Is it even a blogpost if we don’t refer to the strange times we’re living in? In just a few short (looooooooong) weeks, the world has been turned on its head. For many of us, our work life has been transformed – either businesses have shifted online, or if you’re a frontline healthcare worker (God bless you if you are!) the daily worry of what work will bring today is a constant.
In times like this, our bodies can reflect our mental state – and this is especially true for both sleep and bowel habits. In previous blogposts, I’ve written about sleep and body scans and breathing meditations (you can find them here and here) but I also wanted to acknowledge that for many women, this is actually a welcome time to pause, take stock and reflect – as one of our 3rd Age students asked in our fb support group during the week ‘Are those who are working with menopausal ladies finding their clients have less or more symptoms during lock down?’ Interestingly, the comments covered both ends of the spectrum – for those who had childcare/financial stressors/homeschooling to deal with, they reported an increase in menopausal symptoms…but those (lucky ones) who had more down time, more time to exercise, to eat well (or just do nothing – revolutionary, I know…) were actually doing MUCH better. Interesting, right?
For most of us, we tend to have very obvious relationships between our stress levels and our sleep…especially if we’ve been self medicating with the sauvignon blanc? Those 2am wakeup calls where you can ponder every bad decision you ever made….
But our bowels also have a stress response, and it can also go to either end of the spectrum, namely constipation or diarrhoea. Our guts are super linked to our emotional states and they LOVE habit and routine – if you’ve been to one of my courses, you’ll have heard me talk about how your bowels like you to eat the same things, they like to empty in the same toilet, bathroom and house at roughly the same time, (hopefully) everyday. And they do NOT like change! Have you ever noticed how, when you travel, it can take a few days for your bowels to relax and ‘let go’?! So for a lot of folks right now, the change in routine, the stress, the change in exercise habits…all of these can add up to unhappy bowels. Similarly, sleep can also be affected by change – especially when you couple it with all the uncertainty that so many of us are dealing with now. Apart from the breathing/body scan exercises mentioned above, keeping a consistent exercise schedule, preferably including some outside activity before noon, can really help re-set your circadian rhythms and boost sleep patterns. Your bowels love movement too – the evidence supports a daily 20 minute walk, gentle yoga, and of course coordinated pelvic floor muscle activity too. Consistency is also key when it comes to sleep – going to bed at the same time, getting up at the same time…and consistently avoiding screens and stress in the bedroom!
Are there any magical foods that can help? Funny you should ask…YES!!!
There’s some really interesting research around the benefits of kiwifruit for both sleep AND constipation – super exciting right?! (or is it just me getting excited….) Honestly, if your sleep and your bowels are off, both can have a fairly disastrous effect on mood, productivity and tolerance of other human beings…so kiwis might be worth a shot, right? I’ll post a video below with one of my favourite ways to enjoy them.
And while we are on the topic of stress management in these pandemic homebound days…remember that the world is still turning, that suddenly the world of online health and wellness has exploded and this might be the perfect time for you to upskill. I’ve posted a couple of videos on my YouTube channel and along with the team at Burrell Education, I’ll continue to post free resources and info in our fb support group – but this might be a good time to add to your toolbox, with specialist women’s health skills in breast cancer rehab, menopause, hysterectomy or pregnancy wellness. Telehealth and online exercise prescription and teaching isn’t going away anytime soon and what’s more, the evidence supports its efficacy, especially in Breast Cancer Rehab – so if #oncologyrehab is a topic you are interested in, make sure you join me on fb next week where I’ll be sharing strategies for helping women live well during and after breast cancer treatment, and of course you can find out more about all the online courses I offer here.
Also – if we’ve met, you’ll know I’m obsessed (just a little bit!) with good bowel health so I’m putting the final touches on a new course – Good Guts and Brilliant Bowels for Women – which will look at bowel health and wellness through a woman’s lifespan – from back pain, menstrual health, pregnancy, postnatal, menopause and beyond – it will be full of evidence based and immediately applicable knowledge and I think it will be useful (hopefully!) for every aspect of women’s health that we work in.
And finally…here’s a teaser on why I love Kiwis!! Enjoy! Mx