Stress - cortisol

“Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”
Winnie the Pooh

How to reduce your cortisol and stress levels

If you do not want your cortisol levels to be raging out of control,

there are a number of lifestyle behaviours you can ensure you undertake to

reduce stress and anxiety and therefore lower your cortisol levels.

 

Regular Movement and Physical Activity Fear increases cortisol and

keeps us stuck. Think rabbit in the headlights. Frozen.

Regular physical activity reduces fear by providing movement, not sticking,

by diverting your attention, increasing your self-confidence, resilience,

and strength —which in turn reduce cortisol levels.

 

Things to do :-

Dancing, gardening, housework, jogging, qi gong. riding a bike, swimming, walking, yoga  etc Just 20-30 minutes of activity most days of the week bring benefits by lowering cortisol

The Power of Nature  Environments can increase or reduce our stress, which in turn impacts our bodies and our health. What you see, hear, and experience in any moment changes not only your mood, but how your nervous, endocrine, and immune systems work. The stress of an unpleasant environment can cause you to feel depressed, anxious, sad, or hopeless. This increases cortisol levels, elevates your blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension and suppresses your immune system. But a pleasing environment, from your bedroom to being in nature, reverses that.

Mindfulness or Meditation (to some they are the same thing - they're not - but don’t get hung up on words.)  Any type of meditation or conscious relaxation of your choice will reduce anxiety and lower cortisol levels.

 

Even taking a few long, slow, deep breaths engages the vagus nerve

which triggers a signal within your nervous system to slow your

heart rate, lower blood pressure which decreases cortisol.

There are many different types of meditation. It doesn’t have to be

all precious and sacred or new-agey  and “fluffy, airy, fairy”. I suggest

that you do more research, find a meditation teacher or classes, and

create a daily meditation routine that fits with your lifestyle.

Done daily, meditation benefits become cumulative.

The Power of Laughter  Many studies have shown the benefits of having a

sense of humour, it lowers your cortisol and stress levels. You’ve heard the

saying, “Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone.”

Having fun and laughter, especially hearty belly laughing, reduce cortisol levels.

Get out and Meet and Greet Make it your aim, no matter how anti-social you

are or feel you are, to seek out like-minded souls, people on your wave-length

or who like the things you do. Or people who engage in an interest new to you.

Feeling angry at the world, and being socially isolated tends to increase levels of

cortisol that trigger a cascade of potential mental health problems.

Close knit human bonds—whether it be family, friendship, good supportive colleagues, a romantic partner, a community group  or purpose —are vital for your physical and mental health. Social connectivity increases oxytocin and reduces cortisol. Whether it is spending real time face-to-face with loved ones, phone calls or connecting on social media, such contact reduces cortisol and lowers your stress and anxiety levels. 

If a relationship is angst making, causes you stress, let it go!

Music Music Music    Music can reduce the perceived intensity of pain, especially in geriatric care, intensive care, or palliative medicine. Music improves mood and reduces stress, especially if it gets us dancing,  but not high volume, jarring, crazy rhythms.  Listening to calming music that you enjoy, and creates in you a mood of calm and relaxation, has been shown to lower cortisol levels.

 

Aim to have regular daily moments of music to reduce your cortisol levels and enhance health and happiness in your life. 

Green T-shirt

For detailed ways to reduce stress

and

lower cortisol levels, click on image

Cortisol is frequently referred to as the stress hormone but that is a little unfair.

It’s often deemed the bad guy – and that too is unfair.

What most people don’t realise is that the hormone cortisol is an essential part of

how our body works.

 

What is cortisol?

Cortisol is a steroid hormone made in the cortex of the adrenal glands -  two

structures like kidney beans attached to the top of each kidney - and then released

into the blood, which transports it all around the body. Almost every cell contains

receptors for cortisol and so cortisol can have lots of different functions depending

on which sort of cells it is acting upon. These functions include :

  • controlling the body’s blood sugar levels and thus regulating metabolism - our bodies get their energy from food through metabolism, the chemical reactions in the body's cells that convert the fuel from food into the energy needed to do everything from moving to thinking to growing.

  • fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism

  • acting as an anti-inflammatory agent

  • influencing memory formation

  • controlling salt and water balance

  • influencing blood pressure

  • helping development of the foetus. 

