The more time I’ve spent reflecting over the past few years, the more I firmly believe that the root cause of so many of our issues as women comes down to one word: STRESS. It is the precursor to so many symptoms: hormone imbalance, weight gain, gut issues, insomnia, high blood pressure, headaches, brain fog, weakened immunity, depression, anxiety. (Check out a blog post I wrote,10 Signs Your Stress Is Out of Control.) Some of this stress is placed upon us by our capitalist, patriarchal society and our busy lifestyles, but much of it we place on ourselves: being perfectionist people-pleasers. (It's not your fault. You were probably raised that way, like me. But once you are aware of it, it's your responsibility to do something about it.) The expectations and obligations that we allow to be put upon ourselves cause our nervous system to go into that fight or flight response more often than our body can handle. Let’s take a look at the science behind it all.
Cortisol is the main stress hormone released by your adrenal glands when they sense any threat or stress. Though this is a very necessary response for short-term threats, it causes a lot of problems when it becomes chronic. For example, if our adrenals are continuously pumping out cortisol, they will produce less progesterone. Finding ways to de-stress can help reduce this tendency. I encourage you to add a routine of yoga, meditation, breathing techniques and walking to your week. Beyond that, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of cutting things out of your life that cause you the most stress. It may mean cutting back on work hours, avoiding negative people and learning to say no. Most women have a hard time doing these things. That’s why I created my Stop Sabotaging Your Self Care course--to support you in examining the things that are standing in the way of you taking better care of yourself. Please keep in mind: Some stress can’t be helped. (And a certain amount of stress is actually a good thing.) But you allow the amount of stress that you let into your life. You can say no to some things, and it doesn’t make you a bad person. You just have to decide what your priorities really are. (And shouldn't your health be a priority?) I implore you to do this before it’s too late. If you can get your stress levels in check BEFORE you get too far into perimenopause, I am confident you will sail through it so much easier. I personally feel like I waited too long to cut out the excess stress in my life. Had I realized the negative effects it would have on me, and how much better I would feel once I took the steps to eliminate it, I would’ve made some changes earlier. I hope you will learn from my mistakes.
Your adrenal glands sit above your kidneys and are most well known for their role in the stress response. In menopause, however, the adrenals also take over some sex hormone production, so you want them functioning optimally. Unfortunately, this time in a woman's life can be super-stressful (are you pushing yourself too hard? Staying in unhealthy situations? Trying to be perfect?) which can contribute to adrenal fatigue. Stress management is key to adrenal health, along with eating enough protein, good fats, B vitamins and vitamin C. You should also cut back on carbs (especially sugar), coffee and alcohol. In addition, it has been discovered that healthy sleep patterns help to heal the adrenal glands, so go to bed at the same time every night—by 10 pm if possible—and try to get 8 hours of sleep per night.
The term 'self-care' has, unfortunately, become something of a cliché. It often gets a bad rap in our society. Many people think self-care takes too much time or money. Others believe that self-care is selfish. These ideas are completely false. Simply put, self-care is essential for you to be the best version of yourself. It isn’t about getting weekly massages or taking bubble baths (though these can be part of it if you choose). It isn’t about neglecting your responsibilities or ignoring the needs of others. The real essence of self-care is being true to who you are so you are living your life for yourself, and not for other people. It’s about making choices from a place of love and connection rather than guilt and obligation. But that love has to start with loving yourself first, and that means examining the obstacles that are getting in the way of you being able to do that (ie. the obstacles that are getting in the way of your self-care). That is what I help people do in my Stop Sabotaging Your Self-Care course.
I’ve already talked about how stress can have a major impact on your health. If you do only one thing to start taking charge of your health, make it incorporating self-care on a daily basis. If you do this, I am confident that you will feel so much better, and your interactions with others and the world around you will become healthier and more positive.
I could go on and on about this topic, but instead I will just suggest that you read a few of my blog posts about self-care for more inspiration and resources: 5 Morning Self-Care Suggestions, Making the Time for Yoga + Self-Care, and One of My Favorite Student Stories About the Importance of Relaxation.
*Read the blog posts I highlighted above for more self-care inspiration.
*Check out my Stop Sabotaging Your Self-Care course to find out why you're not taking better care of yourself--and what you can do to change that.
*If you don't already have a yoga, meditation, breathwork and/or walking routine, which of these are you willing to add into your perimenopausal self-care routine?
*Try out this Body Scan Meditation I recorded for a quick way to help you relax in under 10 minutes.
*Make a list of what you need to cut back on/cut out of your life to be healthier and less stressed during perimenopause. Be fierce about it!