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
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.
For detailed ways to reduce stress
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
higher levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL)
lower levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL)
•Lowered immune function
•Reduced thyroid function
•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
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
rapid weight gain mainly in the face, chest and belly contrasted with slender arms and legs
skin changes (bruises and purple stretch marks)
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
darkening of the skin in places
dizziness (especially upon standing)
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
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”
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