1. How do you deal with stress with PCOS? 5 tips for managing stress when you have polycystic ovary syndrome

    Everybody experiences stress from time to time. But, research suggests that people with PCOS have increased perceived stress (and depression and anxiety) than those who don’t have PCOS.
    Stress, by the way, isn’t inherently “bad”. Eustress, the name given to “good” or helpful stress, can actually be really positive. It’s the fizzing excitement you feel when you start a new job you’re really looking forward to. It increases alertness, so can be beneficial for physical activity, starting new hobbies or work projects, and socialising too. 
    Stress becomes harmful when it exceeds our ability to cope. And, left unchecked, it can have physical, psychological, emotional and behavioural impacts, including muscle pain and tension, restlessness, anxiety, reduced sex drive, fatigue, and drug or alcohol misuse. Long term, chronic stress could increase your risk of heart and circulatory disease.

    Does stress make PCOS worse?

    Honestly? The relationship between PCOS and stress isn’t 100% clear cut. We know that stress doesn’t cause PCOS, but it’s widely believed that it may have an influence on symptoms. 
    One theory is that high levels of cortisol, the hormone that’s released when we’re under stress, could interfere with the body’s insulin response. Some 65-70% of people who have PCOS and are insulin resistant.
    What we do know, however, is that stress impacts everything from sleep and appetite to mental wellbeing, all of which can have a knock-on effect when it comes to PCOS symptoms. Therefore, it's advisable to take measures to manage your stress, when possible.

    5 ways to deal with stress when you have PCOS

    1. Exercise

    Movement has many, many benefits. Research supports that it can be helpful for treating PCOS (120 minutes of moderate-vigorous intensity exercise per week is thought to be a sweet spot for people with PCOS), and it’s also great for reducing stress, too.
    There are a few reasons for this, namely that movement triggers the release of feel-good hormones called endorphins, which encourage feelings of pleasure and happiness, and reduce levels of stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline. 
    If you aren’t sure where to start, experiment with different types of activity until you find something you genuinely enjoy (you’re more likely to be consistent with exercise if you find it fun). It needn’t be high intensity, either. You could start with walking, swimming, cycling, or yoga, for instance. 

    2. Prioritise sleep quality

    A lack of quality sleep can have a huge impact on your mental wellbeing, so it’s important to prioritise getting enough kip every night. One study, which explored possible links between sleep duration and stress, found that short sleep duration may be associated with increased perceived stress compared with adequate sleep duration. This means that quantity is just as important as quality when it comes to sleep.
    What can you do to improve your sleep quality? First and foremost, allow plenty of time to sleep – 7-9 hours is ideal for most people. The next port of call is to improve your sleep hygiene (which, essentially, means cultivating healthy habits when it comes to sleep). Try:
    • Sticking to the same bedtime and wake-up time every day (yes, even on the weekends).
    • Investing in quality bedding – a supportive mattress, a cosy duvet and pillows, and sheets made from natural and breathable fibres.
    • Setting aside time to wind down before bed. This could involve dimming lights, turning off devices, doing your skincare routine, and engaging in calming activities, such as reading, journalling, or meditating.
    • Avoiding alcohol and caffeine close to bedtime.
    • Ridding your bedroom of light and sound pollution by investing in black-out window dressings and, possibly, a white noise machine if loud noises often disrupt your sleep.

    3. Make time for hobbies

    Studies have confirmed that partaking in leisurely activities that you find enjoyable is associated with improved wellbeing. To capitalise on this, make time in your schedule every week (or, every day if you can manage it) for your hobbies – whether you love to read, sew, paint, cook, game, or brunch with friends. Approach your allocated hobby time in the same way you would an important meeting – don’t cancel, don’t push it to the bottom of your to-do list, don’t do it half-heartedly. 

    4. Practice relaxation techniques

    Relaxation techniques can help to slow down your heart rate, lower blood pressure, improve digestion, and reduce activity of stress hormones, so they’re well worth a try if you’re looking to get better at managing stress.
    Some relaxation techniques you could experiment with include:
    • Visualisation
    • Breathwork
    • Meditation
    • Journalling
    • Massage
    • Yoga
    • Aromatherapy
    • Tapping
    • Sound therapy

    5. Open up

    Research has shown that speaking and writing about stressful events can be beneficial for physical and emotional health, so try to commit time to journalling your thoughts or opening up to someone.

