Stress Symptoms In Women: How To Stop Running On Empty & Relying On Caffeine To Deal With Stress

One of the biggest issues I have found working with high achieving women that effects their health and happiness is what I call ‘Running on Empty.’ This is one of the biggest signs and symptoms of stress in women.   
Now, modern women have to juggle jobs, home life, usually have the lions share of house keeping responsibilities, and that is even without adding kids into the mix!  And the good thing is that there is so much about women’s empowerment out there now telling us ‘you can do it all, you can have it all,’ that a lot of women feel the pressure to keep it all up and make it look easy!
But when we feel pulled in a million directions, overwhelmed and not having enough hours in the day to get everything done, we start using up our ‘resiliency stores.’ both mentally and in the brain, and physically in our bodies.  One of the main issues that happens in the brain and body is that there is not enough energy being produced in your little energy cell powerhouses called your mitochondria.  And because there just isn’t enough ‘juice’ in the tank, you have to do something to keep going!  
The most common solution is using caffeine every day or most days to get going in the morning, temporarily get rid of ‘fuzzy brain’ so you can get more done in less time, and still have the energy to go to the gym after a hectic work day when all you want to do is ‘zone out.’ The trouble is, if your brain is trying to deal with low grade chronic stress and daily caffeine is onboard, it can really wreak some havoc on your mood, how much patience you have, feeling anxious, and waking up in the middle of the night or having trouble falling asleep, even if you only drink a coffee in the morning!  
If you are a smoker, the half-life of caffeine in the body and brain is cut in half, but if you are a non smoker on a birth control pill, the half life is double—meaning it takes your brain and body twice as long to get rid of the caffeine!!! So you may still have effects at bedtime from your morning cup of coffee—crazy right!?
Caffeine produces a central brain and nervous system stimulant affect by blocking something called adenosine receptors.  Basically, what caffeine does is increases the excitatory brain neurotransmitters and ’speeds everything up’ and also releases more NE and dopamine, which is why caffeine feels so good, because dopamine is your brain’s ‘reward’ peptide.
But this is also why caffeine in an already ‘revved up’ too excited all the time brain on the way to burnout is a really bad idea—because your brain and body can only keep this up for so long before living in a ‘hyper-aroused state’ leads to issues like anxiety, irritability, issues concentrating, mood swings and eventually fatigue that is only relieved by more caffeine!  
In this hyper aroused always ‘on state’ your body also pumps out more stress hormone from your adrenal glands, which makes you crave carbs and also makes your brain really crave quick fuel from carbs AND not burn fats quite as well, leading to you holding onto every ounce of fat for dear life and creating more ‘metabolically active’ fat around your tummy and middle bit.
OK, so we can now see the connection between juggling a hectic busy life, needing caffeine to keep going, and issues leading to anxiety and burnout BUT now what you can do to stop this viscous cycle ?  
Well the first step is weaning off of caffeine, slowly, over 2-4 weeks so you don’t get the energy crash and the headaches!  Decrease by about a 1/4 cup of coffee each day.  To make it even more painless, I use something with my patients called adaptogens, which are special compounds plants make in nature to protect themselves from stress and they can work for us too.  
I use my blend which is a combination of corydceps and reishi mushroom in a tincture taken in the morning for the weeks when you are weaning off to give you energy without the jitteriness and crashes that caffeine gives you and provide stress support your body and adrenal glands.  You can also find adaptogen supplements in pill form at many good quality natural pharmacies and health stores.  

Women and Sleep Debt

Today I’m going to tell you a bit about the importance of sleep, and how damaging it can be to your long term health if you are not getting enough, particularly for women who, on average,  just aren’t getting the right amount of sleep each night.

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Welcome to Dr Dani Tv where each week I help you to get happy and healthy, and starting living your dream life, with the latest research from the worlds of applied neuroscience, mind body medicine and integrative medicine.

Sleep is SO Important

After breathing and water, sleep is the most important biological activity needed for survival. Sleep is essential for health, productivity and takes up more time than any other single activity. It can be too easy to get into a sleep debt cycle: sleeping a little less than you should to ‘save time’ on a long term basis. This will lead to lots of problems with energy and other chronic health issues with mood, memory, focus, attention and even weight!

In a recent medical study on women’s sleep, almost HALF of the healthy women in the study had sleep dysfunction which affected everything from their anxiety levels, their mood, if they were slim vs. overweight and their blood pressures!

Women Sleep More Hours Than Men

 Research on sleep show that, on average, women sleep more hours than men do.

However, studies show that despite having longer sleep times than men, women have a poorer quality of sleep and wake up more during the night. This lower sleep quality is a major factor in why women are likely to wake up feeling unrefreshed, suffer with daytime tiredness and are prone to many health issues related to poor sleep. Check out the research here.

Women’s sleep is also impacted by our biology, our menstrual cycles and when we start to approach menopause due to hormonal change. If you are a woman who struggles with hormonal imbalances, fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue, you are more likely to have problems with getting quality sleep in the first part of the night, e.g. up until 3 am, and more likely to have fragmentation of your sleep, affecting your mood and energy during the days. Check out the research here.

Making Small Changes Makes A Difference

The good news is that making small consistent changes to your daily routine starting TODAY can have a huge impact on your sleep, your mood, your energy and your health. Getting good quality sleep is as important as not smoking, exercising and not eating fast food every day!

In fact, in the research, women are more likely to be more consistent – meaning successful – in implementing strategies to get more sleep than men, such as being able to stick to early bedtimes and scheduling in a nap during the day to help catch up.

The Sleep Debt Secret

Sleep debt is a really nasty problem. The big secret that most doctors don’t emphasize is that sleep debt is not something that you can ‘work off’ over the weekend by sleeping in or ‘catching up’ on the sleep you have lost. Unfortunately sleeping-in late actually disrupts you circadian rhythms more AND the after-midnight sleep is not the deep restorative sleep you really need to get when you have sleep debt.

