Due to lifestyle factors, stress is on the increase and it isn’t improving our health.
Stress can have a range of causes, including:
- Work/employment conditions
- Marital – getting married or divorced
- Death of a loved one
- Moving house
- Screen time
- Poor sleep
- Excessive high-intensity exercise
- Insufficient nutrient intake
- Excessive “bad” foods
- Food intolerances
One of the many results of high stress is the excessive production of the hormone Cortisol in the body. Cortisol, in normal levels, is a very important hormone, and when released into the bloodstream, cortisol helps:
- The body responds to stress
- Increase your body’s metabolism of glucose
- Control blood pressure
- Reduce inflammation
Cortisol is also needed for the body’s fight or flight response, which is a healthy and natural response to perceived threats. The amount of cortisol produced is highly regulated by your body to ensure the balance is correct.
However, symptoms of excess cortisol in the body include:
- weight gain (particularly around the abdomen and face);
- thin/fragile skin that is slow to heal;
- acne; and
- for women, facial hair and irregular menstrual periods.
Here are 4 ways to limit stress and, therefore, control your cortisol levels:
- Exercise daily… but it has to be the right sort of exercise!
Many types of exercise are beneficial in controlling cortisol levels, however, too much high-intensity exercise can be detrimental to cortisol levels. Pilates, on the other hand, is an ideal form of exercise to help manage the stress right out of your day! This is because it stimulates the mind-body connection and has a strong focus on breathing through movement. Once your spine has been moved in all directions, your body releases endorphins. As Joseph Pilates once said “Contrology (i.e. Pilates) is complete coordination of body, mind and spirit. Through Contrology you first purposefully acquire complete control of your own body and then, through proper repetition of its exercises, you gradually and progressively acquire that natural rhythm and coordination associated with all your subconscious activities.”
- Get enough sleep
Monitor your sleep! Adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.
Sleep is so crucial that even minor sleep deprivation or poor sleep can affect memory, judgment and mood, which for many people, results in stress. Many studies show that an extra 60 to 90 minutes of sleep per night improves health and wellbeing.
Check out some of The Body Refinery blogs for additional information: https://www.thebodyrefineryonline.com/importance-sleep/ or https://www.thebodyrefinery.com.au/general/5-tips-to-improve-your-sleep/
- Eat the right foods
Diet is very important for many obvious reasons, but regarding cortisol levels, it’s important to have stable blood sugar and avoid food intolerances. Try:
- Switching to a whole foods diet – emphasising organic and naturally-fed meat, fish, green vegetables and healthy fats.
- Keep a food diary every day for 4 weeks to help identify any foods that are causing an inflammatory response, or get a thorough food intolerance test.
- Avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates to help keep blood sugar stable.
- Avoid Alcohol.
Meditation has been practised for thousands of years and was originally meant to help deepen the understanding of the sacred and mystical forces of life. These days, meditation is commonly used for relaxation and stress reduction.
Meditation is considered a type of mind-body complementary medicine and can produce a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind.
The app HEADSPACE is a great introduction to meditation, but there are many on the market that can step you through the process of learning meditation and help you achieve deep relaxation.