There’s a quote by the author Augusten Burroughs that has always resonated with me: “When you have your health, you have everything. When you do not have your health, nothing else matters at all.”
The spread of the coronavirus has brought this sentiment home to us — perhaps more than anything else in our lifetime — and before I write about anything else today, I want to acknowledge and honor all the life-saving steps you are taking to protect your health and the health of those around you. You may feel scared and isolated at home, but your choice to follow public health guidelines around social distancing and, for some of you, “sheltering in place” is actively saving lives — and not just of our elders. Many people around us, old and young, live with chronic conditions that put them at risk.
I want to thank all the beautiful people who are part of the FLO Living community for putting your health, and the health of your neighbors, first. You are making an important difference, and I see you and appreciate you, and I’m so very grateful to you.
We are in this together. You are not alone.
COVID19 & Your Hormones
The coronavirus doesn’t discriminate based on gender. We are all susceptible. But as we follow public health guidelines to protect ourselves and others, which includes limiting social contact and, in an increasing number of places, “sheltering in place,” which means only leaving home for necessary supplies, emergency medical care (for you, your family and your pets), or to help relatives in need, there are steps we can take to protect our hormones, our stress response system, and our overall mental health and sense of wellbeing.
Here’s what I recommend to help keep yourself safe and sane during this turbulent time:
#1 Protect and support your stress response system
This is a naturally anxiety-producing time and your body may be producing more cortisol than normal. (Cortisol is the body’s main stress hormone.) This makes sense. We are living through a global fight-or-flight scenario and of course our bodies would ramp up on a physiological level to get us ready for potential dangers. The trouble is that high cortisol levels are hard on our hormones. When cortisol runs high for too long, it can throw our whole hormone system out of balance and contribute to period problems and other symptoms like cysts, fibroids, fatigue, and low mood. Not to mention, elevated cortisol levels suppress the immune response!
The anxiety-hormone cycle works in reverse, too. For women, anxiety can be hormonal, that is
your anxiety may be more or less intense depending on where you are in your 28-day hormone cycle, also known as your infradian rhythm.
That’s a long way of saying that you may very naturally have a higher level of anxiety during the coronavirus pandemic — a level that may be even higher than during specific phases of your infradian rhythm. So it is critical to manage your stress by flushing cortisol from your body and taking other steps to reduce anxiety.
Start by limiting how much news you take in. If the headlines are a trigger for you, try to find a sweet spot between learning what you need to know to keep yourself and your community safe and not overdoing it with a barrage of stressful news.
Flush cortisol. Movement is a great way to flush excess cortisol from your body. It’s also a great way to soothe stressful thoughts and help clear your mind. Try jumping on a mini-trampoline, or doing dance, yoga, and movement at home. When you wake up in the morning do some stretching, and if you have kids, recruit them into the stretching routine, too! They will need movement as much as adults during this time.
Online workouts are another great way to keep your body strong and your mind calm. Take advantage of streaming workouts, and if you're in FLO28, take advantage of the phase-specific workout videos.
As of right now, taking a walk outside (so long as you are able to be at least six feet from other people) is safe — and a great way to get some movement and some vitamin D, which supports hormone balance and immune system function. (If you are in a dense urban environment, like New York City, or if your area is under an order to “shelter in place,” this may not be possible.) And even though it's important to keep your distance from folks you encounter on walks, just seeing others can boost serotonin levels. Six feet away is still close enough to have a short conversation with a neighbor. Even a brief chat from a distance can make us feel less alone!
Have sex. Orgasm, either solo or with a partner, is another great way to flush cortisol.
#2 Pay attention to stress eating and blood sugar swings
In times of stress, comfort foods are, well, comforting! And there is nothing wrong with finding some solace in this way. What you want to pay attention to is when your urge to eat sugary treats, or even the urge to binge on healthy high-glycemic foods like rice or gluten-free noodles, hijacks your whole healthy eating routine.
