Cortisol is a steroid hormone released under stress; it helps to regulate blood sugar and will act like an anti-inflammatory as it does when there’s an allergic response. Too much of anything can be bad as it is with prolonged stress. Cortisol can break down muscle tissue and cause you to hold onto or even increase body fat. It will increase blood pressure, disrupt liver detoxification and may put a surge in your appetite making you crave sugars all while contributing to obesity.
Another not so pleasant affect of cortisol is it becomes an immunosuppressant-weakening your immunity, decreasing your ability to fight bacteria, viruses and cancer cells. Your bodies highest regard is keeping your immune system in check. When your internal armed forces are doing their very best at fighting invaders, your other systems, organs and functions are affected. When an invader like a virus enters the body, it responds by sending out a type of white blood cell called Natural Killer (NK) cells. They are to seek and destroy cells infected by viruses and cancer cells. But under prolonged stress, cortisol suppresses the NK cells allowing viruses to take hold and cancer cells to survive. This is why individuals under constant stress have outbreaks of infections, shingles, colds and diagnosis of cancer.
Stress needs to be managed as it will mess with your hormones…as one of its main chemicals cortisol is responsible for ripping more holes in the gut. Whether it be from nutritional stress, environmental stress, external or emotional stress like even simply worrying about a stressful situation, it’s all the same to your body. Dealing with stress is critical on all levels.
HACK INTO ANTI-AGING WITH THESE STRESS LESS TIPS:
SLEEP IN HEAVENLY PEACE…comes first and foremost and getting the recommended seven to eight hours is best for most to rejuvenate the adrenals. Getting into the habit of being in bed by 10pm latest in order to be in that deep REM sleep by midnight is important so the adrenal glands can replenish. Try winding down before bed without the devices that emit electromagnetic waves which disrupt the natural melatonin production needed for even more than a good nights slumber. A sublingual melatonin lozenges that gets absorbed into the bloodstream quicker might help remedy a sleep issue. Enjoy a warm herbal bath infused with lavender oil that will lift the mental and physical tension that hinders the mind and muscles.
For those that can not quiet the monkey chatter that might disrupt a good nights sleep can try yogic breathing. I love sharing this technique with my clients, that which yogi’s have long practiced; a simple alternative nostril breathing technique that balances brain function, calms the nervous system and mind. When you wake in the middle of the night, try this exercise as it may quell the random thoughts and help you get some healthy sleep.
- Close the right nostril with your right thumb and inhale through the left nostril. Do this to the count of four seconds.
- Immediately close the left nostril with your right ring finger and little finger, and at the same time remove your thumb from the right nostril, and exhale through this nostril. Do this to the count of eight seconds. This completes a half round.
- Inhale through the right nostril to the count of four seconds. Close the right nostril with your right thumb and exhale through the left nostril to the count of eight seconds. This completes one full round.
By the time most seek help they already are in adrenal exhaustion or burnout so taking a sleepy time “stress cocktail” of adaptogens with cordyceps like rhodiola or with neurotransmitters of GABA and 5HTP can be what it takes to help one feel refreshed upon waking and no longer dragging ass.
FIX STRESSFUL RELATIONSHIPS…examine all the close relationships in your life and figure out how you can improve them? This is not so easy as it takes two to tango, but ask yourself these questions; “are you trapped in an unhappy or unhealthy
partnership” and its important to be honest as maybe seeking therapy would be helpful? Surrounding yourself with supportive friends and family is vital to emotional well-being which is crucial to happiness and health. We are social beings so stay connected my friends to those that lift your spirits.
ADD ALTERNATIVE ENERGY TOOLS TO YOUR NEXT MEDITATION…for added relaxation and stress reduction. As numerous scientific studies have found meditation to be one of the most effective way to soothe anxiety. One recent study¹, published by the Psychological Bulletin, combines the results of 163 different studies to show a positive correlation between mindfulness and meditation techniques for anxiety, uplifting your mood, calming your mind while diminishing anxiety and stress.
Using energy healing tools like essential oils and healing crystals while meditating changes your energy from anxious to grounded at a faster rate as the positive earth energy and the uplifting aroma’s trigger positive responses in your body. Besides the energetic component, having the weight and texture in your hands shifts your focus from your anxiety to the way the crystals feel in your hands.
While specific essential oils like lavender, frankincense, rosemary which is also supportive of the adrenals and citrus oils such as lemon, wild orange and bergamot all to help promote balance to the nervous system. Emotional and physiological tension can be especially damaging to bodily system and act as a prime promoter of acid formation in the body. By boosting your emotional limbic system via inhalation of therapeutic essential oils can revitalize the mind. Simply by diffusing the air around or putting a couple of drops into the palm of the hand and with a circular motion, activate, cup in front of your face and breathe in the aroma feeling your mood elevate almost instantaneously.
Again, you’ve learned that your body will prioritize resources to meet with specific demands of stress. When faced with fight or flight, your body prepares to do battle or run away, two actions that require energy needing fuel right now!
