Understanding Cortisol

Our hormones play an extremely critical role in our health, and cortisol is no exception. It gets you feeling energized and enables you to deal with fight or flight situations.

But when you have too much of it surging through your body (due to too little sleep, too much stress, or health issues), it can do a HUGE number on your mood and your health.

Studies show that too much cortisol can: 

  • Increase your appetite
  • Force you to store excess body fat (especially in the belly area)
  • Lose sleep, because your wake-sleep cycle can become disrupted
  • Feel mentally foggy
  • Disrupt your immune system
  • Contribute to high blood pressure and related diseases
  • Play a role in developing diabetes
  • Increase your risk of osteoporosis
  • And more

As you can see, cortisol is no joke and it’s a super important part of your self-care!  Hopefully that is enough evidence to convince you to give yourself permission to unplug and de-stress every once in a while (preferably daily!) to help keep your hormones in balance.

If you haven’t already downloaded UNPLUG, our stress-management guide, definitely check it out for some effective breathing techniques that will work almost immediately to help you relax. (Download it right now by clicking here.)​

If you’re like most people, it isn’t the actual outside “stressors” that cause all the problems … it’s the way you react to them. That’s because when your ancestors had to outrun a predator or their life was in danger, they used the cortisol/blood sugar/adrenaline/etc. that got dumped into their systems as part of the natural stress response.

But in modern times, that’s not usually the case. As a result, you can get into a chronic stress cycle where those hormones build up in your body, causing serious problems. The most important thing to know is that you’re not a victim of stress – you CAN take control back!

Studies show that our thoughts and reactions impact our cortisol levels. Doing a little feel-good mindset work can make a BIG difference!

●      In one study, researchers had people write about their most stressful life experiences. When researchers did follow-up tests a month later, the people who recalled those events in detail STILL had higher cortisol levels than before they wrote them down … plus they showed more symptoms of developing a cold than the study control group (which didn’t do the stressful writing).

Also, research shows that learning how to be more mindful/aware of your thoughts – and what’s causing them – can help cut back on your stress response.

●      According to Healthline, a study of 43 women in a mindfulness program revealed that when they could recognize and describe what was stressing them, they had a lower cortisol response.

Being able to catch yourself having stressful thoughts will enable you to take a step back before they get out of control… which means you aren’t constantly reacting to them.

How do you do “catch yourself” having stressful thoughts?

It’s actually pretty simple. It means becoming more mindful of your body’s cues and listening to the voice in your head. For instance, if you’ve ever noticed that your shoulders are tense, your jaw is clenched, you have a concrete block on your chest, or you are holding your breath, chances are you’ve been thinking about something stressful (even if it’s subconscious).

Or if the “voice” in your head constantly says the same negative things over and over again – “I’m so tired!” “I’ll never get this all done!” “No one appreciates my hard work!” “Why can’t they do what I say?” – it’s time to turn things around.

The MOMENT you become aware of these thoughts, it’s time to do some breathing exercises … rework your inner language to be more positive … or just step back and take a little break! I realize that can be SO HARD to do, but your body deserves (and NEEDS) it.

You can find little ways to escape, reset and unplug every day, by going for a walk, enjoying nature, listening (or playing) your favorite songs, reading, attend a training session, or just sitting and “being.” Studies also show a light-to-moderate workout also can almost immediately cut down on your stress!

Here’s an easy homework assignment: come up with 3 everyday things you can do to take a little mental break. These should be “fun” things that make you feel relieved. Now, just find a little time to actually DO them!  Bonus point: send us a message and let us know what your 3 things are!

Remember, a healthy body is more resilient to stress. Eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, and UNPLUG! :)

Lots of Love,

​Wilcox Wellness & Fitness

 

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Paige Wilcox

About Paige Wilcox

This blog, Inspire Healthy Living is focused on actionable strategies for healthy living that are going to make a major impact on your life. I will be working with our trainer team to cover a broad range of health and fitness topics that can be easily integrated into your daily life. At Wilcox Wellness & Fitness, we are passionate about helping people live their very best life and we believe that the foundation for your best life starts with a commitment to healthy living.