  • influencing immune responses

  • affecting heart and blood vessel tone and contraction

  • influencing central nervous system activation

Cortisol – in general

Blood levels of cortisol vary dramatically, but generally are high in the morning when we wake up, and then fall as we go through the day. In night-shift workers, this pattern is reversed, so the timing of cortisol release is clearly linked to daily activity patterns.

In addition, cortisol is more commonly known as the hormone which is responsible for our response to stress; you may have heard of the fight – flight – freeze response, when extra cortisol is released to help the body to respond appropriately. If we are on constant alert, constantly stressed, then our cortisol levels are always elevated, and when constantly elevated they trigger different “dysregulations” or dis-eases in the body. There’s a lifestyle clue there – live life in a less busy / stressed way.

 

While it is vital to health for the adrenals to secret more cortisol in response to stress, it is also very important that bodily functions and cortisol levels return to normal following a stressful event. Unfortunately, in our current high-stress culture, the stress response is activated so often that the body does not always have a chance to return to normal. So what then?

What happens if I have too much cortisol?

This can lead to health problems resulting from too much circulating cortisol and/or from too little cortisol if the adrenal glands become chronically (lasting for more than three months) fatigued (adrenal fatigue).

Higher and more prolonged levels of circulating cortisol (like those associated with chronic stress) have been shown to have negative effects, such as:

•Blood sugar imbalances, such as hyperglycemia

•Decreased bone density

•Decreased muscle mass

•Elevated blood pressure

•Impaired cognitive performance

•Increased belly fat, which is a stronger indicator of certain health problems than fat deposited in other areas of the body. Health problems associated with increased stomach fat include

  • heart attacks

  • higher levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL)  

  • lower levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL)

  • strokes

•Lowered immune function

•Reduced thyroid function

•Sleep disruption

•Slow wound healing

 

Chronically – lasting for more than three months - lower levels of circulating cortisol (as in adrenal fatigue) have been associated with negative effects, such as:

•Blood sugar imbalances, such as hypoglycemia

•Brain fog, cloudy-headedness and mild depression

•Fatigue – especially morning and mid-afternoon fatigue

•Low blood pressure

•Low thyroid function

•Lowered immune function

•Inflammation – which triggers many other conditions

•Sleep disruption

 

Tell tale signs

 

 

  • a flushed and round face

  • Belly fat – the dreaded spare ring

  • frequency of urination

  • high blood pressure

  • mood swings - anxiety, depressing, or irritability

  • muscle weakness

  • osteoporosis

  • rapid weight gain mainly in the face, chest and belly contrasted with slender arms and legs

  • skin changes (bruises and purple stretch marks)

  • thirst


High cortisol levels over a prolonged time can also cause lack of sex drive and, in women, periods can become irregular, less frequent or stop altogether.

In addition, there has been a long-standing association between raised or impaired regulation of cortisol levels and a number of psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and depression. 

What happens if I have too little cortisol?

Too little cortisol can be due to a condition called Addison’s Disease which has a number of causes, all rare, including damage to the adrenal glands by autoimmune disease. 

Symptoms become noticeable very gradually and include

  • fatigue

  • darkening of the skin in places

  • dizziness (especially upon standing)

  • mood changes

  • muscle weakness

  • weight loss, , and the darkening of regions of the skin.

 

It is important not to wait until you have a basket containing all the above symptoms. Urgent assessment by a specialist hormone doctor called an endocrinologist is required when a diagnosis of Cushing's syndrome or Addison's disease is suspected.

 

Metaphysics and Adrenal issues

Emotional states                                                                                                                                                                    

Feeling hopeless                                                                                                                                

Suppressing feelings of the heart

Sense of well being is shattered – especially if your life truths are exposed as false or a lie

Unresolved issues round violence / abuse /

Living with the fear that violence / abuse could happen again

Feelings of “I must have been bad”

 

Beliefs

 

Nothing will change

Life is hopeless

Everything is tough

I am a victim

I am depressed

I am powerless to take control, to change

I can’t let people know how I feel

I always have to justify myself

I have to work hard to survive

Continuous stress
is
NOT
good for you!

© 2017,2018,2019,2020 by Andrew Hunter

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