Hello everyone! This is a guest post written by Kate Gehling from the instagram and blog kisforcoconut. Kate has worked in the fitness and health industry, and shares a plethora of information regarding hormone health and wellness. She has created this blog to inspire others through her experiences and extensive knowledge. Her blog has taught me about hormonal health and the importance of making well-being a top priority in your healing journey. As someone who suffers from a severe hormonal imbalance and adrenal dysfunction, I loved this post about managing stress in order to support balanced hormones.
How to Manage Your Stress for Balanced Hormones
If someone were asked to describe me in one word about a year ago, they undoubtedly would have said ‘stressed’. I’ve always been known to be a highly functioning stressed out human being. Whether it was relationship stress, friendship stress, body image stress, money stress, family stress, or basically anything under the sun, I have a propensity for being chalk full of anxiety and stress.
Honestly life in general is super stressful. And for a long time I just thought it was normal to be extremely stressed, anxious and fatigued all the time. It wasn’t until I truly set out to change my life, that I realized how much stress I was putting myself through and how much it was affecting my health.
I remember having a client in New York who stopped training with me, and gave me ‘adrenal fatigue’ as the reason. I shook my head, and thought it was another client who wasn’t willing to work hard for what they truly wanted. Stress has always been a common term for me, but I had never connected it to the adrenal glands until I decided to get off hormonal birth control.
Your adrenal glands are known for making cortisol, DHEA, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and aldosterone. When you’re under a lot of stress, your body’s immune system responds by slowing down. If this stress becomes chronic, your adrenals are unable to continuously make cortisol to suppress or “handle” the overwhelming amount of stress.
On top of that when you take hormonal birth control, you are introducing synthetic hormones in your body. Usually more estrogen than your body would like, and in turn causes inflammation. Inflammation equals stress response, which leads to cortisol production and so on and so forth.
Being stressed in itself is terrible for your adrenal glands. Being stressed plus taking hormonal birth control is a recipe for disaster. Other signs that stress has become too much and too chronic?
Intense carb and sugar cravings
Anxiety and Depression
Mind is running but still feeling exhausted
My chronic stress began when I was in college. I was “in love” with a boy and we were long distance which was less than ideal. I suspected that it was a little out of site out of mind kind of a deal. Long distance is hard enough, throwing in some on again off again rotation was always a little more than I could handle emotionally.
Then I decided to travel after college. Went all around Asia and Europe. It was during this travel that I found how much I loved fitness, and wanted to move to New York. Very quickly after moving to New York, my job became extremely exhausting and tiring. Waking up at 4:30am everyday, and getting home at 9:30pm. I was running all over the city seeing clients, and while I loved it I was crashing quickly.
I was involved with someone in New York, that had to be hands down the dumbest and most volatile situation I’ve ever been in. Just your run of the mill terrible relationship, that I stayed in for way too long. Luckily, shortly after I met my now husband, who I still credit to turning my ever growing pessimistic view of men around.
My body and health suffered a lot due to chronic stress
During these times, I had so many health problems I can’t even count them on one hand. A few were pretty serious, and the others were just chronic sicknesses due to stress. After I got engaged, my Dad who had M.S, got diagnosed with cancer and was give 4-6 weeks to live.
Needless to say after my Dad passed, I knew that I was in serious need of a lifestyle change. So I changed careers, moved out of the city, and took a long time off from working out. The MAIN goal was and still is to learn how to handle my stress. I have worked very hard in the last year to figure out how to curb my stress, and how to lessen my pattern of worrying.
What has helped me
Doing yoga is like meditating and stretching in one. I have been doing some at home yoga videos, and they have been wonderful. I generally stick to Alo Yoga’s Youtube Channel . I love their video’s, and their workout gear is SO freakin’ adorable. (These are my absolute fav workout pants!) I’m not doing the videos to get ripped or lose weight, I’m doing them because it forces me to take 30 plus minutes to my self. It helps me breathe deeply, and stretch my body in a very mindful way. It is an excellent stress reducer.
I started going to a community acupuncture about 6 months ago. While it’s not totally private, and occasionally can get distracting with people going in and out of the room, generally I have found it to be very relaxing. If acupuncture is out of your budget, try looking for a community center in your town. Here in Phoenix, it costs $17, as opposed to a private session which is usually $100!
Podcasts and Books
What usually makes me so stressed is not having any answers. There aren’t always answer, especially when it comes to your health. But I find that the more knowledge I get about what’s going on in my body, the calmer I feel about it. It helps me form a plan, and gives me concrete information to work towards certain goals.
I used to agonize over saying no when it comes to hanging out with friends, or doing favors for family. I pride myself on being loyal and dependable, and whenever someone asked me to do something and I wasn’t up for it, I would fear that they would stop liking me or depending on me. Which I’ve learned over the years is stupid. Sometimes if I don’t feel like it, I just don’t do it. If my body is screaming at me to rest, I listen to it.
Music Not TV
I’m not a huge TV person. There are definitely much needed Netflix binge nights, but generally TV adds to my stress. It is sensory overload. It’s loud, bright and often too suspenseful. When I get home after work during the week, I do not turn on the TV. I turn on music, and it helps me keep calm and wind down.
The long-term activation of the stress-response system — and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones — can disrupt almost all your body’s processes. This puts you at increased risk of numerous health problems (Mayo Clinic)
I have learned that was keeps my stress and worry at bay the most, is figuring out what I truly can and cannot control. I can control how healthy I eat, how much exercise I get, how much “me time” I get, how I treat myself (especially in my head), and how I react to things. My biggest worry over the years has always been money. When I was a trainer, income was always inconsistent. So I quit training, and got a 9-5 salary. This work life balance in itself has been huge for my stress and wellbeing.
It’s also a process. So know that it will not happen over night. I have been focusing on myself, my health, and reducing my stress for almost an entire year now. It will be something I continue to work on. So try not to get overwhelmed with changing everything right now. Focus on one thing that you can incorporate in the next month, and go for it.
Check out Kate's instagram and website and follow her journey to health!