Stress is Stress, Or Why Feeling Personally Victimized by Your Favourite TV Show Makes Perfect Sense
Updated: May 17
I’ve lost sleep, I can’t focus, I’ve had this sense that things aren’t real - because of a TV show. And actually, no matter how big of a fan you are, that’s a normal stress response.
It’s been one hell of a week. The long-running show Supernatural aired its final episode after 15 seasons last Thursday to a few controversies and some serious backlash from fans - to the point that Tumblr staff actually posted a self-care guide. And honestly? They were right to. Not just because some of the themes in the finale were pretty upsetting (and that’s a whole other blog post) but because this situation perfectly illustrates how our stress response affects our hormones.
Stress is stress. And our adrenal glands (our stress-management centres that sit on top of the kidneys) can’t tell the difference between small stressors and big ones. Logically we might know that some things are more important than others, but our bodies process the less serious things (which might be upsetting but aren’t ultimately a threat to our survival) and the big, potentially fatal ones in an identical manner. In other words, the adrenals have the same response to comparatively little things like waking up to your inbox flooded with messages or feeling betrayed by what the writers did to your favourite character as they do to major ones, like dealing with war or starvation or living in a pandemic. You pump out cortisol (your stress hormone), your heart rate elevates, you might feel jittery, anxious, unfocused, and the list goes on.
As if that wasn't enough, your stress hormones rising can set off a domino effect that impacts our other hormones - so all those stories about stress throwing off your period got something right. High stress can cause us to ovulate late and delay a period, prevent us from ovulating and skip a period altogether, or decrease our production of the hormone progesterone and cause issues like severe PMS or difficulty getting pregnant.
While it might seem strange to have such an intense response to stress, our bodies haven’t caught up with modern life and all the everyday stressors that come with it. The stress response system was designed for our cavewoman days when the only issues we faced were life-threatening, so we don't have a filter to let us know that dealing with a full inbox isn't on the same level as running from a tiger.
In other words, like it or not, we really do sweat the small stuff. And the kicker is, the more rundown we’re feeling - or the more stress we’ve already been under, like say, the entirety of 2020 - the less able our adrenals are to handle the smaller things, and the more our hormones are going to feel it. Long-term stress makes us less resilient to events that might otherwise roll right off our backs - or at least save us from insomnia-induced 4 am scrolling through social media.
I don't want to suggest that feeling emotionally devastated by a TV show can just be boiled down to a stress response, because there may also be deeper themes at play that reflect real-world issues and our personal traumas. Rather, my goal is to reassure anyone who might feel they’re overreacting - to this or any other stressor they’re dealing with lately - that your body is responding in exactly the way it was designed to. If it upsets you, it's a stressor, and that's going to trigger a hormonal response.
And because of that, I want to give you a gentle reminder that while we need stress management by the bucketful during the big situations, like the second wave of Covid so many of us have been hit with, we also need it for everyday things, especially when we've had such a difficult year already.
Now is the time for hormone supports like nourishing foods, balanced meals, adequate sleep, and joyful movement, but beyond that, I also wish I could just give everyone who feels similarly a big hug right now.
Be kind to yourselves. We've all been going through a lot, our hormones included. But hey, with December right around the corner, at least we can comfort ourselves with holiday movies - the one place we know that "happily ever after" is pretty much guaranteed.
Beware High Levels of Cortisol, the Stress Hormone by Premier Health. https://www.premierhealth.com/your-health/articles/women-wisdom-wellness-/beware-high-levels-of-cortisol-the-stress-hormone#:~:text=As%20your%20body%20perceives%20stress,alive%20for%20thousands%20of%20years.
Cortisol - Its Role in Stress, Inflammation, and Indications for Diet Therapy by Dina Aronson, Ms, RD. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/111609p38.shtml
Dutch Webinar: Ask the Expert with Carrie Jones, ND, MPH of Precision Analytical, August 25th, 2020.
Nutritional Symptomatology by Lynne Hinton, BSc, BEd, RNT, CHCP and Tracy McBurney, BA, RNT, EMP