Happy, Healthy Body – Stress Less
In my research earlier this year concerning balancing my hormones, I became aware of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is often referred to as the stress hormone. Cortisol is designed to assist our bodies with that extra boost of energy when we need it. However, when our bodies are constantly in s state of producing too much cortisol, it is not a good thing.
I am no way an expert when it comes to explaining the amazing complexity of our hormones and their role in our health. I did learn from Dr. Sara Gottfried that ‘cortisol is the hormone that governs our digestion, hunger cravings, sleep/wake patterns, blood pressure, physical activity, in addition to our capacity to cope with stress. The continued elevation of cortisol can seriously tax our adrenal glands which can lead to and cause other serious imbalances that can affect our insulin and blood sugar levels as well.’ She also mentions that ‘high cortisol levels make you store fat—especially in your belly, deplete your happy brain chemicals like serotonin, and rob your sleep. High cortisol is also linked to depression, food addiction, and sugar cravings.’ This got my serious attention as I have struggled to reach my goal weight, and felt the problem may be due to recent hormonal changes.
The problem begins when we start to run around stressed all the time. Sound familiar, right? Personally, I know elevated stress can wreak havoc in our bodies, as I experienced this after years in a highly demanding corporate job as a single mom. I also learned from Dr. Christiane Northrup that managing our stress levels should be a primary concern. So what does normal cortisol levels look and feel like? Well, when cortisol levels are in balance, you feel calm, cool and collected most of the time. It enables us to get a solid and refreshing nights sleep. And, our blood pressure and fasting glucose (blood sugar) levels are normal. In other words, you are able to manage your stress without it overcoming you. So how can we begin to manage stress? Good question.
It may look differently for everyone but I wanted to share some of the lifestyle changes that I have made to try to stress less. A few months back I did the 21 day hormone reset that Dr. Sara recommends. I highly recommend her book The Hormone Reset Diet. The things I mention below are based on my success with the Reset and the positive changes I noticed immediately in my body.
To begin with, when I feel my cortisol levels are low in the morning (hard to wake up and get going kinda day), I especially find it helpful to exercise first thing. Usually a vigorous, sweaty cardio workout like Zumba seems to work best. I leave my class feeling happy and energized all day. In order to keep a healthy cortisol rhythm, I am extremely careful with any caffeine intake. Yup, that means decaf coffee only. Yes, the baristas look at me funny, who orders decaf? Me. (Personally, I think we live in a caffeine and sugar hyped society as I see people rely on their coffee fix to get them thru the day.) If I do want a little boost on some mornings, I stick with green tea only.
I also limit my dark chocolate consumption to before noon as it contains caffeine as well. I watch all my caffeine intake as it seriously interrupts my natural circadian sleep cycle. (When I was on her 21 day reset, I slept like a baby, and saw the benefit of a regular sleep schedule.) Another thing is I eat lots of nutrient dense food, with a diet high in vegetables. I also notice huge benefits when I cut out all sugar and even limit my fruit intake, sticking to low glycemic fruits like berries. And lastly, I limit my alcohol intake to only special occasions.
Another thing I found beneficial was to control my thinking or train my brain to work for me not against me. I make a conscious choice to change the channel when my thoughts (or life) are getting too hectic. I also choose to keep my commitments to a minimum and set healthy boundaries. I also consciously slow down, relax and live in the moment. I take the time in my busy schedule to enjoy nature which always relaxes me. I also have to make myself
disconnect from all electronics. I find that not only literally changing the channel of my thoughts and actions for the day but taking a moment of deep breathing helps enormously. And, if I am really stressed over something, I find talking it out with my husband or a friend helps a lot.
I know we cannot realistically avoid stress altogether but it IS possible to manage our lives and stress less.
Copyright © 2018 Kathleen De Haven – All Rights Reserved.