Prevent your hormones from becoming imbalanced while in quarantine. There’s no doubt that we are all experiencing some level of stress as this global pandemic forces us to make some major changes to our everyday lives. This stress response is especially important for people who have been through trauma or are susceptible to overactive stress responses. As many of you already live with hormonal imbalances and are working at home or trying to take care of a family during quarantine, it’s extra important to care for yourself during this time.
During your time in quarantine, it might be wise to start implementing some lifestyle changes. The good news is that these sorts of changes will probably stick — if you are diligent with them — offering benefits far after the COVID-19 crisis is over. For now, though, the goal is to lower your stress levels. When we’re stressed, cortisol is released as a way of adapting and responding to that stress, but too much cortisol in the blood, on the other hand, is the problem.
The endocrine system is made up of several glands and is responsible for the production of hormones, many of which send important ‘messages’ through your bloodstream. These messages tell your body to regulate processes like breathing, water balance, blood pressure, metabolism, and more. Your endocrine system is also what controls your response stress and worry. Chronic stress can lead to increased cortisol levels. Cortisol – the ‘stress hormone’ is a necessary hormone to help regulate blood sugar, blood pressure, water balance, inflammation, metabolism, memory creation and in pregnant women, it plays a role in the development of the foetus.
The trouble is that high cortisol levels are hard on our hormones. Long-term, chronic stress can flood your body with cortisol, leading to anxiety, gut health issues, heart problems, weight gain, cognitive issues (such as problems concentrating), depression, lowered immunity (an especially risky side effect during times of rapid virus spread).
You may feel scared and isolated at home. But WE are in this together. You are not alone.
There are steps we can take to protect our hormones, our stress response system, and our overall mental health and sense of wellbeing.
Here’s what I recommend to help keep yourself safe and sane during this time:
#1 Protect and support your stress response system
During this anxiety-producing time your body may be producing more cortisol than normal. We are living through a global fight-or-flight scenario. When cortisol runs high for too long, it can throw our whole hormone system out of balance and contribute to menstrual problems and other symptoms like cysts, fibroids, fatigue, and low mood. Not to mention, elevated cortisol levels suppress the immune response.
It is critical to manage your stress by flushing cortisol from your body and taking other steps to reduce anxiety.
Start by limiting how much news you take in. If the headlines are a trigger for you, try to find a happy medium between learning what you need to know to keep yourself and community safe and not overdoing it with stressful news.
Movement is a great way to flush excess cortisol from your body. It’s also a great way to soothe stressful thoughts and help clear your mind. Try jumping on a mini-trampoline, or doing dance, yoga, and movement at home. When you wake up in the morning do some stretching, and if you have kids, recruit them into the stretching routine too. Online workouts are another great way to keep your body strong and your mind calm. Take advantage of streaming workouts.
If you are able to do so within your premises taking a walk outside to get some fresh air and vitamin D from sunshine, supports hormone balance and immune system function.
#2 Pay attention to stress eating and blood sugar swings
Our abilities to make healthy food choices can also become compromised under stress. First, I want to acknowledge that you might not have regular access to the fresh, whole foods you usually eat. That’s okay! And that is temporary. Instead of reaching for a tub of ice cream, knowing what healthy options are available helps. Proper diet can counterbalance the impact of stress by strengthening the immune system, stabilizing moods, and reducing blood pressure. Beans are a fantastic source of fibre, which helps trap and eliminate excess hormones from the body. Starchy vegetables with slower burning carbs, like sweet potatoes, keep for a long time in a cool, dry place. If pregnant, incorporate one healthy carb per meal if you have gestational diabetes. Even though the lack of access to our normal foods can feel stressful just do your best.
#3 Nutrients, Food and Herbal Teas for Stress-Reduction
Vitamin C: Consuming foods high in vitamin C, such as oranges and other citrus fruits, can reduce stress and boost the immune system. Intake of this vitamin can help lower the levels of cortisol and blood pressure.
Complex Carbohydrates: such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, can induce the brain to increase serotonin production and stabilizing blood pressure as a way to reduce stress.
Magnesium: Obtaining an adequate amount of magnesium is essential for avoiding headaches and fatigue. Oral magnesium can also successfully relieve premenstrual mood changes. Additionally, increased magnesium intake has been found to improve sleep quality in older adults. Healthy sources of magnesium include spinach or other leafy greens, salmon and soybeans (not processed soy products).
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Fatty fish (such as salmon and tuna) and nuts and seeds (such as flaxseeds, pistachios, walnuts, and almonds) are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce surges of stress hormones and also provide protection against heart disease, depression, and premenstrual syndrome.
Dark Chocolate: Dark chocolate can not only satisfy your taste buds, but it can also help relieve stress. Additionally, cocoa can also improve cognitive function and mood. The antioxidants in cocoa trigger the walls of your blood vessels to relax, lowering blood pressure and improving circulation. And finally, dark chocolate contains unique natural substances that create a sense of euphoria similar to the feeling of being in love. Go for varieties that contain at least 70% cocoa.
Seeds: Flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds are all great sources of magnesium (as are leafy greens, yogurt, nuts, and fish). Loading up on the mineral may help regulate emotions. Magnesium has been shown to help alleviate depression, fatigue, and irritability. When you’re feeling especially irritable during that time of the month, the mineral also helps to fight PMS symptoms, including cramps and water retention.
Oatmeal: Certain comfort foods, such as oatmeal, can reduce levels of stress hormones and result in a boost in serotonin, which stimulates a feeling of calmness.
Here are the herbs and teas that are commonly used for calming effect and reduce stress-related insomnia and anxiety:
Chamomile is popular for its easy availability and wide range of healing properties. It is often used to relieve stress-induced symptoms such as insomnia and gastrointestinal disorders.
Mint is commonly used to relieve stress and induce calmness. Peppermint oil has relaxation-promoting properties on the gastrointestinal tissue as well.
Barley tea has proven effective in relaxing the body. Its capability to relieve stress is thought to derive from its contribution of tryptophan, an amino acid necessary for sleep and synthesizing serotonin – a neurotransmitter essential in the regulation of sleep and mood.
Passionflower has the ability to treat sleep disorders, nervous tension, and anxiety. A recent study found that passionflower was as effective as oxazepam, a prescribed anxiolytic drug, in treating patients with anxiety disorders.
Valerian root is sometimes used for treating anxiety and insomnia. This herbal supplement is considered safe when used appropriately over a short time period of less than one month.
#4 Be proactive about your mental health
We all react differently to stressful situations and isolation. Try sticking to a consistent and doable schedule. If you normally work a 9 – 5 job, sticking to a routine will help you transition back to normal life. Avoid waking up or going to sleep too late. The body, specifically hormones love routine. So wake up early, do some stretching, shower, put on clothes that aren’t pyjamas, and eat breakfast. Avoid sugary cereals, pastries and too much caffeine. Another plus to working from home – you don’t have the stress of sitting in traffic every day. Bonus!
Talk to friends and family you haven’t seen in a while. Keep in touch. Now is the time to pick up the phone or use video chat to talk, listen, and be there for one another. Find constructive projects to do, like a house project you’ve long wanted to tackle, a creative project you’ve dreamt about, learning a musical instrument or another skill (YouTube is a great teacher!). Learning a new skill, like all new activities, also boosts dopamine and serotonin.
#5 Practice gratitude
Gratitude is one of the best antidotes to anxiety. Make adding to a gratitude list part of your morning routine. End your day by recounting your wins and your blessings. Focusing on the good in turbulent times is an amazing way to help protect our mental health.
Here is my declaration to you: You are making an important difference, and I see you and appreciate you, and I am so very grateful to you.