Have you ever found yourself incredibly irritable when you’re ultra-stressed?
Everyone around you is asking stupid questions (contrary to popular belief, there ARE stupid questions), no one seems to know how to do their jobs properly, and your partner should KNOW what’s wrong without you having to say something, right?
The problem isn’t that you’re stressed – it’s just that everyone else doesn’t know how to function properly right?
I’ve been caught in that trap before. For whatever reason I’ve had a horrible day, and I’m finding hundreds of reasons to blame everyone else for my crappy mood.
The same thing tends to happen with our hormones. They get out of whack, they make us crazy, and then we spend days or even weeks cursing them (to get a refresher on what hormones are, check out my last post).
The thing is though, our hormones are just trying to do their thing in this crazy world. They don’t necessarily want us to yell at the coffee maker when it makes us 3.75 cups of coffee instead of 4. They aren’t intentionally making us cry when a Pampers commercial comes on. And the fact that we ate 3 donuts plus 4 tablespoons of peanut butter doesn’t make them happy.
More often than not, when our hormones are out of whack it’s not them – it’s US. This is especially the case with cortisol.
Cortisol actually has a purpose it serves in our bodies beyond giving us insomnia and making us gain weight.
When all is fine and dandy in our bodies it regulates the level of sugars in our blood, keeps our metabolism going at a rate that’s suitable for our current activity levels,handles anti-inflammatory responses, and activates our central nervous system in times of need, like when we need to run away from scary men in a dark alley.
The level of cortisol making its way through our bodies varies throughout the day, but in a perfect world the levels tend to rise in response to stress, and fall back to normal levels once we’ve calmed down.
But that’s the problem. We live in a world where stress is almost valued. We pride ourselves on how busy we are. We’re addicted to keeping mile-long to-do lists and stressing about how we just don’t have enough hours in the day.
So our cortisol levels rarely fall back to the normal levels. They stay elevated, which leads to weight gain (particularly in the belly), high blood pressure, sleep disorders, decreased immune functions, and every bodybuilder’s worst nightmare – CATABOLISM, the breakdown of muscle tissue.
But don’t worry, friends. There are a few simple things you can do to keep your cortisol levels in check. Try to incorporate one of these tactics into your daily routine for a couple of weeks. Once that becomes habit, incorporate another. Continue doing this until you’ve got a trusty toolbox of stress management techniques.
Your body (and the people around you) will thank you 🙂
- Breathe deeply from your belly. We tend to take short and shallow breaths from our lungs. Time to get that belly in on the fun! As you inhale, let your belly expand and fill with air. As you exhale, let everything return back to normal. Begin each day by practicing 5 deep belly breaths. Then, the next time you feel like screaming, crying, or breaking something, just breathe instead.
- Smile! Or even better – laugh! Studies have shown that even faking laughter can boost those feel-good hormones. You’ll probably feel so silly pretending to laugh a real chuckle will come out anyway 😉
- Get your Om on. Meditation can have a profoundly calming effect on our stress levels.Struggle to get out of your head? Don’t worry, me too. Thankfully there are tons of free guided meditations you can find online! Get some of Deepak Chopra’s here.
- Play with an animal! Petting and playing with animals triggers a release of endorphins. So if you’ve got a dog, cat, or even hamster at home, show them some love to reduce those stress levels! If you don’t have a dog, head to the dog park! While looking for children to play with at a playground might be frowned upon, you can totally be dog-less at a dog park without getting the cops called.
- Do something nice for someone else. It could be as simple as saying hello to a stranger, buying a coffee for the person behind you Starbucks, or offering to help a co-worker with one of their projects. Volunteering or raising funds for a charity that’s close to your heart are also totally acceptable options 🙂
Remember that these are cortisol-specific actions! In my last post I touched on how you can keep your hormones in check in general, so all of those will apply to cortisol as well!
I hope you’re finding this information helpful! If you are, I’d love for you to share this post along with the others from this series. I know SO many women who deal with hormonal issues, and stress is something that affects men & women alike. The better-equipped we are to deal with these problems on our own, the happier this planet will be 🙂
How do you manage your stress levels? Do you find yourself having to take the reactive-calming approach, or do you practice stress-management techniques each day to prevent breakdowns?