Cortisol is a stress hormone released by the adrenal glands. It’s important for helping your body deal with stressful situations, as your brain triggers its release in response to many different kinds of stress.
Cortisol can be good for us. Normal levels of cortisol are released when you wake up in the morning or exercise. These levels can help regulate your blood pressure and blood sugar levels and even strengthen your heart muscle. In small doses, the hormone can heighten memory, increase your immune system and lower sensitivity to pain.
However, when cortisol levels are too high for too long, this hormone can hurt you more than it helps. Over time, high levels of cortisol may cause weight gain and high blood pressure, disrupt sleep, negatively impact mood, reduce your energy levels, and contribute to diabetes.
Unfortunately, the danger of a fast-paced culture (in which most of us live in), leaves many in a constant high-stress mode, and cortisol levels stay high. When our cortisol levels are too high problems like weight gain, tiredness, impaired brain function, and chronic disease can start to arise.
Fortunately there are many things we can do to help keep our levels in a normal range all. We can start to focus on things like:
- Getting enough sleep: It’s important to make sure we are getting a minimum of 6 hours of sleep a night, if not 8! If you have a schedule that changes daily, or work a swing shift, don’t be afraid of those naps to help you catch up on sleep!
- Learn to recognize stressful thoughts: The more we are aware of our body’s reaction to stimuli, the more we can handle how we process that stress. Stress is inevitable, but if we can handle it in a calmer fashion, our bodies will thank us.
- Learn to relax and have fun: It’s hard to be stressed and feel anxious when we are smiling and laughing! Take some time for yourself everyday to do something you enjoy.
- Maintain healthy relationships: Fill your life with relationships that bring your happiness and joy. Don’t let other people’s stress become yours!
- Play with your pet: Again, it’s hard to be stressed when your happy!
- Exercise and eat healthy foods: Make some time for the gym, and if you can’t make it go on a walk or something to get your body moving. Don’t forget to fuel up with healthy and natural foods, watch your sugar consumption, and take an Omega 3 supplement!
Overall we play the main role in our own health, so take some responsibility for your body and do something good for it!