“Somehow our devils are never quite what we expect when we meet them face to face.”Nelson DeMille
This week, we are discussing stress and how it increases the cortisol in our body as a response to stress. Whilst this is a normal stress response, having excess cortisol in your system for a long period of time can cause damage to your body thorough serious health issues, depression, mental health and lower life expectancy. This is because over time, elevated cortisol has been shown to interfere with so many functions of the mind and body – reduces the ability to learn and decreases memory and immune function. Unfortunately, it also increases blood pressure, weight, heart disease and cholesterol. Barack Obama even called cortisol “Public Enemy Number One” in one of his speeches whilst President of the United States of America.
It is timely having this discussion in December as Christmas can be a time of stress for many people. Whether this be financial stress, not being close to family (physical or emotional distance) and many other reasons. Whilst we can’t prevent stress from happening, we can both learn to manage to lower our response to stressful events along with dispersing the cortisol from the body through exercise, sleep, mindfulness, social connection, laughter and music. All of these are beneficial to the whole person on a number of levels, however, also assist in reducing the level of cortisol and increase wellbeing.
Exercise has been shown to reduce stress and improve sleep, whilst mindfulness is a wonderful tool which reduces stress and cortisol in a number of ways – learning to recognise what is happening to you and your body and also regulating the body’s response. Healthy social connections are important as they can also counteract cortisol. Laughter supresses cortisol with endorphins, so make sure you have some fun and frivolity in your life. If friends are unavailable, put on a comedy or some music to lift your mood.
Self-care and nurturing your body through good nutrition, hydration and the above care plan can limit the impact of stress.
Should you wish to learn more about reducing your response to stress and lowering stress levels of cortisol, please reach out to a health professional. Your body and mind will thank you.
PS: I have included the photo as our Alpacas have had a stressful time of late – both with the arrival of our pup Apollo and then being shorn this week!