My name is Kayleigh Christina Clark and I am the creator of the wellness lifestyle blog KayleighChristina.com & @kayleigh.christina, co-founder of CLEARstem Skincare, Holistic Nutritionist and co-host of the podcast Balancing Your Hustle. My WHY behind what I do is to connect, make a positive impact and inspire people to become the best possible versions of themselves. I do this through my multiple platforms and living my life to its fullest. Even though my career leads itself to a lot of screen time, I am very passionate about inspiring by example - showing how I find balance in my daily life to make time for myself, my husband, my family and my friends. I think the key to happiness is surrounding yourself with the people and things that bring you constant joy.
As young women, we’re typically not presented with sufficient information that empowers us to proactively care for our bodies and support hormone balance as we flow from our first period to monthly cycles and through the various stages of our life. Most of us don’t learn much about hormones at all until something like PCOS, infertility, endometriosis or PMDD sends us running to our doctor. But, why wait until something is amiss to support our hormone health? Hormones affect everything from mood and digestion to skin and sleep, so we might as well do what we can daily to create greater balance. From puberty to menopause and at every stage in between, we can make little changes that can have a big impact on our hormone health – and that can mean the difference between surviving and thriving as a woman.
Here are a few things that have made a big difference in my life and the lives of my clients that I recommend:
Empower Yourself with Knowledge
Alisa Vitti’s WomanCode and Dr. Sara Gottfried’s The Hormone Cure are two quick reads full of validating eye openers, helpful distillations of the science behind our hormonal cycles, and most importantly, tools to help us better navigate them with holistic approaches. You don’t know what you don’t now, and unfortunately the women’s health knowledge gap is a huge impediment to achieving and maintaining optimal wellbeing. Pick up one of these books and bridge that gap!
Manage Your Blood Sugar
Little known fact: unstable and/or high blood sugar is the number one factor affecting your hormone balance. Because the standard American diet is loaded with added refined sugars and processed foods that wreak havoc on blood sugar, this is a factor that likely affects more women than not. The easiest way to balance your blood sugar without having to overthink it is to eliminate processed sugar and processed foods from your diet. Easier said than done, though right? Here’s a baby step in the right direction if that’s biting off more than you can chew. Balance your carbohydrate intake (fruit, starchy veggies like sweet potatoes, grains like rice or any sweets) with the protein + fiber + fat trifecta. Together, these foods will minimize the spike in blood sugar, provide valuable nutrients AND keep you full longer so you’re less likely to reach for empty carbs an hour later!
If this year has you struggling to follow your healthy resolutions, you're not alone. According to a widely cited statistic, only about 8 percent of New Year’s resolutions succeed with most of us not even lasting through February!
But a lack of immediate success doesn't indicate a future of failure. So, if you're ready to step up and try again, here's our best advice on how to re-establish your daily food, fitness and self-care habits.
Try Smaller Commitments
Part of the reason so many goals fail is a lack of realistic clarity in their objective. The amount of people that can immediately go from “zero to sixty” (i.e. transforming from an unhealthy lifestyle to one filled with new, hyper-aggressive rules like consuming only five grams of sugar a day, going to the gym seven days a week and meditating 60 minutes every morning) is extremely slim. Instead, try breaking your commitments down into bite-sized components. Rather than creating strict rules you “must” follow all year, whittle the objectives down to month-long resolutions that tackle one challenge at a time. Your first month can look like “a superfood smoothie a day,” or setting an earlier bedtime you can stick to in order to get a full eight hours of sleep each night. Tackling these micro-challenges is not only a much more fun approach, but it allows you to focus on and truly master new healthy practices, many of which will likely stick long after their daily quota period is over.
Create New Habits
Denial is a powerful deterrent to lasting change: we want what we can't have. To break unhealthy habits, psychological research shows we need to replace the habit with a new association. If you're trying to forgo alcohol, for example, it's enormously helpful to have an alternate plan for the time of day you'd normally pour yourself a drink. This new habit can look similar to the old habit (making yourself a special kombucha mocktail instead) or can become an entirely new association, like taking a walk around the neighborhood with your dog. Know exactly how you're going to replace your old habit before cutting it out and you'll be much more likely to stick with your goal.
