Are You a Cortisol Junkie?
Wouldn’t you love to be Neuro Athletic? Can’t you just see yourself saving the day while the bad guy’s ammo bounces off your chest? As cool as that might be there is. major challenge in our way before getting to this stage. That challenge has a name, it’s cortisol and for many people living a normal 9-5 life, you will soon realise that most people are actually cortisol junkies.
Let me start by asking you a questions: How many times have you said out loud “I’m so stressed” I’m guessing you tell yourself this everyday. But what is stress and how bad is it for our mind, body and overall human performance? If you are old enough to be reading things like this, you know that life comes with no shortage of drama. You’ve probably had a few big things that threw you for a loop just in the last few months. Getting through it all without a few bumps is not realistic. The difference between life’s events being just small bumps versus becoming devastating to you? It’s your level of emotional control and you can always strengthen this.
Any type of stress such as psychological stress, emotional stress, physical and mental stress all increase resting heart rate, elevate blood pressure, and cause widespread inflammation and oxidative damage in cells, artery walls, and body organs. It has now been proven through countless studies that people in 2018 react to situations in the exact same way as we did in caveman time when they would run away from a tiger.
Stress hormones like epinephrine and cortisol contribute significantly to this damage. Cortisol wreaks general havoc in the body as it readies our organ systems for an attack from the unlikely wolf encountered in the woods—but for many sufferers of chronic disease living in modern society, the hormone never lets up.
What is cortisol you ask?
Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is produced by the adrenal glands which sit on top of each kidney. It is released in response to any type of stress. When released into the bloodstream, cortisol can act on many different parts of the body and can help:
- Your body respond to stress or danger
- Increase your body’s metabolism of glucose
- Control your blood pressure
- Reduce inflammation.
- Cortisol is also needed for the fight or flight response which is a healthy, natural response to perceived threats.
Prolonged elevation of cortisol levels is linked to hypertension, hyperglycemia, abdominal obesity, increased appetite and cravings for sugary foods, and a suppressed immune system, among other abnormalities.
So what does all this mean to me?
Basically, this means that stress, in whatever form, does immense damage to the body and especially the nervous system in many many ways. Whenever you feel under attack by a text message, instagram post, during a meeting with your boss and in a heated argument with your partner just remember, you are releasing cortisol in your body which is causing you a lot of damage.
How do we prevent this from happening?
Well before we understand how to lower cortisol levels or diminish them from the body we first need to recognise that if we control our reactions to certain situations then we can control the amount of cortisol released into the body. We can control the levels of cortisol in a number of ways as cortisol is released during times of stress and our body reacts to physical stress, emotional stress and mental stress in the same way. However, the best and most effective ways of gaining control of your cortisol levels is by following and understanding the strategies below:
Strategy #1: The 20 minute rule.
It usually takes your brain quite some time to wake up the prefrontal cortex and communication rationally to another person so we need some time to calm down, breathe and think about what we are going to say. The 20 minute rule is a great strategy for anyone who’s at that point in their life where they feel stressed and are managing their reactions in the wrong way.
Next time you find yourself in this position, take a breath and walk away and give yourself 20 minutes to calmly think about your response then head back to the situation.
Strategy #2: Nutrition
What you put in your body can be a major determinant to high cortisol levels. One great way of managing this and decreasing the excess cortisol is by taking 1/2 to 1 tsp of high-quality Himalayan pink salt in a glass of water when you wake, which lowers stress hormones. You may also want to take magnesium and potassium in the mornings straight after the pink salt. Taking them together also helps because you must have potassium present for magnesium to absorb best.
Strategy #3: Breathe 4-4-4
Chronic stress and cortisol can lead to chronic acidosis. When under stress the body produces acids as a natural response. In particular, the adrenal glands secrete the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. These hormonal secretions lead to an accelerated metabolic state which creates acids as a by-product. Bowen Therapy is also very good at relaxing the body by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which stimulates digestion, recovery and repair, and halts the secretion of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol.
Another great way to release stress and lower cortisol levels is by actively breathing using the 4-4-4 method which definitely guarantees you for a great amount of nutrient rich oxygen to be delivered to your brain.
The way to do this is to breathe in for four seconds, breathe out for four and hold for four seconds. If you repeat this five times a day you will notice the difference in your mood, your stress and your health.
Last thoughts on cortisol
Although cortisol is often viewed as a bad actor, we need it to live. The problem is medications, a lack of exercise, processed foods and high stress levels can leave us living with too much cortisol in the body. In rare cases, a (usually benign) tumor could be the root cause of high cortisol levels. Your doctor can order routine tests to determine your cortisol levels and suggest ways to lower it.
Regardless, we could all probably tap in to natural cortisol-lowering techniques like mindfulness, exercise, and a diet rich in fresh vegetables, clean protein and fruit.