Stressors in today’s busy society can seem never-ending. Stress appears in many forms from full schedules and long to-do lists to relationship challenges and financial problems. Not only can chronic stress negatively impact our overall health and well-being but it can affect our thyroid as well.
The thyroid is one of the most essential glands in the body. The hormones it produces are responsible for many things including our metabolism, health of our skin, and sleep quality. Imbalances occur when the thyroid produces too little or too much hormone and can result in unpleasant symptoms such as fatigue, feeling down or depressed, or having an inability to manage weight.
When we experience stress our adrenal glands are signaled to release a mix of stress hormones, including cortisol. Cortisol, the main hormone produced in response to stress can suppress thyroid function. A delicate balance between stress hormones and cortisol must exist for proper thyroid function. Although we can’t avoid stress we can learn to adopt lifestyle habits that will help our overall stress levels and thyroid health.
Practice Mindful Eating
In our fast-paced lives we are often eating fast foods on the run. It is important to think about how we are eating. When we take the time to sit and enjoy our meals our body will be able to digest food better. The best way to start the day is with a balanced meal that is low in sugar but high in protein, healthy fat and fiber. Overall energy levels will improve with a diet high in whole, natural foods and low in alcohol, caffeine and sugar. A healthy balanced diet is necessary to provide the micronutrients needed for proper functioning of the thyroid – iodine, selenium and B-vitamins.
Getting enough quality sleep is vital for our health and well-being. Try to adopt a consistent bedtime and avoid technology for a few hours before bed. Blue light emitted from device screens and artificial light can disrupt biological sleep signals. There are blue light filter settings on most devices and blue light blocking glasses are available. Winding down before bed can reduce stress levels and improve sleep quality. Wind down with a relaxing hot bath, reading, soothing essential oils and herbal teas, deep breathing, or prayer and meditation.
Exercise for Stress Relief
Physical activity increases feel-good brain chemicals and other hormones that improve energy and mood and reduce stress. Choose activities and exercise you love such as swimming, going to the gym or walking in nature. Yoga can be a gentle and restorative way to find relief from the tension and stress of the day. Yoga, tai chi and Pilates are designed around controlled movement and breathing techniques which can support relaxation.
Relax and Restore
It is important to keep stress levels from building throughout the day. Make time during the day to take breaks or pauses. Taking deep breaths and concentrating on your breathing can have a calming effect and help you relax. Practicing mindfulness and staying focused on the present moment can change the way you feel about life. In contrast, focusing on problems or never ending to-do lists can lead to overwhelm. Guided imagery is a relaxation technique that uses positive mental images to influence how you feel. Imagine a peaceful visual image such as sitting in nature by a beautiful waterfall and experience the physical sensation of relaxation.
Self-care is an important part of maintaining balance and cultivating well-being. Spend time in nature or take a break to enjoy your favorite hobbies. Enjoy time with friends and family and make fun and laughter a regular part of your life. Set boundaries around your present moments such as not answering texts or phone calls after a certain time in the evening. Try different things until you discover what gives you peace.
Managing stress is important for supporting your adrenals and the associated impact to your thyroid. Keeping a positive attitude and learning tools and routines to relieve stress instead of letting it build within you will reduce one of the long-term effects of chronic stress – thyroid dysfunction.
-Diane Duvall, Life Coach and Certified Health Coach for the Lifestyle Medicine Practice of Dr. Geni Abraham, Board Certified, American Board of Internal Medicine. Our Internal Medicine Practice is an integrated medical practice with a focus on Lifestyle Medicine. We offer health coaching sessions to help you reach your personal goals. Dr. Geni Abraham, Medical Specialists of the Palm Beaches, Inc., 205 JFK Drive, Atlantis FL 33462. Phone: (561) 432-8935, Visit DrGeniAbraham.com and Follow us on Facebook: Dr. Geni Abraham