Many women who are in recovery also struggle with depression. Even those who have sought treatment for their mental health disorder will still end up having good days and bad days. Do you ever find that your moods change drastically? Perhaps you go from feeling confident, happy, and in control one day to on the verge of relapse the next. Something that is likely causing this is changes in your hormone levels. Hormones can definitely affect a woman in recovery and can possibly even increase their risk of relapse. It's important to be aware of these things to better understand what your body is going through. It's also important to prioritize your mental and physical health during these changes and take the proper steps toward staying on your recovery path.
How Can Hormones Affect My Recovery?
There are different things that can affect a woman's hormones, such as menopause and their menstrual cycle. In fact, some women actually experience severe depression during different phases of their cycle. This, in turn, can make them more vulnerable to relapse.
During a woman's cycle, her levels of progesterone will increase, which causes changes in mood. She might be more irritable, less patient, and more emotional during this time. In order to deal with these emotions, many women crave food that they would ordinarily try to stay away from, such as highly processed, fatty foods that are high in calories. Their desire for these types of foods often stems from seeking comfort from the negative emotions they're dealing with. But in reality, many of these foods can actually spike cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone, so when women eat these foods, they often may find themselves feeling worse.
In order to get through your cycle without triggering possible relapse, try to stick to healthy, high-protein foods, especially those that are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Some examples include tuna, salmon, avocado, chia seeds, and walnuts. It's also important to get plenty of exercise during your cycle, even if you don't feel like it. Exercising releases endorphins, which will bring down your stress levels, improve your mood and increase your energy.
There are additional hormones that can also play a role in your recovery. Some examples include:
- Vasopressin: This hormone is known for regulating stress. It is believed that it can actually make someone's anxiety worse when they are detoxing from alcohol.
- Melatonin: This hormone influences sleep and brain functions. Too much of it can make someone more likely to engage in substance misuse or relapse.
- Thyroid: The thyroid gland transmits hormones. Some people have unbalanced thyroids and are more likely to engage in addictive behaviors.
- Testosterone: Researchers are still learning what exactly the connection is between this hormone and addiction in women. Because testosterone has an effect on dopamine, the feel-good hormone, if a person is deficient in it, they may be more likely to experience mental health disorders like depression which can make them more prone to addiction or relapse.
How Can I Naturally Balance My Hormones?
There are ways that you can naturally balance your hormones so that you feel your best mentally and physically and are less likely to have to worry about feeling an urge to relapse. Some examples include:
- Make time for exercise every day
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Try to limit how much sugar you consume
- Increase your consumption of foods high in healthy fats like olive oil, fish, and nuts
- Do your best to get enough sleep on a regular basis
- Eat plenty of high-fiber foods
- Make your eating lots of protein
If you struggle to eat healthy because of a busy schedule, consider meal prepping at the beginning of the week. This way, you have a healthy meal that is already ready to go, and you'll be less likely to grab fast food that isn't going to make you feel any better.
You should also work on practicing healthy coping mechanisms for stress. A great way to do this is by practicing self-care. Self-care involves taking care of not only your physical health but your overall wellbeing. It may take you time to figure out what techniques work best for you. Some ways of practicing self-care include:
- Take a break from social media
- Get out into nature
- Turn off your phone
- Ask for help when you're feeling overwhelmed
- Listen to some calming music
- Practice yoga or meditation
- Spend some time out in nature
- Read a chapter of a book
- Spend some quality time with a loved one while being fully present
Hormones definitely affect women who are in recovery and can even make them more vulnerable to relapse. Many women find that their mood is constantly changing. They may feel on top of the world one day and fully in control of their sobriety only to wake up and feel as if they are on the verge of relapse. These sudden mood swings can often occur when a woman is going through menopause or on their menstrual cycle. There are things that you can do to try to balance your hormones naturally. For example, eating certain foods, practicing healthy coping mechanisms for stress, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and practicing self-care. If you or a woman you know is struggling with a substance use disorder (SUD) our team at The Ho Tai Way can help. Call (714) 581-3974 today to learn more about our various services.