Kavana's Top 10 Tips for Better Rest & Hormone Balance
Rest is key to hormone balance.
The symptoms of perimenopause are real for women between the ages of ~30 to 55, and the seemingly never-ending demands of women in middle age, can exacerbate these symptoms and take their toll.
From academic to career demands, parenting to caring for ageing parents, keeping up with social commitments and responsibilities, dealing with a global pandemic while trying to self-care: PHEW! The overwhelm is not made up and the problems are real!
Brain-fog, exhaustion, burn-out, relationship stress are just a few of the issues that appear first, while more serious illness can appear later.
Slowing down and allowing yourself to find the time to rest and do all the nothing in seems radical in a society that prioritizes productivity and all that it demands of us. And yet, slowing down is crucial to getting much needed rest, mitigating stress and balancing hormones and the afformentioned symptoms of perimenopause. (If you have no idea what perimenopause is, please read the last Kavana blog post! ;)
The following blog is Kavana's expanded 'Top Ten Tips for Better Rest and Hormone Balance' post from Instagram @kavanaskincare
*EXPANDED* Top Ten Tips for better rest and hormone balance:
1. Sleep Hygiene:
The ebbs and flows of a woman's hormones impact sleep. If you journal about or track your cycle and how it feels before, during and after, you may notice that insomnia is more frequent right before your period when estrogen takes a plunge, and that better sleep is much more attainable following it, as estrogen begins to rise again.
Pregnant women may notice a marked improvement in sleep because hormones are elevated overall, though a drastic bout of insomnia may accompany the end of breastfeeding.
Meanwhile, women in perimenopause and menopause may experience many more fluctuations in their sleep cycle, as estrogens and progesterone start to decline.
Good habits around when you go to sleep are crucial for all people but especially for women. "According to the National Sleep Foundation, the lifetime risk of insomnia is 40 percent higher for women than it is for men. Blaming this discrepancy entirely on hormones oversimplifies it — women also tend to take on the bulk of household worrying and emotional labor, and they tend to experience higher levels of anxiety." (source)
But hormones can affect everything, including brain fog, energy, mood, metabolism and more, so sleep hygiene is crucial to good health.
Sleep hygiene may look like:
- REST YOUR EYES: trying to monitor your screen time to intentionally rest your eyes. Take breaks to walk around the room when at work, and instead of doom scrolling before bed, try and rest your eyes (closed).
- CONSISTENT BED TIME: Following nature's cycles of light and dark, which affect melatonin and circadian rhythms and overall health in deeply lasting ways, might be a better cue than burning the midnight oil. Keeping a consistent bedtime, can help with consistent energy levels. (See Kavana's blog post on 'How the Moon Affects Our Hormones' for more information about this.)
- NAP: If you have to work late shifts that keep you awake into the wee hours, try and schedule an afternoon nap if you have the luxury or privilege of taking one.
2. Sip Warm Water Throughout the day: The human body is ~60% water. The brain and heart are 73% water, the lungs are 83% water, the skin is 63% water, muscles and kidneys are 79% water and even our bones are watery at 31% water! (source) To say we need to stay hydrated to maintain homeostasis, is an understatement.
However, instead of one big gulp of cold water, which can dilute digestive acids and our digestive 'heat' or energy, also known as 'jathara agni' in ancient Indian, Ayurvedic medicine (source), sipping small sips of warm water throughout the day, may be more beneficial.
Small sips of warm water may help our bodies:
- reduce stress
- relieve constipation
- maintain the lymph (the latin word for lymph: 'lympha', means 'water'!
- flush out toxins via sweat and urine
- relax muscles and reduce shivering
- increase blood circulation
- break down fat deposits
- and more! (source)
Keeping the brain hydrated and hormones balanced, is especially important for pregnant and nursing women. (source) Try starting and ending the day with a sip of warm water and drink as needed, throughout the day.
3. Therapy: Studies show that naming things that stress us, scare us or make us anxious, when they are not immediately stressing, scaring or making us anxious, can help our brain feel less afraid, anxious and stressed. (source)
If you're in Ontario, the incredibly diverse and caring collective of registered psychotherapists and social workers at the Healing Collective , is a modern, accessible, conscious, informed and open-minded resource for online and in-person talk therapy and mental health counselling. If you're outside of Toronto/ Ontario, there are other resources like betterhelp.com that can help you find professional couselling.