The only way to get rid of sleep debt is to start sleeping more hours EVERY or MOST nights and slowly shifting your bedtime forward so you are in rhythm with natural light and dark cycles which is critical to good sleep.

How To Calculate Your Sleep Debt Number

Most people actually need at least 8 hours of restorative sleep per night and many sleep experts are now saying it’s more like 9! To get the number of hours you are in debt, take the average number of hours you sleep per night from the last year and subtract it from 9. So, say you sleep 6 hours average, 9 minus 6 equals 3 hours.  3 hours times 365 days is over a 1000 hrs–to be exact that is 1095 hrs of sleep debt!! That’s just for one year… your brain remembers far longer times for sleep debt that only a year!

First Step To Better Sleep

So the first step to starting to sleep better is making TIME for sleep a priority! Devoting at least 9 hours to time in bed is essential.

If you have 1000 or more hours of sleep debt and you feel like you have tried every sleep tip already but you are not succeeding to get to sleep and stay asleep, and you need a system that will actually work – I’ve created a step by step sleep program to help you start getting your sleep back on track, just click here .

YOU CAN overcome the health issues that are holding you back from the freedom of feeling amazing every day.

Does Stress Make PMS Worse? Yes, And Here’s What To Do About It..

I often get asked “Dr Dani, does stress make PMS worse?”. Well, if you suffer like many woman from bad PMS, both the physical stuff (feeling bloated, tender, headachey, tired etc) AND the emotional stuff (more sensitive, more irritable, get ‘teary’ more easily) it can really make you dread ‘that time of the month.”

How Chronic Stress Makes PMS Worse

One of the things you may not know is that chronic stress that is not being managed with a regular mindbody practice, can actually cause hormonal disruptions and make monthly PMS symptoms WAAY worse.  We can’t avoid stress, especially in a busy modern life, but how stress affects our physiology and our endocrine, or hormonal systems, depends on what we do each day to ‘buffer’ it–meaning a daily, simple, quick mindbody practice.

How To Use Mindbody Practices To Reduce Stress And PMS

I like to start the day with yoga, even for 15 minutes if I’m in a rush.  Just 10 minutes a day of relaxation practice is enough over time to ‘buffer’ against the negative effects of stress and can really have a HUGE affect on reducing or even getting rid of PMS symptoms!  In the pre menopause time frame, these hormonal imbalances can become even more pronounced, so if you are approaching menopause, it’s extra important to find a mindbody practice now more than ever to do each day!:)

For more ways to manage stress to help your PMS and get access yoga videos and stress busting guided meditations, sign up for my free course below this post :)




Natural Ways To Prevent Bladder Infections In Women

Recurrent UTIs ( or bladder infections) are common in otherwise healthy women.  Repeated courses of antibiotics are sometimes necessary and can be hard on the stomach and cause many undesirable side effects.  When a UTI is already underway, and especially if there is any stomach pain, fever or general malaise, antibiotics are still the safest choice.

Repeated UTIs / Bladder Infections

For women who get three or more UTIs a year, you should always consult with your family doc to rule out underlying problems.  However, at the same time, there is now evidence for some natural therapies that can be taken to prevent recurrent UTIs. Cranberry juice or extract, probiotics, and d-mannose are three of these.

D-mannose, cranberry extract and probiotics all work by inhibiting adhesion, or attachment of the bacteria bugs to the wall of the bladder, although they each do this in slightly different ways.  Probiotics and D-mannose may other have other properties that inhibit the growth of the bugs in the bladder as well as preventing them from sticking to the walls.

Cranberry Extract For Bladder Infections

 This is the most well-studied natural therapy for UTIs in the west.  At a smaller dose, it can be taken daily to prevent recurrent UTIs.   You can drink the juice, (look for the unsweetened form and dilute with water) or take the extract in capsule form.


The most commonly used probiotic is the bacteria called lactobacillus.  The most studied way of taking probiotics to prevent UTIs is per vagina in a capsule, that is inserted once daily or once a week, depending on the preparation.  Often, a few different species or types of lactobacillus are combined into one capsule for better efficacy.


A simple sugar that has been studied more recently for prevention of UTIs and although there are only small preliminary studies in the literature, the in vitro evidence is very strong for their effect against e. coli strains of bacteria.  D-Mannose is sold in liquid or powder form, which you can add to water or juice

Other Natural Ways to decrease risk of UTIs through Diet

Eat Berries!  Women who eat lots of fruit in their diet, especially berries, have lower rates of UTIs.  This is due to the anti-adhesive properties of certain fruits, especially blueberries and cranberries.

Drink fermented milk products such as yoghurt and kefir–women who consume FERMENTED dairy products (i.e. milk and cheese don’t count) also had lower rates of UTIs.

  1. Head, KA. Natural approaches to prevention and treatment of infections of the lower urinary tract. Altern Med Rev. 2008 Sep;13(3):227-44.
  2. Kontiokari T, Laitinen J, Jarvi L, et al. Dietary factors protecting women from urinary tract infection. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;77:600-604.

  3. Hung, C.-S., Bouckaert, J., Hung, D., Pinkner, J., Widberg, C., DeFusco, A., Auguste, C. G., Strouse, R., Langermann, S., Waksman, G. and Hultgren, S. J. (2002), Structural basis of tropism ofEscherichia coli to the bladder during urinary tract infection. Molecular Microbiology, 44: 903–915. 

Cranberry Extract and D-Mannose are both natural ways of preventing recurrent UTIs and are safe and have no side effects in 99% of people.  However, they are NOT a replacement for seeing your family doc–just an ‘add-on.’