Today is the official launch of the "Achieving a Healthy Balance" series my dear friend, Brittany, and I have been collaborating on for some time now. Not only do we share many.many similarities on a personal level, we are beyond being on the same page when it comes to our beliefs and approach to health and wellness. We both value and believe fervently in the holistic approach to health as we understand how important it is to consider and strive for balance in all aspects of our lives. Easier said than done, I know.
Through this series, we hope to address many issues/topics that we believe to be essential in achieving optimal well-being. But honestly, we don’t have a definite agenda as we want this to be an interactive series, in which your curiosity and input are totally welcomed ;). So if there’s something you want to know more about regarding nutrition, fitness, stress, what have you, let us know!
We want to kick-start this series with all issues related to hormones, which are our bodies’ natural chemicals that essentially control every aspect of our health.
First, to provide you with a very general overview of hormones...
What are hormones? What do they do?
We’ve all heard of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, insulin, cortisol, etc., but did you know that we have nearly 200 different kinds of hormones in our bodies?
The word hormone means “to stir up, urge on” and that’s exactly what hormones do. They are chemical messengers that are produced and secreted by the endocrine glands. Once released, they travel in your bloodstream carrying messages throughout the body to specific organs and tissues, including your brain, heart, muscles, reproductive organs, bones, etc. In this way, they aid in keeping communication alive between organs and tissues to regulate various physiological and behavioral activities, such as digestion, reproduction, mood, etc.
What can happen if they are unbalanced?
Hormones are used by every cell in our bodies. I just want to make a little note that even though all cells are exposed to the circulating hormones in the bloodstream, not all cells are affected or react to them. Rather only the cells with receptors for that hormone (hormone’s target cells), will respond to its signal.
Hormones are essential for:
- Growth and development
- Sexual function
Very powerful stuff here! I won’t get into all the details of how our brain is intricately involved in the whole process of hormone release, but the bottom line is that we feel our absolute best when our hormones are in balance with respect to each other. Some hormones make other hormones work better or not work as well. Thus, there’s a very complex interplay between these hormones. And when they are out of balance, it can cause an endless list of problems, including but not limited to:
- Slow metabolism/ weight gain
- Low sexual drive
- Hair loss
What are practical steps you can take to achieve hormonal balance?
The endocrine system is extremely complex and not completely understood, but there are certainly things you can do that will have a profound impact on your body’s ability to produce and balance hormones.
- Managing your stress.
- Eating a well-balanced diet, focusing on whole foods.
- Engaging in adequate physical activity
There are many more ways to balance your hormones naturally, but these are the ones I think are the most fundamental components to living a lifestyle that promotes hormonal balance.
But whatever you do, make certain you...
take the time to take care of YOU!
Let’s start off with stress management because let’s face it – life is crazy! Just when you think you’ve finally climbed and conquered that mountain, another one awaits you. No matter how much we try to escape stress, the reality is we simply can’t. However, what we do have power over is how we handle and cope with that stress to the best of our abilities.
So Brittany and I thought it’d be fun to share on each other's blog how we personally deal with stress. So without further ado, take it away, my friend!
Stress is a part of daily life. Whether it is a traffic jam, running late, or chronic daily stress over work, and illness, etc. Life will never be stress free.
So, why worry about dealing with it?
Stress increases our cortisol which elicits the fight or flight response in our body. This causes us to have a surge of adrenaline to help us to get away from our “predator". When stress is chronic and this surge continues, we start having issues. This ends up altering hormones, raising blood sugar levels, depleting nutrients, decreasing bone mass, decreasing immunity, and causing anxiety. Overall, it decreases our quality of life.
Here are a few of my tips for battling stress:
- Sleep. Really? Even when I have so much to do?? Yes! Without sleep, you are less productive. It robs your body of energy, decreases your thinking ability, promotes weight gain, contributes to mood swings, and yes... increases your stress. Make sure you get adequate sleep to so you can tackle that to do list!
- Declutter. Spend 15 minutes a day just decluttering your work area. When it is clean and organized, you work much more efficiently. Also, declutter your life. If there are things you do that aren’t serving you right now, get rid of them. This leads me to #3...
