How Your Mind and Emotions Affect Hormones And Things You Can Do About It
by Steven Horne, RH(AHG)
In modern medicine it’s popular to view mood changes as being caused by biochemical imbalances. It is believed that problems with messenger chemicals like hormones and neurotransmitters create mental and emotional health problems. That’s why the most popular treatment for problems like depression, anxiety and moodiness are drugs that mimic hormones and neurotransmitters.
But, what if the reverse were true? What if the mental and emotional issues are actually the cause of the imbalances in the body’s messenger chemicals? This is a perfectly valid hypothesis, too.
To understand how hormonal imbalances can be the result of mental and emotional issues, it’s important to remember that the endocrine system and the nervous system are intimately connected via the hypothalamus. A part of the brain, the hypothalamus sends messengers to the pituitary that trigger the release of hormones that regulate the rest of the endocrine system.
This is why it is perfectly reasonable to believe that thoughts and feelings influence the output of hormones. The glands are responding to the thought processes and moods of the person, not causing their thought processes and moods.
Why am I talking about this in relationship to female health problems? It’s because I’ve observed that there is a big link between a woman’s attitude about herself, her body and her menstrual cycle and the kinds of hormonal problems she is prone to experiencing. So, that’s what I want to briefly address this week.
Rites of Passage
To begin with, understand that we all undergo three distinct phases of life. These phases of life are separated by the two periods of change. When we enter puberty, we leave the childhood phase and move into the adult phase of our lives. During menopause (or andropause in the case of men) we leave the adult stage of life and enter into our elder or senior years.
Both life changes are marked by dramatic shifts of the body’s hormonal output and both of these life changes were marked in traditional cultures by rites of passage. In this article, we’ll ignore male rites of passages and only focus on those pertaining to women.
In most tribal societies, a girl’s first period was the sign of her passage from childhood to womanhood. This change was marked by some kind of ceremony, honoring this change. Typically, the girl was admitted into the circle of the adult women and schooled in the ways of womanhood for several days. There may have been some kind of rites of purification (bathing, sweating, certain herbs to take, etc.) associated with this change, too. In the end, a celebration was held in the girl’s honor, marking her life transition from being a girl to being a woman.
At the other end of womanhood, a woman’s last period signaled her completion of the second life transition. She was now an elder or a wise woman. In many traditional cultures a woman who was past menopause was considered to be a powerful source of wisdom and guidance and was honored by her tribe or community.
In modern society, many people do not understand, let alone honor, these two rites of passage. My belief is that the lack of honor given these natural changes in a woman’s life can set up psychological wounds the create imbalances in her hormones.
Puberty and a Girl’s First Period
I’ve often asked women to consider this question, “Would you feel differently about your period if your first period had been a cause for celebration? Would you have a different attitude towards menstruation if a party had been held to honor you for having your first period?” It’s an interesting question to consider.
All too often in our culture, a girl’s first period is surrounded by a cloud of secrecy and shame. This sense of shame may be compounded with guilt if a girl has been molested in any way. Having negative thoughts and feelings about an aspect of your body is going to influence the type of chemical messengers produced in the brain, which means a woman is more likely to experience problems.
As evidence of what I’m talking about, one of my close female friends was not raised with a sense of shame about her body’s functions and reports she has never suffered from PMS. Also, I’ve encountered these issues in emotional healing sessions I’ve done with women, where female reproductive problems started occurring within six to twelve months after an abusive or traumatizing experience.
I pleased that, as a result of sharing this information, I now have female friends who have started holding celebrations of womanhood for their teenage daughters when they have their first period. I think this is as big a part of reproductive health for a girl as good nutrition is.
Menopause and a Woman’s Last Period
At the other end of the life, a woman becomes an elder or wise woman, also known as a “sage” in traditional cultures, when she has her last period. This natural life transition should again be a cause for celebration.
Unfortunately, we live in a society that does not place high value on its elders. During their adult years, estrogen encourages women to be nurturing and to care for others. Hormonal shifts at menopause give a woman a new-found drive to achieve things. Similar hormonal shifts are designed to make men more thoughtful and less assertive. It’s a type of “role-reversal” that is supposed to take place, allowing women to step into the time of their “power.”
Hot flashes, mood swings and other symptoms many modern women feel as they enter the menopause may have to do with feeling frustrated for the lack of respect they feel as they come into this “power” stage of their life. At a class I attended many years ago, an herbalist compared a hot flash to the Chinese idea of “liver fire rising,” which is the “heat” or energy of the liver rising up and causing flushing of the face. They suggested there could be a lot of unresolved anger in hot flashes. It’s an interesting hypothesis.
Many women start business ventures after menopause because these hormonal shifts give them a new sense of drive and the desire to accomplish something. Could it be that feeling stifled in this new emotional energy is contributing (along with poor nutrition, of course) to the severe problems many women experience during this second life transition?
Emotional Healing Tools for PMS and Menopause
Fortunately, there are ways to influence the brain and promote a shift in thoughts and emotions that brings about a corresponding shift in mood and health. One of the tools that can accomplish this is aromatherapy. The nerves that detect odors are directly linked to the brain’s limbic system. This is where the hypothalamus is located. So, scents directly affect this part of the brain and can help to shift both mood and hormonal output.
Some of the essential oils that may be beneficial during these life transitions include clary sage, pink grapefruit, rose, lavender and geranium. However, any essential oil that smells really good to you will likely help to improve your emotional state and balance your hormones.
Flower essences can also be helpful. You can use Distress Remedy whenever you feel stressed or anxious about something. It helps promote a calm and centered feeling. If you have a lot of shame about your periods, a good flower remedy is Easter lily, which purifies your attitudes about your female reproductive system. Alpine lily, basil, crab apple and purple monkeyflower are other flower essences that can help you overcome feelings of shame that may be at the root of PMS problems.
For women going through menopause, chrysanthium is a good flower essence for the “mid-life crisis” that often accompanies this life transition. Other flower essences that can be helpful here include, fairy lantern, honeysuckle and sagebrush.
There is a lot more to know about these emotional remedies but if you’ve tried a lot of nutritional remedies for PMS or menopausal symptoms and they haven’t brought relief, consider looking at your emotions. Often the body won’t heal until we resolve negative feelings we have about ourselves and our life circumstances.
There isn’t enough information that’s easily available about emotional healing. This is why I’m excited that I’ve finally finished writing my book, The Heart’s Key to Health, Happiness and Success. Watch of the release of this powerful book.