Living in a society that is always in a hurry and largely based on convenience means our pace of life has increased. Wanting everything now, including success, weight loss, and great health, seems to be the norm. This is also how many of us thyroid patients approach changes and goals. Sometimes patience is hard to come by; we expected results yesterday.
And if we haven’t reached our goal yet, it must be because we’re not working hard enough. Add to that the fact that some conventional doctors rely heavily on the mantra, “eat less and exercise more.” It’s no wonder that hypothyroid patients are stressed, exhausted, and overwhelmed.
Because hypothyroidism has so many ailing symptoms and side effects, like fatigue, weight gain, anxiety, and/or depression, making choices and changes that are healthier or, at the very least, not harmful, can be a daunting endeavor. Even the most menial tasks, like going to the mailbox or taking the kids to school, can sometimes wipe you out.
Additionally, trying to change too much at once, because we expect too much of ourselves, can lead to frustration and failure.
There are some simple, enjoyable steps you can take that can have a profound impact on reducing the symptoms that medication can sometimes leave behind—things you can eat, indulge in, experiment with, and enjoy that will help you hit the refresh button on your thyroid health.
But not all on day one. Too much too soon can cause burnout and overwhelm. Simple changes like drinking more water or doing a guided meditation a few times a week could be just the thing. So take it slow. With time, incremental changes in your nutrition, sleep, and overall lifestyle can make a huge impact on reducing hypothyroidism symptoms. Just remember, baby steps.
It’s not about perfection, but progress.
Focus on Food as Thyroid Fuel
With the plethora of blogs and news outlets suggesting to eat this, not that, hypothyroid patients are bound to get confused and frustrated. It may even feel like you’re at war with your food.
While the goal is to avoid the foods that cause issues (such as gluten, dairy, sugar, and soy), finding your personalized thyroid diet is a process that takes time. Anti-inflammatory templates like Paleo or Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) can be incredibly helpful and a great starting point, but you need to be ready to make some big changes to undertake these diets. Go at the pace that works for you, and get help when you need it. A holistic nutritionist can be incredibly helpful in navigating these changes.
In the meantime, try focusing on nutrient-dense, organic, whole foods, and remember—enjoy your food! Don’t beat yourself up if you have a “treat” every now and then. If you do, start over the next day. No worries. Every mouthful of food is fuel for your body and thyroid. Having a positive attitude towards food and the way it nourishes us can release a lot of anxiety and stress around food. If the prospect of eliminating foods sends you running for the hills, try focusing on incorporating more of the right foods. Some of my favorites that contain key thyroid-supporting nutrients are clean animal proteins like grass-fed beef or wild-caught salmon, healthy fats from foods like pumpkin seeds, avocados, or extra-virgin olive oil, and lots of organic produce like zucchini, mushrooms, and blueberries. A big win that will feel like you are making progress is remembering this trick: add the juice of half an organic lemon to a glass of warm water and drink it 30 minutes before eating. It’s a wonderful way to start the day and helps flush out the bad stuff. Win, win.
Move That Body
You already know how good exercise is for you, but are you too tired to go to the gym or join your local Zumba class? If you’re having a hard time finding workouts that work for you, you’re not alone. Start with simple things like walking, light muscle toning, and gentle yoga or tai chi. If you’re starting from scratch, even a walk around the couch, a trip up and down the stairs, or going on a nature walk with your pet can start you on your way to a healthy routine. Remember, exercise can boost energy, decrease stress, and help you maintain a healthy weight. Start gradually, work your way up, and be patient as your body adapts. You’ll be active and strong again in no time. Bonus: Just 5 minutes of restorative yoga poses like forward fold, child’s pose, or legs up the wall can turn your day and your dwindling energy levels completely around. Don’t forget, for many hypothyroid patients, less is more.
Self-care Isn’t Selfish
In this stress-filled world, it’s important for all of us to make self-care a priority. Stress is a common root-cause factor for hypothyroid patients, and countering that stress with a regular self-care practice is the opposite of selfish. You can’t be there for anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself first.
To start, try a one-minute mindfulness break or a breathwork session, here. Spend time in nature. Add your favorite essential oils and some epsom salt to your bath water and relax and unwind. Feeling pent up? Crank up your favorite tunes and have a dance party. Or do a little “adult coloring” if that’s more your speed. Actively finding ways to refill your cup and relieve stress is key to managing your cortisol levels. If self-care is new and foreign to you, taking these easy baby steps towards prioritizing your “Me Time” will support your journey to wellness.
Hit the Snooze Button
Opening your eyes to the importance of sleep can go a long way to combat the impacts of your chronic illness. Sleep is nature’s regeneration process. It helps us to clear our minds, reduce stress, support our mental health, restore energy, lose weight, balance blood sugar, boost our healing processes, and increase our mental acuity. It also helps us thrive by contributing to a healthy immune system, among so many other things.
Sleep affects how we look, feel, and perform on a daily basis, and can have a major impact on our overall quality of life. The rule of thumb is 7 to 9 hours a night. If you aren’t sleeping enough and it’s something you want to put more focus on, there are some easy ways to improve your sleep quality and hygiene. A sleep log can help you become more aware of your sleep patterns and adopt a healthier bedtime. Having a consistent nighttime routine will signal the body that it is time for sleep. You can also incorporate sleep-supportive bedtime rituals like gratitude journaling or yoga nidra (yogic sleep) meditation. Finally, don’t forget about your sleep environment. If needed, invest in blackout curtains or a sleep mask, reconsider pets in your sleeping space, and assess how well your mattress, bedding, and pillows are working for you. All these microsteps support a good night’s rest and your overall health.
Learning to build on small steps and celebrating small victories are the keys to successful changes. Any truly meaningful growth we experience in life requires a bit of intention and focus, so it’s important to remember that nothing happens overnight. Have patience. And although there’s no cure for hypothyroidism, taking your medication, in addition to incorporating these simple lifestyle changes, can help you lead a healthy life, one baby step at a time.