4. Eat: "You are what you eat" and "let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food" are valuable sayings. Since the nutrients and calories we ingest provide information to our cells, which in turn inform our brain function, hormonal balance and energy, what we eat literally forms the building blocks of our life.
Our mental clarity or brain fog, our balanced or erratic emotions, our confidence and self-esteem, our relationships, fertility and libidos, mood and general happiness are all affected by the foods we eat.
Eating more whole foods and less refined sugar and processed foods is key to maintaining balanced blood sugar levels and balanced hormones.
When we eat too much sugar and refined flour products, the body can produce too much/ excess insulin, and release inflammatory cytokines which in turn lead to the formation of free radicals that are toxic to your cells and pro-inflammatory. (source).
Insulin, our blood sugar regulating hormone, can't properly do it's job when this happens and we become resistant to it and it's effects, a hormonal imbalance known as "insulin resistance" or Type 2 Diabetes in it's more severe and chronic form.
Likewise, when we are stressed and also eat too much sugar, the body produces cortisol at a higher rate than it would in times of calm. (source) Cortisol is our primary anti-inflammatory hormone. When stress is chronic, we can produce too much cortisol and develop 'cortisol resistance'.
In other words, more stress, more sugar, more cortisol and possibly excessive insulin in our blood or insulin resistance. Hormonal imbalances mean the blood sugar can't be regulated and this causes all kinds of health issues, notably, hormonal imbalance, poor immunity, gut issues, and cognitive decline. (source) Alzheimer's disease, is now referred to by some as type 3 diabetes because of evidence that chronic inflammation and oxidative damage may be factors in its onset. (source)
To put this into perspective: the average American eats about half a pound of sugar a day! (source) 81% of Americans now consume more than the highest daily acceptable level of sugar every single day. (source) Rates of chronic disease have parallelled the increase in sugar and carb consumption and the rates of obesity now exceed malnutrition worldwide. (source)
Deep rest and feeling deeply rested become difficult in these conditions and exacerbate other hormonal imbalances, like estrogen dominance, which can noticeably affect our skin, menstrual cycle and hormone harmony. Our overall health immediately and in the long term is most gravely affected by what we ingest.
5. SOAK: A warm foot soak or soothing bath with Kavana's Sunday Salt Soak, a magnesium-rich, aromatherapeutic epsom and dead sea-salt blend, can help restore magnesium to the body via the skin (transdermal absorption). Bypassing the digestive tract, a salt soak make this mineral more bioavailable via the skin, without overdoing it.
Magnesium is involved in over 300 processes that are critical for the body's function: regulating blood pressure, synthesizing proteins and monitoring muscle and nerve functions. (source)
Research shows magnesium can help ease hormonal imbalances like PMS cramps, insomnia, headaches and migraines and also help with stress, anxiety, leg cramps and even skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. (source)
Take a 'Sunday-Self Care' bath, anytime you need it, with Kavana's Sunday Salt Soak blend of citrus, colloidal oats and Himalayan, Dead Sea and Epsom salts. 1-2 Tbsps per bath is recommended.
6. CONNECT TO YOUR BREATH: Just take a moment to notice your breath without trying to control it with breathing exercises or focused breath. Sometimes, just noticing, can help us relax our jaw, our mouth, our face, our nose and simply give us a chance to appreciate and realize how magical it is to breathe.
A more active technique of patterned breath control, like the tradition of 'Pranayama' breathing, also known as 'Yogic breathing' discussed in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, is something that may help improve overall well-being, by reducing stress and helping the body find a more relaxed and restful state.
Pictured: Jasmine Marie, Founder of Black Girls Breathing (ABC Photo Ilustration)
"Prana" is a Sanskrit word for “life force” or “vital energy” while “ayama” means “restraint.” (source) Pranayama technique involves focusing deeply on the breath, restraining / holding it and extending the exhale.
