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Most of us know about cortisol because we hear of someone who had to get a cortisol shot for pain or inflammation. What we need to know is that cortisol is a hormone in our bodies that is critical for the optimal functioning of many systems including our metabolism, sleep and wake cycle, energy level, food cravings, digestion, and our stress levels. The secretion and the regulation of cortisol is crucial to maintaining the perfect chemical balance between our mind and body.
A little Chemistry 101 is needed in order to fully understand the importance of this hormone. Cortisol is a “signaling molecule” produced by the adrenal glands. It gets released and transported by our circulatory system when we experience stress. We have some type of stress every day, so the relationship between stress and cortisol release is one hundred percent.
In our crazy lives, it is difficult for us to STOP and clear our minds, breathe, and go into a “worry-free zone”. We try to push through and “worry about it later.” The thing we do not realize is that the brain receives and registers “threat” and stress theoretically in the same fashion. When we feel threatened, scared, or worried the adrenal gland responds by releasing cortisol.
[For those of you who are really interested, this actual state of being originates from the hunter/gatherer period in human development when man had to worry about survival. REALLY worry about survival.]
Our bodies are made to fight or flee (flight) and with this comes the automatic release of cortisol.
In today’s world, luckily we do not have to worry about where our food comes from, or being attacked like the hunters and gathers of long ago, but the magnitude of stress we experience today (death, unhappy marriage or job, natural disasters, or just the day-to-day stress of leading a busy life), impacts how much cortisol is released. As cortisol levels creep up, our metabolism slows down. Our blood sugar raises, our glucose levels rise, and our insulin levels get high. When this occurs, the blood sugar falls and we crave fat, sugar and salt. Too much one thing (stress) causes too much of another (blood chemicals) and we feel tired, depressed, and our sensory perception is affected. Here are a few more operations within our system that depend on cortisol production:
· To regulate mood swings
· To help with sensory perception
· To regulate blood pressure
· To maintain blood sugar
· To aide inflammatory response in the body
Stress is inescapable and cortisol is forever present. We cannot interrupt this relationship. We can, however, realize that in order for there to be homeostasis in the body and the mind, we have to make the conscious decision to limit daily stress, eat better, and sleep more. Neglecting one of these, negatively effects the other. It is all interrelated and has both a direct and indirect impact on how we feel each morning when we awaken and each night after we go through another crazy day.
Here are TEN easy hands-on suggestions for managing stress:
· Wake up ten minutes early each morning to avoid rush.
· Take your eyes away from all devices and electronics thirty minutes before your normal “lights out” time.
· Plan at least two evening meals ahead of time each week and do some food prepping.
· Plan out your week on Sunday.
· Tell your family when you need quiet time. Seclude yourself and practice deep breathing for 5- 10 minutes.
· Pick out your work clothes ahead of time. Pack your lunch ahead of time.
· Avoid all situations that could potentially lead to “drama”. In other words, don’t join in others’ drama.
· Engage is at least one activity that brings your true joy, each say. This can be cooking, watching your favorite show, talking with your best friend, writing, exercising.
· Ask yourself what color brings you the most brain calm. Make some aesthetic changes in your surrounding that incorporates this color.
· If there is a MAJOR life situation that causes you chronic worry (i.e. poor relationships, health issues, anxiety or depression) ACT and schedule professional help.
Be consistent with stress management techniques, and be cognizant of what triggers your stress. Be willing to try other anti-stress strategies if certain ones are not working for you. Whatever you find relief in, practice it daily. Cortisol will always be present, but stress does not have to be.
Please read the following article for more fun!
Author: Lori Bender, MSW
Founder of Carolina Lifestyle Coaching and Consulting, LLC
Professional, Certified Wellness Coach
FB Group: Carolina Lifestyle Coaching and Consulting