Cortisol: The Stress Hormone
If you haven’t heard of cortisol, it’s about time that you started knowing what it is, how it affects your body and how you can reduce it.
Cortisol – What is it?
It is the stress hormone release in response to fear of stress by the adrenal glands as part of the fight-or-flight mechanism. There are 2 types of “stress” :
- eustress (good stress)
- distress(bad stress)
Both stresses release cortisol as part of the general adaptation syndrome. Once your body is alarmed to release cortisol, your body becomes ready for action – either fight or flight. If cortisol is not used/depleted, the cortisol levels will build up in your blood which may cause havoc in your brains/body.
Eustress: The “good stress” creates a carpe diem state which is often linked with a positive goal to attain. Upon attainment of the goal/objective, cortisol levels will return to normal levels.
Distress: Sometimes known as “free floating anxiety” doesn’t provide an exit route for the cortisol. This causes our bodies to sabotage itself as the anti-stress mechanism backfires.
How does cortisol affect your body?
Here are some of the effects that you may have experienced:
- Increase weight gain
- Increase blood pressure
- Increases risk of depression/mental illness
- Lowers immune function
- Lowers bone density
- Lowers life expectancy
What can you do to reduce cortisol levels?
- Increase physical activity e.g. exercise, 10’000 steps
- Go for activities that allows you to “take it all off” – e.g. Muay Thai, vigorous fitness classes that give you a good sweat and pump.
- Fear increases cortisol levels. Regular physical activities will elevate moods and reduce fears via increasing self-confidence.
- You can also do a couple of short sessions in a day. Try parking further than usual, take the stairs and stretch/do 10 push ups every hour.
- Laughter and Fun
- Having fun and laughing reduces stress. Try to find a group of people whom you enjoy their company and that can make you laugh – without you feeling socially awkward.
- Listen to music that you enjoy – that fits the mood that you are in.
In conclusion, stress is something that we can handle by ourselves. Identify the triggers and take immediate action before cortisol builds up and destroys the rest of your day/week. Sometimes, we all just need to love ourselves a little bit more than usual by pampering and accepting ourselves.