Written by Mikayla Stockbridge
If I were to ask you about the first thing that leaves your routine when you get overwhelmed, what would be your answer? Most women that I survey choose exercise, healthy eating, meditation, and other activities that involve checking in and taking care of ourselves.
When problems hit, self care is the first to go. Why is that? Self care does more than just keep us feeling refreshed. It also improves hormonal balance, overall quality of life, and feelings of security. So how do we implement and stick to self care, especially when the going gets rough?
Why is keeping up with self care so hard?
It all goes back to our inner, primal selves. Deep down, our priorities are based on the built-in desire to survive when faced with stressful, cortisol-inducing situations. Let’s say you're in grave danger. A vicious, wild animal is chasing you. Your primary responses are telling you fight, flight, or freeze.
But what if, suddenly, in the heat of that moment you feel a little hungry. Then you see your partner out of the corner of your eye and think to yourself, "Yeah, I could go for sex right now." Obviously, that wouldn’t happen, because you would die under those conditions.
But, in normal, everyday lives, that's what should happen, because most chemical response-triggering stressors - impending deadlines, running late to an appointment - are more reasonably dealt with by checking in and taking a moment. You're not being chased by a wild animal, but based on your body's responses, you might as well be.
And what happens? All attempts at self care go out the window.
Even though food and sex are wonderful opportunities for self care, and typically more appropriate fixes for our daily stressors than fleeing or fighting, stress hormones prevail because your body chemistry thinks your life is being threatened. It is scientifically proven that the hormones released during stress can actually swoop in and steal from your store of health, cycle, and fertility-promoting hormones.
Consider sex as a form of self-care. Our hormones and brains choreograph a perfect dance of things to help us get in the mood. Sex can help you feel safe, loved, and take your sympathetic brain out of panic mode. The parasympathetic, or “rest and digest” system of the brain controls self care inside of the body.
Cellular health, digestion, and calming hormones all easily work to take care of you. With proper self-care, you might even feel a little more lovey-dovey than usual. So technically speaking, this takes care of your partner too, and creates a more vibrant, loving relationship in addition to helping you handle the regular stressors of daily life!
Stop surviving. Start thriving.
Today, we usually don't have wild animals chasing us, but we do have the demanding boss, the family member that says, “You look ‘puffy’ today,” and the bills that just keep stacking up. Stress, anxiety, anger, depression, sorrow, remorse and guilt take a toll on the body.
When these obstacles bog you down and your body produces the same hormones that tell you your existence is being threatened, the number one thing your body is going to do is take resources from the organs whose purpose is thriving (food and fertility organs) and move it towards daily wear and tear.
So, ask yourself, what are your biggest stressors?
The biggest stressors causing fight or flight survival mode that I have found in my practice are as follows:
- What we put into ourselves.
- What we surround ourselves with.
- What we hold on to.
It's not just food we put into ourselves. It's also medicine, birth control, tampons, implants, and everything else. It's not just what we surround ourselves with like clean products that spark joy, but also the people and relationships we have, the work environment, the air we breathe, the chemicals we are unwittingly exposed to, and the intricacies of daily life that can trip us up. And, of course, it's what we hold on to and internalize: anger, shame, or anything else.
Actionable self care tasks - no matter your stress level
Being a fertility coach, my personal favorite way to practice self care is by practicing fertility awareness. Noticing, observing, and hearing your body can contribute to the overall flow of life. It is a few minutes out of your day when you say, “Hi, body. You’re doing something today, and I am noticing you.”
This awareness alone can have a dramatic effect on your ability to love yourself. Alternatively, hormonal birth control can override the body’s intuitive method of releasing an egg and menstruating. These disruptions of our natural processes can throw a wrench into our bodies' well-oiled machine.
It is good to ask yourself what kind of time and effort you dedicate to listening to your body effectively.
- Tempdrop is my first go-to tool to ensure accurate readings for my clients so we can start working for a hormonally healthy future.
- Meditation is also an amazing technique to teach your mind to calm and feel yourself in your own skin. This activates your parasympathetic nervous system and helps you to reduce cortisol that can ultimately deplete your good health and fertility hormones if you allow it to control your life. Even five minutes a day of meditation can improve focus, create inner peace, and ease our mental faculties.
- Being outdoors is regenerating on so many levels. Breathing deeply, journaling, noticing the outside world and appreciating its beauty. This brings inner peace full circle as you recognize and appreciate how the earth nourishes you. Gratitude almost immediately helps calm the inner storm.
- Eating plenty of whole foods from the best sources we have access to will allow nutrients to settle deep into our organs. When you are taken care of and your nutrition demands are fulfilled, your body can relax.
What to do when problems hit
Sometimes when you start to feel depressed, anxious, or in a bluesy mood, you can consciously think about self care and choose an action to take. However, many of us have also fallen into the trap of using self-indulgence to meet a need of the body. This could be spending unnecessary money, or binging on foods that do not nourish or, even worse, might make you feel sick or guilty later.
Cautioning yourself and trying to avoid this will prevent a crash later that could cause you to slip further into a state of discontentment. Balancing this delicately will help cortisol take a back seat - this is the key to true wellness and the goal I work to achieve with clients in my practice. That is, the art of listening, learning and letting go.
My best tip to leave you with is, keep hearing yourself! Tune in, observe your signs of fertility, distress, and need. This is self-love and is the best foundation you could possibly give your body.
Mikayla is an Integrative Fertility Coach who thrives on empowering women to take back their health and reach their goals. She specializes in putting together customizable programs that women can use to navigate their hormonal struggles, chronic illness and infertility. She can be reached at Hope & Healing Fertility Coaching.