Why are raised cortisol levels so terrible for my health?
Most of you will have heard of the stress hormone called ‘cortisol’ bantered around or you may have had to consider ways to drop your levels for various health issues which have come up for you.
How do my cortisol levels get raised?
When your body perceives a threat, your hypothalamus sends a signal to your adrenal glands to start pumping out hormones like cortisol. This release sets off physiological responses designed to help you get out of danger. Your heart rate and blood sugar levels spike, and you start to feel anxious. This response would have been needed in cave man times, but we really don’t need to escape from danger that often in everyday life.
If you constantly experience chronic stress it will have severe effects on your health. Many symptoms below are attributed to stress. It really does cause massive health implications.
Insomnia ( this includes waking in the night, waking tired in the morning)
Anxiety & depression
Blood sugar & metabolism issues (sugar cravings, PCOS, diabetes type 2)
Decreased memory, ability to focus
Immune instability ( reoccurring old viruses, allergies, inflammation)
Heart & Alzheimers disease
And you ask ‘What can I do to avoid cortisol spikes?
It’s all about stress management in your life.
Think about your processes each day, how can you simplify small issues which tend to catch you out (and cause stress)?
Cortisol is highest in the morning and lowest before bed.
Reducing stress in your life is all about management. What little changes would decrease pressure on you each day?
Prepare the night before! Little changes make a large impact on morning routines, preparation is the key.
It may seem basic but…
Pack your lunch the night before for work
Set your briefcase / work bag, coat, shoes, etc. at the door for the next day
Think about whats for dinner the next evening, is it in the fridge, do you have the ingredients?
Are the kids organised for the next day?
If your a ‘list person’ write it the night before, research is actually proven that writing with a pen on paper is more effective than your phone. The action provides processing time for your memory.
If your someone who struggles to shut down at night consider eating a big lunch and very small dinner or eating dinner by 6 pm. Eating late causes your digestion to become sluggish overtime. Therefore causing with gain and a shift in metabolism, this becomes more magnified as we age +50.
If emotive or scary television/ movies keep you awake or cause disturbing dreams avoid them before bed. These will cause you to be over adrenalised before falling off.
Consider getting up 20 minutes early to write in a gratitude journal, I know it sounds like awful suggestion but this will focus your thoughts on all the amazing things you have in your life. (It really does work)
Eat a warm breakfast sitting down at the kitchen table (this strengthens your digestive system, eating on the run over a long period or in front of your screen at work will cause digestive issues over time) I cant stress this enough, if you eat a good breakfast consistently each day in a calm environment you will avoid issues with your digestive system, metabolism, weight gain, lack of focus and hormonal imbalances.
Try to be a bit easier on your self in the darker months of January and February, getting up a little bit earlier is a challenge, add a bit more time for these months in the morning or go to bed a bit earlier. (it’s dark anyways!)
Other suggestions to lower your cortisol:
Get enough sleep - a bad nights sleep increases cortisol
Be active, this lowers stress levels. Consider lower intensity exercise like walking, the idea here isn’t to push your adrenals
Curb the sugar! Yes have to say it, it overloads the digestive system
Carbs are a good idea! But the type that isn’t white, try complex grains & healthy veg. Sweet potatoes, spelt, lentils, squash, couscous. Eat in small portions.
Meditative practices: yoga, breathing, body scanning, EFT tapping, writing, qi gong, Tai qi, stretching - what ever works for you - 15 minutes when you get home from work
Nothing like a cuddle with your dog or cat; research has shown a cuddling a dog reduces cortisol, I'm sure cuddling your cat does as well!
Many studies concluded acupuncture is execllent at successfully a lowering stress levels.
Heres a link to research gathered by the British Acupuncture Council