My 4-Step Guide to Hormone Balance – Step 4
Step 4. Nurture
The final step in my Guide to Hormone Balance is NURTURE which means investing in your wellbeing. It might be the last step and indeed, it’s often the last thing we get around to doing, but it’s certainly no less important. The best diet in the world cannot compensate for the ill effects of stress or poor sleep.
In Step 1 – Connect, I encouraged you to take an honest look at your lifestyle to see how well you look after yourself. Truly nurturing ourselves well means managing stress, prioritising sleep, getting some exercise and making sure we have a bit of time for something joyful each day.
Why is this so important for hormone balance?
Let’s consider the impact of stress in a bit more detail. Stress not only comes from our busy day-to-day lives but from other sources too, including diet (sugar and inflammatory foods for example), toxins in the environment, infection, poor sleep, over exercising and other lifestyle factors.
Your body perceives these different threats in exactly the same way and responds by mounting the ‘fight or flight’ stress response, which activates release of adrenaline and cortisol. The problem is, in the chaos of modern life, we can be experiencing small (or large) stressors on a fairly frequent basis meaning our stress response is continually switched on.
And persistently raised adrenaline and cortisol is bad news for several reasons, it can:
- Reduce progesterone and unbalance your oestrogen
- Mess with your monthly cycle and inhibit ovulation
- Lower libido
- Increase blood sugar levels (to give extra energy for fight or flight)
- Stimulate insulin release (which can mean increased fat storage)
- Suppress your thyroid hormones, slowing down metabolism and fat burning
- Negatively affect our sleep
- Compromise digestion and our detoxification pathways for oestrogen
- Impact brain function and our immune system
It’s actually a little frightening to think about the impact stress can have. The good news is, there’s lots we can do to reduce and manage it better. Here are some key things to think about:
1. Regular Exercise – yawn, yawn, I know this isn’t news BUT it is crucial for de-stressing, supporting inflammation and regulating blood sugar, which all in turn benefit hormone balance. It can also help to maintain that waistline and bone strength. But watch out, intense exercise can actually increase cortisol so balance gentle cardio with activities like yoga, pilates and weights.
2. Prioritise Better Sleep – this is our ultimate repair time, it’s when our bodies process toxins and old hormones. Poor sleep is associated with higher cortisol levels and disrupted oestrogen and progesterone balance. To improve sleep quantity and quality aim for at least 8 hours (with 2-3 in deep sleep) in a quiet, cool and dark bedroom. Avoid screens before bedtime and develop a calming routine that will help prepare you for a good night.
3. Do Something Joyful Each Day – anything that lights you up and fills your heart with a little bit of happiness. I love the glow of a candle, but it could be 20 minutes with a delicious coffee and a magazine, listening to music, walking in the sunshine. You not only deserve that time, but you also need it to re-energise and be able to give back. So, make sure you do it EVERY day.
4. Be Outside – getting outdoors and into nature is a proven way to de-stress and enhance your mood.
5. Limit Exposure to Environmental Toxins – see my blog from Step 3 – CLEANSE for ideas on how.
So, please love and look after yourself! It pays dividends not only for your hormones and overall happiness, but for those around you too.
To find out more how I can help you make those all important lifestyle changes, contact me for a chat.