When bombarded with extreme stress, the body first looks for required nutrients, but if none are found, it gets fuel from organs that aren’t necessary for survival. The adrenal glands become affected even under mild stimulation.
Nature never intended for our adrenals which pump out adrenalin, cortisol, and other hormones that affect our heart rate, lungs, circulation, metabolism and immune system to be in revved up state that is always on. Homeostasis begins to send the nutrients back to support balance in all systems of the body, but it can’t replenish soon enough. They are taken quickly and this deficit accumulates over time.
Gradually, you begin to show signs of chronic stress – AKA premature aging;
- Your blood sugar levels becomes more difficult to control
- Your arteries begin to clog up with cholesterol and other larger protein particles
- Your muscle mass begins to melt away and obesity or weight loss happens
- Enzymes in your cells begin to turn off affecting digestion and metabolism
- What we can call caramelized sugars begin to damage your brain and nerves
- You can’t think clearly, sleep and anxiety or depression might dampen your moods
- Most recognizable, you have no energy, just fatigue and feel like crap
Aging gracefully is all about feeding your body with what it needs- nutrients and minerals from whole foods and supplements to combat stress. The more nutrients you have “on board”, the less fuel your body will have to steal during a crisis. With the proper nourishment and superfoods, you will be able to resist the relentless killer that stress has become in our society.
EAT YOUR WAY TO HAPPINESS…adding oily fish, eggs, bee products and combining plant based sources of protein including rice and beans along with a variety of seeds and nuts, seasonal vegetables, leafy greens and avocado’s to your diet means that you’ll naturally increase nutrients and minimize the need to take supplements or anti-depressants. Research shows the inclusion of B vitamins, essential amino acids and fatty acids play a significant role to improve both physical and mental stress.
EFA’s(Essential Fatty Acids)…help your body produce hormones that regulate heartbeat, blood pressure, blood clotting, fertility and encourage your body to fight inflammation and infections. The body uses EFA’s to repair cell membranes, absorb nutrients and expel harmful wastes which is prevalent with the typical Western diet that is largely made up of processed foods, genetically modified products and hard to digest food combining.
When the digestive system receives too much acid forming foods, many naturally occurring nutrients that are in the foods are destroyed. This is why people that look “well-fed” can and usually are nutrient deficient. Plus when your body is too loaded with acid waste, it can’t effectively absorb vitamins and nutrients regardless of the source. So you’re left with nutritional deficiencies and feeling STRESSED OUT because your body is starved for nutrients even while you may be supplementing or eating a ton of food.
DIGESTIVE ENZYMES TO ENHANCE digestion, absorption and a assimilation can be a huge stepping stone into balancing the metabolic muck you may be experiencing. “Enzymes are chemicals that break down the larger packets of sugars and starches, proteins, or fats into small amounts that your body can use,” and normally produced from the pancreas to the digestive tract. Remember stress highly affects the gastrointestinal system and Dr. Greenwald claims “There are lots of enzymes that you need to lead a healthy life,”.
FOODS FOR RELAXATION…are those high in carbohydrates, certain minerals and the amino acids such as tryptophan which the body converts to serotonin and melatonin. Lentils and banana’s are good sources of tryptophan, magnesium and potassium which all promote relaxation. Cherries are high in melatonin and a good anti-inflammatory source and one in which I recommend to my clients to drink an ounce of organic tart cherry juice nightly. Potatoes, carrots and white rice can also promote better sleep when eaten before bed and helpful to those that are hypoglycemic. It can be counter productive by eating too much if the body’s digestive efforts could negatively affect your sleep quality.
BREW UP SOME TEA…but for helpful benefit of the amino acid, L-theanine making it from organic green tea or kombucha will aid in lowering the physiological responses to stress. Green tea has been studied to beat the blues as published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in December 2009 as well as Japanese researchers found that those who sipped four cups or more daily less symptomatic of depression. Technically L-theanine helps boost mood and improve cognition as it works by increasing levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure-seeking behaviors. It is available in capsule form, but the other compounds found in tea’s have other immune and metabolic boosting properties that incorporating a cup a day can bring more than just mindful balance to the body.
If you haven’t heard of Kombucha before, it is a living health drink made by fermenting tea, sugar and a scoby culture. This tea tastes tangy, something between sparkling apple cider and fizzy soda depending on what kind of tea and how long its been brewing. It is known as “The Tea of Immortality” that dates back to the Tsin Dynasty of China from 221 BC.
OH HOLY BASIL… has been used in Ayurvedic medicine to calm the body by reducing elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, while having antioxidant properties and also act as an anti-inflammatory. This comes in forms of a tea known as Tulsi(Ocimum tenuiflorum), tinctures, capsules or my favorite- essential oil to breathe in the wonderful aroma for relaxation or applying it to tight and taught tissues.
