4 Things You Can Start Today to Balance Your Hormones
Understanding why stress, and in turn chronic exposure to cortisol can be harmful to your health, your hormones and your overall well being is the first step towards better health. (If you need a review, see Part 1).
Implementing small changes in your daily habits can lead to BIG changes in stress resilience and balanced hormones. We are not going to eliminate stress from our lives, so lets discuss how we can be better equipped to deal with stress without it wreaking havoc.
Lifestyle Shift #1
Put down the damn phone! I could list all of my rants regarding the necessary evil that is my phone…there is the “compare and despair” phenomenon of social media exposure, news notifications, checking email nonstop and just plain being available 24/7. We are rarely unplugged – ever. The other factor at play here is the exposure to blue light from our digital devices before bed. This blue light has been shown to shorten sleep times, significantly suppress melatonin production and diminish sleep quality by increasing the frequency of night waking. Sl
So I encourage you to find times during the day when you can really unplug. More importantly, commit to a technology curfew. Limiting exposure to blue light 2 hours before bed can greatly enhance your quality of sleep. Open a book, go to bed earlier or have a conversation with your partner. The benefits of putting the phone in the drawer are numerous!
Lifestyle Shift #2
Sleep! Not many women I know, especially mothers, are getting the recommended 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep required. Our bodies work really hard while we sleep, rebuilding and restoring tissue (this is especially important if you are recovering from birth or an operation but also after exercise) and producing essential hormones. A lack of sleep can lead to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and depression.
In addition to the technology curfew, here are some other tips to help aid in a better night’s sleep:
- Try to go to bed and wake at the same time each day, even on the weekends.
- Establish a bedtime routine (just like you do for your kids!). This can be whatever you want it to be- make sure it’s nourishing and relaxing to you.
- Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and at a cool temperature.
- Avoid excess fluid or food approximately 2hrs before bedtime
Enjoy a more restful sleep and a brighter morning!
Lifestyle Shift #3
Get OFF the Sugar Roller Coaster! You know the ride well, you eat a baked good and you get a spike in energy or maybe even a little “high” but shortly after, you are feeling tired and reaching for something else to give you that boost to get through the afternoon. With the standard American diet, this ride is all too familiar in everyday life.
Why is this a bad thing? When you consume refined sugar in the form of sweet treats, bread or pasta, the sugar hits your bloodstream fast. You pancreas then pumps out insulin to help the sugar enter your cells for storage. Then the blood sugar levels come down and soon you are reaching for another quick hit, and so the cycle continues.
This roller coaster can leave you
- feeling depleted,
- foggy or lack of focus
- struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep
- undesired weight gain or difficulty losing weight
When insulin spikes in the bloodstream, so does that familiar hormone cortisol. Remember, cortisol will always win out against your other hormones. So balancing blood sugar will in turn balance your hormones.
Strategies to stay off this roller coaster are reaching for nourishing, whole (unprocessed) foods, vegetables, clean protein and healthy fats. Eliminate processed foods and refined sugar. A treat once and awhile is ok, but this is really a lifestyle shift. Once you’re off the roller coaster, you will notice more energy, stable moods, increased focus and improved sleep. This also reduces your risk of heart disease, diabetes and depression while boosting your immunity!
Lifestyle Shift #4
Move More! Ok, so I don’t need to tell you the benefits of exercise. But what I am going to tell you is you may need to re-frame how you think of exercise. Notice I used the word “movement” in the image above? That’s because you need to move in a way that feels nourishing to your body. Not in a way that hurts, causes leakage or leaves you feeling like you need a nap after. Some forms of exercise can increase cortisol. High level cardio and running can increase cortisol levels fueling your chronic stress. You may need to trade in your running for a walk in nature, some restorative yoga or low-impact resistance training while you work on reducing stress and balancing your hormones.
Move more in a way that feels good, nourishing, restorative and invigorating. Once you are sleeping better, eating delicious nutrient-dense food and feeling better overall, you can then explore more options for exercise or return to running or your cardio bootcamp!