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How to Up Your Game with Stress: 3 Tips to Balance Hormones Naturally

Posted on 24 October 2012

Time for a confession. Dr. Sara at Ricki Lake ShowTwo weeks ago, I was blissed out to meet Ricki Lake as a guest who helps women de-stress. I riffed with Ricki on tips you’ve might not have heard before, from the emWave to medicinal chocolate. It was thrilling to be on national TV for the first time, but perhaps not for the reason you’re thinking. The thrill was to look into the live audience and lock eyes with my husband, David Gottfried.  He may have been the only straight man in the audience, which was a sea of stressed-out women. David beamed back at me with his red-framed glasses, and the purple shirt I asked him to wear, grinning ear-to-ear. That moment of pure joy, of connecting with my beloved in a lingering stare from across the TV studio, will stay with me until I die, because this man has been right there with me as I’ve written my book and prepared to talk nationally about the epidemic of hormone imbalance that women face. That lingering glance felt as potent as our wedding day, or when our baby was born, and we locked eyes. The confession? I was hoping for more of a conversation when I left the TV studio. If you’ve been on this site before, you know that I like to have a meaty, science-driven conversation about any topic. (OK, maybe not shoes, but even there we can dive deep into what the latest trends mean culturally, perhaps even through a feminist lens, and always what psychological need they’re filling for me and others.). As you may know, TV doesn’t usually dive deep. I was told they wanted a 10-30 second sassy soundbite. I tried to deliver this but remain in integrity with my belief that women have been misled by an oversimplification of the hormone conversation.
Certainly, nothing wrecks your hormones faster than unmanaged stress.
However, stress itself is not a problem – a healthy dose of stress can motivate you to high levels of productivity and performance. Here’s the real problem: the chronic stress that burns through your happy brain chemicals such as serotonin, the neurotransmitter that supports your mood, sleep, and appetite. In other words, if you don’t manage stress – it manages you by causing or worsening 95% of disease and robbing you of sleep, good humor, and a thin waist. Now, please don’t misunderstand me – I’m grateful for the opportunity to help women, one hormone at a time. I need to learn how to speed up my pace on camera and pack the science in fast, in a compelling way. I can do that. But. Still. I wanted more. I wanted to have the longer conversation, like I would imagine it would be with Terry Gross or Michael Krasny. Charlie Rose. De-Stressor #1 = Connecting with your husband across the room, and holding the gaze for several beats. Exhibit A. Major Stressor = Wishing your experience was different than how it is. Terry and Charlie are not calling me to be on their show (yet!). It saves your telomeres and lowers your cortisol to be happy with what you’ve got instead of pining for what is missing. You know this. De-Stressor #2 = Forgiveness. Did you know that resentment ages you prematurely, including your brain, skin, and telomeres? And, of course, raises cortisol? Oh, yes. Forgive and watch the wrinkles disappear. Want a simple practice? The mantra is easier to say than the name of it:
Ho'oponopono, which goes like this: I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.
Maybe you need a dose of relationship clearing in your marriage or partnership, and to forgive your spouse. Perhaps you need to forgive your parents, or yourself. Forgiveness scholar, Fred Luskin, of Stanford may be best known for documenting the benefits of forgiveness. Fred showed in healthy men, but not women, his forgiveness training has been shown to lower stress and anger. Among people with high blood pressure and anger, forgiveness training lowers blood pressure. Even conditional forgiveness (e.g., “I forgive you but won’t forget the lousy and traumatizing thing you did to me as a child”) of others was identified as a major predictor of longevity. Beyond the science, this simple mantra, repeated over and over to yourself, or perhaps to someone you resent, allows you to observe yourself again – and step into 100% responsibility for your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. That, My Dear Friends, is the foundation for radical health and natural hormone balance. Destressor #3 = emWave by Heart Math. You can measure your stress level. That’s right – stress and cortisol are tangible, measurable things. If you can measure it, you can manage it. This gizmo, smaller than an iphone, helps me observe myself more objectively doing Exhibit A – thereby more able to get back into the de-stress zone). It’s the stress machine I used on Ricki. http://youtu.be/I8Y95TmCNgI Briefly, this device is based on the fact that the time between each beat of your heart varies according to emotional arousal, which is referred to as heart-rate variability. Loss of variability is a sign of waning adaptive suppleness –in other words, you’re a stress case and need to hit the “pause button.” If a patient rolls her eyes at my prescription of yoga or mindfulness, I whip out my emWave because it’s been shown to lower cortisol by 23 percent. This isn’t some crazy Berkeley woo-woo idea—corporations such as Hewlett Packard and Motorola use HeartMath for helping employees rebalance mentally and emotionally and to prevent metabolic syndrome which is a condition linked to “diabesity.” In fact, Heart Math methods have been proven to lower blood pressure, anxiety, blood sugar, and asthma. Here’s briefly how it works. {Press thumb to sensor – usually “red”} You measure your stress level (or heart rate variability for the geeks in the audience). I’m “red” which means I’m low coherence. I breathe slowly like this with the light indicator {hold up indicator} and I create coherence. I grow my adaptive suppleness. Wow, I feel better already – now my light is yellow…and now it’s green. {showing device}. My blood pressure is lower. I am less likely to fight with my husband or scream at my children. I still have the same stressors but I can meet them differently with this training. I love external accountability, especially when it amplifies internal accountability. Most of us need more when it comes to upping our stress game. Now, a few questions for you:
  • How about you – what really moves the needle for you visavis de-stressing?
  • What helps in your relationships?
  • Do you practice forgiveness? What works?
Please share this post on your Facebook page and comment, and I’ll try to hop over and give you feedback. That is, after my Tiara Time!

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