FORGO THE CUP OF JOE…as caffeinated coffee used to stimulate the body to produce energy that the adrenals already used up is like non-stop borrowing of money you don’t have. The adrenals can begin to shut down and blood sugar imbalance kicks in, only to crave sugars. It can also cause dehydration to the lymphatic system, irritates the intestines with more mucosal congestion causing stress on many systems in the body when you need to be convincing the body/ mind that there’s no emergency and all is good.
OUR THOUGHTS SHAPE OUR REALITY…and keeping a gratitude journal helps encourage positive and appreciative messages to the brain rather than dwelling on negative one’s. I believe that in order to change anything to enable us to be truly happy, we first need to change the way we feel about ourselves and how we see the world around us. Whether you are working towards a career change, a new relationship or improving your health it starts with the way you feel inside.
Everyday write down 5 things you are grateful for and begin to increase the numbers until you have 25. What you focus on the most becomes your experience. As you shift your focus for all that you are grateful you will learn how much control we have over feeling better!
Unfortunately, gratitude doesn’t always come naturally — that’s why we must choose and practice gratitude daily. Of course, we want to positively impact others with a gracious attitude, but you may be asking yourself, how does gratitude influence our personal lives? Well, gratitude is proven to make people happier, less anxious, and more energized. Maybe because grateful people are more forgiving, confident, and charitable!
DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP…releasing judgment about something you’ve said, done or second guessed about can negatively cause a blockage. Especially for mom’s in regards to parenting, who look to help their families and want nothing but the best for them, may continually run that mental thought loop over and over again. Stop the judgmental jargon for whatever problem you’re feeling guilty about, release it and let it go.
It may take more than resonating with a thought to release it a cellular level, but it may take actual spoken words to erase the guilty vibes along with writing the specific reason down on a piece of paper, stating what it is and that it no longer exists. Confidently say it, repeat it and you can try the crumple and throw it into the trash technique.
MOVE THOSE MUSCLES…whether it’s by picking up those weights, putting one foot in front of the other or dedicating a time slot at the gym or yoga studio those chemicals in our brain, like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine are stimulated during exercise and naturally reduce stress. John Ratey, author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain says “Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory, and learning, even 10 minutes of activity changes your brain.”
A relative study from the University of California-This is your brain on exercise, showed that people who exercised (vigorously) an average of 45 minutes over a 3 day time period, had cells that showed fewer signs of aging then those of inactive women. Make a sustained, high intensity sweaty activity the drug of choice as it can reduce symptoms of depression just as effectively as antidepressants. BUT be sure to use exercise and movement to compliment, not replace any treatment for depression.
The abdominal and core of the body is usually an area that needs to be kept toned as I know its my weak area after four children. Various high intensity interval training moves are effective in targeting key area’s of the body all at once which helps us keep our girly shape by building up muscle mass. And yay to this study of one of my favorites- three yoga sessions a week boosted levels of GABA in the brain, improving anxiety and mood, but especially as we age stretching becomes a necessity.
GET OUT OF HERE AND GET OUTSIDE…literally speaking, make exercise fun and find something you enjoy doing even if it’s just getting outside to walk as mentally there’s nothing so refreshing as being in nature. That sunshine vitamin D is our friend for many reasons it supports numerous systems in our body to make our being healthier.
TOSS TOXINS…Let’s recap the three factors that lead the body into a disease state; first any trauma or stress that sets off our genetic vulnerability, environmental triggers which cause inflammation, AKA gut permeability and emotions or beliefs that can manifest mentally inhibiting our cellular functioning.
Begin to ditch the house cleaning products, air fresheners, laundry detergents that get beneath our skin and into the bloodstream within hours, personal care products that are xenoestrogens tipping the hormonal scale and most of all become more label savvy and know what you are consuming or putting onto your body was it all has its effects.
LET LAUGHTER LIGHTEN YOUR LOAD…make a conscious effort to laugh at the small stuff, during times of strife or when life’s bad times keep showing up. Use laughter as the medicine to open the heart chakra, letting love and light in, changing your perspective, and enabling you to fix your attention on what is positive in life. When we laugh heartily(that childhood belly laughter) at life’s ridiculousness instead of responding irritably, our focus shifts. Let laughter echo happiness into the core of your being, to permeate every cell in the physical self so that it radiates outward until its uninhibited laughter from within. Anger, guilt, fear and sadness will melt away, no longer wielding the stressful influence over us and shutting down that stream of wielding cortisone
As it’s easy to laugh when all is good, but when things are dim or depressed this is when we need to nourish our soul with whole-body laughter to allow its energetic benefits to stimulate the mind, exercise the muscles and lungs leaving us feeling relaxed and content. During shared experiences with strangers and loved ones alike let laughter be the food of the soul stimulating our senses and elevating our vibrations radiating joy and peace.
For optimal physiological functioning and hacking the aging process…food matters, digestion matters, inflammation matters but STRESS might matter most!