    Read more
  2. How can I improve my skin with PCOS? 5 tips for taking care of your skin when you have PCOS

    If you’ve ever felt self-conscious about your skin, you aren’t alone. A study commissioned by E45 back in 2019 revealed that 81% of UK adults have experienced a skin issue, ranging from acne to eczema, psoriasis and rosacea, and of those affected, 10 million people felt that it directly impacted their mental health. 24% said that their skin condition makes them feel depressed.
    Skin conditions, particularly acne, are common in people with PCOS. The presence of acne in people with PCOS is thought to be caused by a hormonal imbalance, where high levels of androgens stimulate the production of oil in the skin. Excess oil can clog pores, resulting in acne. 
    It can feel incredibly overwhelming trying to find a suitable solution if you do suffer from PCOS acne. If you aren’t sure where to start, here are 5 tips for taking care of your skin when you have PCOS acne.

    5 tips for taking care of your skin when you have PCOS

    1. Seek advice from a professional

    Before investing in lotions and potions which promise to clear acne, first speak to your healthcare provider or a dermatologist. This will help to determine the cause of your acne and the most appropriate treatment methods, and may help to save you time and money, too. 
    To treat acne, depending on the cause, your doctor may prescribe:
    • Topical retinoids
    • Topical antibiotics
    • Azelaic acid
    • Antibiotic tablets
    • The combined oral contraceptive pill
    • Hormonal therapies
    Bear in mind that it can take a few months for the treatment to start working, so it’s not a quick fix (there, unfortunately, are no quick fixes for acne). Talk to your healthcare provider about how you can support your mental wellbeing if acne affects your self esteem. 

    2. Create a skincare routine that works for you

    Gemma Murari, Founder of Luneia, recommends prioritising a simple yet hydrating skincare routine when you have PCOS. 'Prioritise hydrating cleansers, or balm/oil-based cleansers (steer clear of anything stripping or drying), and add additional hydration with a hyaluronic acid serum,’ she advises. 'Add a mist into your routine – misting before applying serums or moisturisers will make your products work more effectively, as damp skin is more absorbent than dry skin.’ Finally, Murari recommends looking out for moisturisers which boast ingredients such as ceramides, which help to strengthen the skin barrier.

    3. Be mindful of eating habits

    Research suggests that insulin resistance, which is common in people with PCOS, may be associated with acne. This means that eating in a way which supports your insulin levels may also help to manage acne outbreaks. 
    Studies indicate that individuals with insulin resistance may benefit from a diet rich in complex, low-glycemic-index carbohydrates that are high in fibre. These include oats, lentils, beans, and pasta. Whole grains and non-starchy veggies and fruits are also thought to be beneficial for people with insulin resistance, as is being aware of and possibly reducing simple sugar intake. The Mediterranean diet has also been positively associated with supporting insulin levels.

    4. Look at your lifestyle as a whole

    Some research has shown that an increase in stress is strongly correlated with an increase in acne severity. Whilst the study didn’t look specifically at PCOS acne, there is reason to believe that stress can enhance PCOS symptoms, including acne.
    That in mind, it’s worthwhile exploring ways in which you may be able to keep negative stress to a minimum. Perhaps regular exercise helps to reduce feelings of overwhelm, or maybe getting stuck into a creative task enables you to calm right down. Whatever it is, be strict about carving out time in your schedule to manage your stress.

    5. Don't copy someone else's skincare routine (without doing the research first)

    We know that having PCOS acne is incredibly frustrating, and that seeing others experience positive results by using certain products, for example, can bring about a surge of optimism. It’s important to remember, however, that everybody’s skin is different, and therefore responds differently to treatment methods. 
    By all means quench your curiosity by investigating the products that others credit with helping them to manage or treat PCOS acne, but do your due diligence too. Get expert opinions and take your own skin’s personality into consideration before adopting someone else’s skincare routine.
    Read more
  3. Periods and PCOS: how regular, long and painful is menstruation with PCOS?

    PCOS has a huge impact on your periods – maybe not surprising given the condition has ‘ovaries’ in the title. Yet, so much of the information out there focuses on other side effects and management techniques, like insulin levels or hair problems. 

    Read more
  4. How PCOS Impacts Hair Growth, Skin and Acne

    While PCOS impacts how we feel inside, many people first notice the physical symptoms of the condition. These include changes to their hair and skin, like acne, pigmentation, hair growth and hair loss. 

    Read more
  5. 4 Ways to Support your Hormone Levels with PCOS

    If you have PCOS, you’ve no doubt been told you need to ‘balance your hormones’. While hormonal dysregulation is both a symptom and a cause of the condition, the phrase isn’t exactly a scientific way to communicate complex systems.

    Read more
  6. PCOS Workouts: Why Low-Impact Exercise is So Good for Your Hormones

    We all know that moving our bodies is so important for our health. While social media and the buzzing fitness industry have made intense exercise that leaves you huffing and puffing in a sweat-drenched ball seem like the best way to move, that’s not true for everyone.

    Read more