There are a few different Pranayama exercises that anyone can try, such as Ujjayi breath (a.k.a victorious breath), Nadi Shodhana, (a.k.a alternate nostril breathing), Kapalabhati breath (gentle inhale and forceful exhales), Bhastrika (a.k.a bellow's breathing') and Bharamari breath (a.k.a humming bee breath). (source)
As far as hormone balance is concerned, a small 2010 study (source) involved training people who have hypothyroidism in yoga breathing exercises. The results showed a beneficial effect on their pulmonary functions. Although there’s no clinical research to support the claim, many yoga practitioners believe that practicing yoga focused on ujjayi breathing, can help balance the entire endocrine system, thus benefiting people with thyroid conditions.
7. MASSAGE: Dry brushing and massage, especially lymphatic massage, are great techniques to stimulate the body's lymphatic system, hormone balance and immunity. (source)
The lymphatic system is as widespread as blood vessels in the entire body and helps maintain fluid balance by carrying excess fluid away from tissues and preventing swelling. (source) It also helps the body's immunity, by distributing disease fighting cells called lymphocytes that help filter the lymph. (source)
Lymphatic massage can be beneficial by: (source)
- Increasing the flow of lymph fluid, meaning improved ability to detoxify tissue and ward off infection.
- Increasing the count and performance of white blood cells.
- Decreasing swelling and inflammation.
- Accelerating healing for injuries, such as sprained joints.
- Decreasing congestion, especially in sinus cavities.
- A general sensation of feeling lighter and more energetic.
Bring Kavana's bestselling Phyto-5 Afterglow Body Oil and Phyto-5 Muscle Balm with you to your next massage and ask your practitioner to use them during your treatment, for an indulgent, non-toxic, petroleum free aromatherapeutic massage.
8. TUNE-IN: One of my favourite self-care practices to tune-in to the present moment to calm myself down, is playing the "Noticing/Tuning-In Game". It's a practice involving the senses, which asks the 'player' to notice or tune-in to five things they see, four things they hear, three things they feel, two things they smell, and one thing they taste. It can be played repeatedly, indoors or outdoors, at almost any age and may be beneficial as a way to settle the mind and 'drop down' into the body's sensory realm. It can also be a great 'entry point' for meditation and sleep, after a great yoga practice.
9. MOVE: Gentle movements that involve the whole body like stretching/ yoga, walking, weight lifting, meditative creative pursuits such as pottery, painting, sculpting, playing an instrument and even humming, can be helpful, low-stress practices in perimenopause that help expend energy while not increasing cortisol.
These kinds of movements, may be helpful in falling asleep faster and sleeping more deeply than more vigorous aerobic exercise. Everyone's body is different, so find what works best for you! If like me, you find yoga helpful and live in Toronto, check out Octopus Garden Yoga's online and in-studio offerings for both yoga and meditation at Octopus Garden Yoga. See you on the mat!
10. AROMATHERAPY: A spritz of Kavana's bestselling Reviving Rose Glow Mist or rolling on Kavana's Rose Perfume Poem, may be especially beneficial to women in perimenopause and menopause. Studies show that the scent of Rosa damascena (Damask Rose) essential oil, may help calm women's parasympathetic nervous system and may also be a helpful support for those experiencing weepiness and depression. (source)
Rose oil has been found to help improve symptoms of depression in postpartum women (source), and stimulate the release of dopamine in the brain, which scientists believe plays a pivotal role in helping relieve symptoms of depression. Read more in depth about it here.
Kavana's Neroli Perfume Poem and Zahav: Eau Fraiche Scented Hair Shimmer Mist, can benefit women in each stage of life looking for more rest, as they both contain neroli essential oil, which various studies show may be anti-inflammatory, stress reducing and calming on the autonomic nervous system. (source), (source),(source). These two neroli scents can be layered and worn together for a longer-lasting, hormone-safe fragrance experience.
What are your go-to practices for rest and hormone balance? Have you tried any of these? Please send me a note and let me know. Thanks for tuning in!
*DISCLAIMER: These tips are provided as an information source only and are not intended as medical advice, to be used or relied on for any medical conditions or treatment purposes.
Please consult a health care provider for medical information and attention before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition. Kavana expressly disclaims responsibility, and shall have no liability, for any damages, loss, injury, or liability whatsoever suffered as a result of your reliance on the information contained in this site.