Tag Archives: hormones

hormones

How Stress Hormones Can Change Your Brain

When we are angry, we don’t feel very good, and that tends to make us do or say things that we later regret. We also might get so flustered that we lose track of what made us angry in the first place. We feel out-of-control. There is a reason for that. It has to do with the stress hormones our bodies release when we are angry—cortisol. 

Our post yesterday talked about the process in which our bodies and brains react when we get angry. Today we are talking about the impact these hormones have on our bodies once they are released. 

Elevated Cortisol

When our cortisol levels are elevated, our brain neurons take in too much calcium through their membranes. The calcium causes the cells to go haywire and fire too quickly, resulting in their death. 

Too much cortisol leads to a loss of neuron activity in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, ultimately impairing your judgment. So rather than saying, “let’s talk about this,” you are saying “I hate you.” It’s not productive and you will probably regret it later. 

This is a great time to walk away from the situation, take a breath and calm down. Easier said than done, I know. 

Too much cortisol can also kill neurons and keep your brain from producing new ones. This is why it can be hard to remember what you should be saying, or what you wanted to say, in the heat of an argument. It also makes it harder to form short-term memories. So, later when you talk about the argument you had with your husband when he got home from work, you might not remember it exactly the way it happened. 

Decreased Serotonin

High cortisol levels lead to a decrease in serotonin (the happy hormone) levels. A decrease in serotonin adds fuel to the fire. It makes it easier to feel angry and more physically hurt. It also can explain why you might act aggressive or depressed when angry. They go together. 

Recognizing how these hormones can affect you, can make it easier to bounce back from an angry situation. If you know your serotonin levels are decreasing you can take steps to try to get them back again. A licensed counselor can help if you need some healthy coping mechanisms.

For a visual explanation of this process, visit https://www.nicabm.com/brain-how-anger-affects-your-brain-and-body-infographic-part-2/ 

anger

How Does Anger Affect Your Body?

Anger can be a tricky emotion to process. It tends to come on quickly and move throughout your body igniting a response. Just as quick as it comes on it can lead to some unfortunate events—poor choices, misdirected responses, damaged relationships, violence. 

We have all felt angry, but few of us really know how it works and how it impacts our overall bodies. By understanding how the process works, maybe we can better help to train our brains to think first, then react. 

First Things, First 

Before you are even aware that you might become angry, a spark (disappointment, frustration, judgment, rejection, fear, etc.) activates the amygdala—located in the brain’s medial temporal lobe, this part of the brain is known to play a key role in the processing of emotions. 

Once the amygdala is triggered it immediately becomes ready to turn on the body’s stress response system, often referred to by scientists at the “HPA axis” (Hypothalamus, Pituitary, and Adrenal). This starts the chain reaction of hormones—or the spread of fire throughout.

The Chain

The amygdala signals the hypothalamus, which then signals the pituitary gland by discharging the corticotropin-releasing hormone. The pituitary glad signals the adrenal glands by releasing the adrenocorticotropic hormone. The adrenal glad then secretes stress hormones like cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline.

These hormones quickly get to your neurons and cells causing you to feel a whole lot of unpleasantness, usually making you feel like you must react in some way. 

The Explanation 

Anger might sometimes feel unexplained — but why? But the truth is it did come from somewhere, that first spark. Identifying the exact reason for your anger can help you to work on your internal self, and why you might feel the way you do, and help you to react in a calmer, un-impulsive fashion.

For example, you are mad at your husband for coming home late after being out with his friends. Why are you really mad? Probably not because your husband was having a good time, but rather — he didn’t call and you were worried (fear) about his safety? Or, you are angry with your kids because they didn’t listen when you asked them to put their shoes on five minutes ago — you aren’t mad because they don’t have shoes on, you are frustrated because they didn’t listen. And now you are going to be late (judgment).

Tomorrow’s post will explain how stress hormones can change your brain.

For more information and a visual on this reaction, visit https://www.nicabm.com/brain-how-anger-affects-your-brain-and-body-part-1/ 

woman insomnia

Why Do Women Have More Sleepless Nights?

There is no question that women generally get less sleep than men. They are raising young children and have significant hormone fluctuations making it harder to catch those necessary zzzz’s. In fact, the Society for Women’s Health Research found that women are 1.4 times more likely to report insomnia than men. 

But, research shows there is more to it than that. A study published by the Sleep Research Society and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that women have a higher genetic risk of developing insomnia than men. 

Part of the increased risk of insomnia is also attributed to women being more prone to mood disorders like anxiety and depression. Many of the same brain chemicals that are disrupted in someone with a mood disorder are also involved in regulating sleep. 

And, what about time? There is just not enough time in the day to do everything. In addition to being the primary caregivers of their children, women are also the primary caregivers of their elderly parents. Coupled with the desire to hold careers outside of the home, women are forced to decrease their sleep time to complete all their responsibilities.

It is exhausting.

If you are suffering from insomnia, what can you do? 

Therapy can help.

Talking to a licensed professional counselor can help to align your priorities and figure out an appropriate schedule. Therapy can also help teach healthy coping skills to combat symptoms of mood disorders so you aren’t staying up all night worrying.

If you experience chronic insomnia, three or more nights a week, then you should consider seeking the help of your health care provider or sleep medicine specialist. There are solutions to help curb the frequency of sleepless nights. 

Sleep is important to our overall health, and especially our mental wellbeing. When we don’t get enough restful hours we are more easily agitated, anxious, short-tempered, emotional, and it is hard to think clearly and focus. So many women put sleep to the side, they don’t feel like they have the time to get the hours in, but it is so important.