floating anxiety. And each of these thoughts about all the horrible things they think are happening raises cortisol. Health anxiety can be difficult to control, but I have two suggestions. DO NOT Google your “symptom”. Doing so will lead you down unproductive rabbit holes. Instead, begin to notice whatever you are experiencing with curiosity. Symptoms are a message from your body that something is out of balance. Check in with yourself to see where the stressors are in your life that may be contributing to your imbalances. Find an expert to work with who will listen to you, explain what is happening and help you with stress reduction strategies.


I’m finding that the older I get, the more sensitive I am to all kinds of noise. I was starting to think it was just me until I asked friends if they noticed this as well. I got some yesses, which made me feel a little less crazy.

Background noises (especially loud or continual ones) can make you feel tense or stressed, but until it stops you may not realize how obnoxious and stressful the noise really is. Some situations are beyond your control, but to the extent, you can eliminate rattles, buzzing or vibrations. And for the loud chewers/crunchers? You may have to move!

Dr. Anna Garrett


  1. Deb Rideaux Says: January 17, 2019 at 2:36 pm

    Yes yes yes…to all 7! This just re-enforced Everything I’ve been experiencing. Good to know I’m not alone.

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