Cortisol and Stress

 How to Stay Healthy and Avoid Stress this Winter

What is Cortisol? Cortisol is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands and is released in response to stressful situations (physical, mental or emotional). It increases the flow of glucose (as well as protein and fat) out of your tissues and in to the bloodstream in order to increase energy and physical readiness to handle the stressful situation. Ideally cortisol is meant to come on immediately, get used and then switch off! It is not meant to get stored and stick around. While it is an important and helpful part of the body’s response to stress, it is important that the body’s relaxation response be activated so the body’s functions can return to normal after a stressful event. Unfortunately in our high stress lifestyles, the body’s stress response is activated so often that the body doesn’t always have a chance to return to normal, causing damage to the body. Ideally your cortisol level should be neither consistently high nor low but fluctuating in a rhythmic pattern, responding to both stress and relaxation. Persistently high cortisol levels seen in people, who are suffering from prolonged or chronic stress, are associated with:      
  •  Obesity
  • Increased fat storage around the abdomen even in lean women
  • Heart disease
  •  Depression/anxiety
  •  Chronic fatigue
  • Fibromyalgia
  •  Diabetes
If you have a hectic lifestyle, family or money issues, deadlines, rushing here and there, eating fast food, lack of sleep or exercise, you are a prime candidate for elevated cortisol levels. To keep your body healthy and your cortisol secretion under control, the body’s relaxation response should be activated after each stress response. The following have been found to be helpful in relaxing mind and body and stimulating the relaxation response:
  • Meditation
  • Listening to music
  • Yoga
  • Exercise
  • Breathing Exercises
  • Sleep between 7 and 9 hours a night