Whether you spend an hour on your beauty process each day or take a five-minute shower and call it good, the components of your routine should be considered carefully. According to a 2017 survey, the average woman uses 16 items every day. And men aren't out of the picture either: between shampoo, shaving cream, moisturizer, deodorant and hair gel, you can imagine just how quickly these items add up.
Speaking of adding up, let's talk about ingredients. It's not that using a large array of products is in itself an abominable act, it's that the ingredients found within each jar or canister can sometimes be alarmingly hazardous. And while these questionable ingredients may be found in small quantities, their collective use in several products, in conjunction with the cocktail of other potentially unsafe ingredients the average person comes in contact with throughout the day, is an understandable cause of concern. Considering we absorb about 60 percent of the chemicals we are exposed to in cosmetics through the skin, and some reports say it only takes 26 seconds for these chemicals to enter the blood stream, this is a component of everyday toxicity we should look to aggressively minimize. If you're wondering about the safety of the products you currently use, an excellent resource is the Environmental Working Group's extensive Skin Deep database, where you can search the safety of more than 70,000 products.
But natural beauty – taking care of your glow healthfully – doesn’t have to be so complex. So, before you get corralled into buying another expensive anti-aging serum that's full of worrisome components, try to clean up your routine with a few of these fully natural, fully health-giving and fully effective tricks instead.
Oils are Amazing Moisturizers
While the lotion business would have you believe that skin moisturizing is a complex science, humans have been using pure oils for thousands of years to effectively soften and remedy chafed, dry skin. There is a surprising amount of varieties that work extremely well: coconut oil is one of the most versatile (and yes, you can use the same variety that you use in cooking). Or, for a spa-like experience, gently melt a little Cacao Butter over low heat and massage the warm, chocolate-scented oil into your tired skin – heaven! As a face oil, olive oil, sea buckthorn oil and almond oil are just a few of the exceptional varieties that work well. And believe it or not, at the end of the day, these oils also make phenomenal makeup removers, too!
The health benefits of daily physical activity and vigorous exercise have been well established in research literature as effective treatment for a wide range of diseases. As a prevention strategy, the physiological benefits of exercise cannot be understated. It is now known that genetics only predicts 25 percent of future health, while the remaining 75 percent is a result of lifestyle and environmental factors. The relative risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers can be significantly reduced with as little as 2 to 2.5 hours of exercise per week, lowering even further with more time spent engaging in aerobic activity. It should come as no surprise that exercise is also a powerful modulator of mood and mental health disorders. Each May, in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, health educators endeavor to reduce the stigma around mental illness by highlighting successful strategies to reduce symptoms and prevent exacerbations of this complex category of diseases. This year, the Fitness #4Mind4Body campaign is advocating for the power of exercise to significantly improve symptoms of disordered thinking, anxiety and poor self-esteem. Adopting a physical fitness routine may be one of the best tools available to those struggling with psychological disorders.
The News is Not Great
Sadly, it has become commonplace to learn of another mass shooting, terrorist act and episode of extreme societal violence in the news today. Mental Health America, a non-profit established in the early 1900s, reports that 18 percent of adults and upwards of 8.2 percent of youth in the United States suffer from mild to serious mental illness. The social stigma of a psychological diagnosis continues to be a barrier to reporting, and therefore, these statistics don’t accurately tell the whole story. Rates of depression among youth have escalated over the past five years, warranting renewed attention to look for new areas of prevention among this demographic. Unfortunately, mental disorder medications like SSRIs, antipsychotics and anxiolytics often cause undesirable side effects like weight gain, impotence and lethargy, which combine to further compromise self-confidence and self-esteem. For these reasons, and for a variety of other physical and psychological benefits, exercise can make all the difference in the successful management of a mental illness.