The holiday season is typically revered for its festive nature filled with warmth, love, and hopefully a brief break from employment obligations. Although the season may exemplify peace, many women can attest to the fact that it can actually result in the opposite.
Science is realizing that hormonal balance has a much more significant impact on an individual’s daily functioning, weight, sleep, and overall health than initially given credit for. The stress of a chaotic holiday season can wreak havoc on a woman’s hormonal balance, which makes an already difficult time seem that much worse. Critical hormones such as cortisol, leptin, insulin, and progesterone have a substantial impact on the outcome of your holiday season.
By recognizing the common culprits of holiday hormonal stressors and knowing how to resolve them before they begin, we can make certain to ensure our most harmonious holiday yet!
Stress: Planning parties, attending events, seeing people you may not have seen in forever, deciding what to cook, purchasing gifts, juggling finances – the list goes on – All put the body in a state of stress. When our brain perceives a threat, it releases a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol elevates our nervous system and is meant to help us survive. Chronic cortisol, however, results in adrenal fatigue, weight gain, poor sleep, high blood pressure, poor digestion and more. To balance cortisol and control holiday stress, you can limit stimulants like coffee, make an effort to get more sleep, practice deep breathing and meditation, organize your schedule in advance (and do not feel bad about saying “no” if you feel overwhelmed), budget and make daily time for yourself.
Sleep: Leptin, a hormone that shares a direct correlation with how much you sleep, is responsible for appetite regulation and hunger control. Without enough sleep, too little leptin is produced and we begin craving insulin raising foods such as refined carbohydrates and sugar. You may also notice that you feel hungrier on days you get inadequate sleep and that you eat more at meals. Allowing Holiday events and stressors to interfere with sleep will likely lead to weight gain, sluggishness and depression. You can easily avoid this by practicing stress management and sticking to a solid sleeping schedule.
Physical activity: Between the colder weather, snow, atypical gym hours and priority changes, many of us find ourselves skimping on exercise. Regular, moderate physical activity helps to regulate cortisol production and insulin resistance. Even if you aren’t sticking to a standard workout routine, make an effort to walk 30-60 minutes a day, or do another activity that you enjoy (such as dancing, building snowmen or playing a sport with your family). Even cleaning counts!
Holiday Treats: As many of us are acutely aware, the holidays have a notorious reputation for supplying a nearly endless abundance of food; most of which is plentiful in insulin boosting, leptin defying refined carbohydrates and sugars. Do not feel as if you must deprive yourself of your favorite treats, simply consume them in moderation and eat mindfully. You can decrease the insulin response my consuming adequate protein, which slows digestion, alongside insulin spiking foods. You can also add some quality fats to your diet which stabilize blood sugar and keep you full for longer.
Other considerations: If you plan on travelling this season, be certain to plan ahead, develop a sleeping schedule (even if it has to include naps), have some high protein/high fiber snacks with you at all times and to consume adequate vitamin C. Vitamin C not only will aid in strengthening your immune system and fight off seasonal illnesses, but it has been proven to increase progesterone production in women. Progesterone helps regulate a plethora of other hormones, and a lack of it typically leads to numerous menopausal symptoms. The cortisol production caused by increased holiday stressors will drain progesterone, so practicing stress management and increasing Vitamin C intake can help reverse this.
By taking these simple steps, you can maximize your potential to have a hormone happy, joyous and stress free holiday season! To learn more about managing your health please visit our website!