First, I want to acknowledge that you might not have regular access to the fresh, whole foods you usually eat. That’s okay! And that is temporary. Frozen options are your friend here — frozen kale, broccoli, chard, peas, strawberries, blueberries, peaches. If you’re a carnivore, meat can be put in the freezer, and if you are stocking up on rice and beans, that is great, too. Beans are a fantastic source of fiber, which helps trap and eliminate excess hormones from the body. Just be cautious if you are someone who has a history of insulin sensitivity: don't do rice and beans at every meal. Space them out, if possible, or really measure out portions — 1/4 cup rice, 1/3 beans — to help keep insulin levels low. Or choose starchier vegetables when possible instead of grains. Starchy vegetables with slower burning carbs, like sweet potatoes, keep for a long time in a cool, dry place.
If pregnant, incorporate one healthy carb per meal if you have gestational diabetes.
Lack of access to our normal foods can feel stressful. Do your best. Last night, I made a big pot of green lentil soup, which my family will eat for days. My daughter will have the lentil soup with homemade gluten free pizza, but I won’t double up on the carbs (ie: lentils with toast) because of my insulin sensitivity.
#3 Sanitize your hands regularly — and safely
One of my favorite on-the-go hand sanitizing products is the 365 Everyday Value Lavender wipes from Whole Foods. It's alcohol-based and has the added antimicrobial activity of lavender as well. Not only are alcohol-based sanitizers the gold standard in germ killing, but they are not endocrine disruptive. This is my go-to disinfectant for when I’m out and about and need to stay clean.
There are three types of non-alcohol based sanitizers: ones that contain Triclosan - avoid it if you can (which is easier now than it used to be; triclosan has mostly been pulled off the market because of its massive endocrine-disrupting side effects); ones that contain Benzalkonium Chloride - this is ok if it's all you've got (note that it can be a skin irritant); ones that are herbal-based, specifically Thyme oil-based, like CleanWell's Botanical spray - these are a really good option.
With that being said, however, don’t stress If you can't find your ideal sanitizer for when you're out and about. Your hands are a relatively small surface area, so it’s better to err on the side of caution given this current situation. What matters the most is what you do at home, the majority of the time. So choose safer products at home. Click here for a list of the products I use at home.
#4 Be proactive about your mental health
We all react differently to stressful situations and isolation. So the first best step you can take is to know your patterns.
If you struggle with depression, try sticking to a consistent and doable schedule. Give yourself the gift of a routine — get up, take care of yourself, put on real clothes, do some stretching, schedule phone dates with friends. Find constructive projects to do, like a house project you’ve long wanted to tackle, a creative project you’ve dreamt about, learning a musical instrument or another skill (YouTube is a great teacher!). Learning a new skill, like all new activities, also boosts dopamine and serotonin, which can be invaluable right now.
If you’re more prone to anxiety, adaptogenic herbs, like ashwagandha and holy basil tea can help. CBD is also calming. Heaps of research show that getting outside for movement, sunshine, and nature, if you have access, reduce anxiety and improve immunity. A win-win! Talk to friends and others you haven’t seen in a while. Keep in touch. Now is the time to pick up the phone or use video chat to talk, listen, and be there for one another.
#5 Practice gratitude.
Gratitude is one of the best antidotes to anxiety. Make adding to a gratitude list part of your morning routine. End your day by recounting your wins and your blessings. Focusing on the good in turbulent times is an amazing way to help protect our mental health.
I’m sending love, courage, and calm to everyone in the FLO Community — and to ALL people around the world. You are brave, you are wonderful, and we are in this together.
FLO 28: THE CYCLE SYNCING® MEMBERSHIP
A Revolution in Nutrition, Fitness, and Time Management for Women
FLO 28: The Cycle Syncing™ Membership is a revolutionary method for women to care for their bodies and find more flow in their lives. You’ll learn how to shift your self-care to support your cycle and play to the unique strengths you have in each phase. When you begin Cycle Syncing, you’ll start to have more energy for everything that matters the most to you. And, you’ll feel more energized, relaxed, happier and more free in all areas of your life.