If you were to evaluate your life and how you’re living would you say you’re stressed or serene?
Stress does not discriminate and comes in all shapes and sizes:
- Family life
- Lack of time
- Body image
How you handle these ever-changing forms of stress has a direct effect on your health.
In the 1920s psychologist Walter Cannon was the first to study the lasting effects of stress on the body and brain. He coined the terms fight or flight response and homeostasis, both of which relate to our body’s urge to survive threats.
Your autonomic nervous system is highly efficient at controlling our survival reactions, unless we’re under chronic levels of stress.
When we are on constant high alert, we suffer from:
- Inability to heal
- Inability to grow intellectually
- Our ability to feel love for others diminishes
- Our creative abilities decline
- Our ability to contribute effectively to the world around us declines
- Our stress response elevates
The end result is Sympathetic Survival Syndrome (SSS) and the implications of SSS are detrimental to our bodies and brains.
But what exactly is Sympathetic Survival Syndrome?
The most powerful hormone in the human body is cortisol. Cortisol’s job is to ensure the body survives by turning on the sympathetic nervous system—enter, fight or flight mode.
Cortisol can override the signals of any other hormone in the body. When we’re chronically stressed, cortisol levels become excessive and SSS develops. Side-effects of SSS are:
- Heart disease
- Alcohol abuse
- Drug use
- Adrenal exhaustion
The human brain is 70% fat and uses the body’s fat reserves for energy. Cortisol stops the brain’s ability to use those excess fat stores, making it necessary for the brain to use its own fat stores. When this process becomes chronic, the size of the brain begins to decrease and risk for cognitive decline, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, increases.
Our Top 10 Tips for Going from Stressed to Serene(and reducing those cortisol levels for good)
- Sleep. We’ve discussed sleep in a few of our previous blogs. Quality sleep is great for a healthy body and mind. Not only does it allow your body rest, but it gives the brain time to detox and get ready for the day to come. For more on how sleep detoxes the brain click HERE.
- Get Active. Exercise can decrease cortisol and releases stress from the body by producing endorphins which make you feel good. For more information on the best exercises to do to reduce stress click HERE
- Be Aware. Pay attention to what you’re thinking about. Focusing on stressful thoughts or events will increase your cortisol levels. One study found that writing about stressful events increased cortisol levels compared to study participants that wrote about positive life experiences. Becoming aware of your thoughts and how they are affecting your stress levels is important to good health.
- Practice relaxation. Practicing relaxation exercises has been proven to reduce cortisol levels. Even something as simple as deep breathing is a great way to reduce cortisol and stress. Yoga, mindfulness, massage, and grounding are all great ways to practice relaxation. For more tips on relaxation click HERE
- Have fun. If you’re happy you are not producing excess cortisol. Focusing on the positives, having fun with friends, participating in activities that you enjoy, and laughing are great for boosting “feel good” hormones like endorphins and naturally reduce stress.
- Get a pet. Many people find pets are more comforting than a trusted friend when we’re feeling upset or stressed. Interacting with an animal can reduce blood pressure, which reduces stress and cortisol levels. It also boosts serotonin and dopamine levels, which promote feelings of calm and peace. For more information on how pets help reduce stress visit helpguide.org HERE.
- BrainTap. One of the most effective ways to reduce cortisol and promote relaxation is to take a quick 20-minute brain break with BrainTap. With BrainTap you’ll have improved sleep, more focus and clarity and increased energy—all great cortisol reducers.
- Get Personal. Having successful interpersonal relationships help reduce stress levels. One study found that children who have warm and healthy family relationships produced less cortisol as found in hair follicles compared with children who came from homes with high levels of conflict. Having loving support and warm friendships are some of the best ways to stay stress-free and get the support you need when stressful events occur.
- Watch Your Diet. Believe it or not certain foods can lead to higher cortisol levels and increased stress responses. High sugar diets have been shown to lead to higher levels of chronic stress and obesity. Foods like dark chocolate, fruit, green or black tea, yogurt, and sauerkraut are great promoters of healthy cortisol levels.
- Stay Hydrated. Drinking water has many health benefits, but did you know it can also reduce stress? Drinking at least 8 cups of water a day will help keep you stress-free and feel energized!
We can’t avoid stress, but taking a few simple, easy to manage steps to reduce how stress affects our lives and health will benefit us for years to come.