- Say no... and mean it! When you are already overwhelmed, the last thing you need is one more item on your agenda. It's okay to say no. No one loves you for what you are able to do for them. If they do, you don't need them in your inner circle anyway!
- Don't Procrastinate. I'm a procrastinator at its finest. This is the cause of a lot of my stress. By putting things off, you are found scurrying around trying to get everything done at the last minute. It really isn't worth the extra stress... is it? (preaching to the choir here)
- Eat Well. A balanced diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals plays a huge role in dealing with stress. A poor diet leads to fatigue, mood swings, poor concentration, and decreased immunity. Eat well so that your body can handle stress!
- Bust a move. Take a walk, go to an exercise class, do some yoga. Do whatever you want to move your body. This will do two things for you. It will distract you and allow your mind to calm. Plus, as your heart rate gets going, it will increase your production of endorphins. We all know that endorphins make you happy! Already a gym rat? You may need to exercise less to reduce stress.
- Talk it out. Grab your honey, a good friend, or a family member and just talk through your stress. Sometimes it just feels good to get it off your chest.
- Be flexible. Things rarely go exactly as we have them planned. It's okay... just go with it! Lots of stress would be diminished if we didn't take our plans and ourselves so seriously.
- Pray. As a Christian, I know how important my prayer life is to control my stress. If prayer is not something you do, meditate or just sit quietly for a few minutes to let your mind and body relax.
- Lay off the caffeine. The last thing you need is more stimulants in your body when you are stressed out. Not to mention what that caffeine does to your adrenals during times of excess stress. Drink more water, and I promise you will feel much better than having that extra cup of coffee.
You can also check out my top 3 essential oils for stress relief!
Thanks, friend! And if you want to check out how I handle stress, head on over to Brittany's site! You can also follow her on Instagram and Twitter.
Vasu Manimaran says
I am really looking forward to this series. Achieving a healthy balance is something we all need to work on and remind ourselves about!
Kari @ bite-sized thoughts says
What a great series - and an informative and useful start! I definitely find eating well, moving, being flexible, and not having too much caffeine help me manage stress, which sadly are the very things that can start to slip when you're under pressure - remembering to stay focused on them helps!
Arman @ thebigmansworld says
Oh yay, It's Brittany- I know this is going to be such a useful series- Big props to tackling stress management first off!
I can already tell that I'm going to love this series! :] So many great + useful tips! I especially agree with the sleep (which I really do not get enough of), exercising, eating healthy, laying off the caffeine! Decluttering + being flexible make such a big difference too!
Patty @ Reach Your Peak says
Great info and tips! I really think something might be off with my hormone levels but I went to my doctor and she was basically like you're fine and just did a normal blood test on me. So I think I need to go somewhere else but don't know where? I'll have to look further into it.
Elizabeth @ Enjoy Every Bite says
Love this post and can't wait for more in the series! Being able to say "no" either to yourself or others is critical. I find that if I try to prioritize and say no to things that just aren't as important as say, my family, then I'm much happier, even if I REALLY wanted to get bathrooms cleaned or the house vacuumed 🙂
Sonali- The Foodie Physician says
This is going to be such a wonderful series! Thanks for the introduction to Brittany, I love what she had to say. Her tips are spot on and I think #10 is especially important to keep in mind. People so often turn to caffeine when feeling overworked, stressed out, sleep deprived, but as she wrote, this is probably the last thing you should do. Can't wait for the next post!
This post could not have come at a more perfect time. I feel my hormones have made a big switch lately and I'm currently trying to get them balanced. I agree with you on taking a holistic approach to achieve optimal well-being. Taking the time to "work on you" is necessary. Can't wait to follow this series!
I feel like stress is so prevalent nowadays... we have so many things to do in so little time, and it all needs to be done right now! It's so easy for me to fall into stress eating, so these tips are incredibly helpful! Especially ensuring you get enough sleep and making sure to exercise. Yoga and running are my favourite way to de-stress! Thanks!
Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine says
Stress is a big struggle! Those are some great essential tips though! Getting the right amount of sleep, eating whole foods, and moving your body everyday is so important! And I totally agree with decluttering! I always feel so fresh after a clean sweep!