Everywhere you go, everyone’s talking about it and there’s no escaping from it. Truth be told, the pace of our lives and being constantly ‘online’ on social media have exacerbated this situation. Stress is more than just a buzzword, or a complaint but an epidemic that is sweeping the world over by storm. No one is immune to it and while there is a lot of literature available on how one must deal with stress, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
Let’s be honest, while a little bit of stress can actually be healthy and tolerable, chronic stress is where the trouble lies. This kind of sneaky stress builds up over months and years, can impact your inflammation levels, hormones, mood, sleep and predispose you to a plethora of not so pleasant conditions.
If you have been to a doctor in recent times and had your blood work done, chances are, he would have spoken to you about your cortisol levels.
What is Cortisol? Simply put, cortisol is a glucocorticoid hormone that is essential for the body. However, in periods of chronic stress (both physical and mental) our cortisol levels can get triggered and reach unhealthy levels. Your cortisol level is usually the highest first thing in the morning and tapers during the evening to prime you for bedtime. For people with cortisol imbalances, the test will show that the body isn’t able to produce enough hormone in the day which explains why you are tired in the morning and wired at night.
Contrary to popular belief, cortisol affects many systems in our body. It is a hormone that can regulate blood sugar, inflammation levels, blood pressure, glycemic response and lastly how our body flushes out water.
In other words, when your body is experiencing chronic stress and fatigue, chances are your cortisol levels are off kilter and they are affecting several important bodily functions. Check in with your physician and he will probably order your blood work which will also measure cortisol levels in the morning (upon waking) and in the evening for assessment.
At Ojas Way, we believe very strongly in the merits of doing little things, consistently, with mindfulness. We believe that Self Care is how we take our power back into our own hands. Here are some of our recommendations could potentially help lower your cortisol levels:
- Get moving
They say “movement is medicine” and we couldn’t agree more. Although, more isn’t necessarily better here. The trick is to find an activity that you enjoy either by yourself or with your friends or in a class and do it consistently. The workout will keep boredom at bay and release feel-good endorphins that will boost your mood and improve hormone health. Some of you might prefer a yoga practice indoors while others might prefer footy with the boys over the weekend- whatever it is, just make sure you become regular with it.
We don’t talk about this nearly enough but there are several merits to acupuncture when it comes to calming the mind. In fact, physicians all over the world have started to recommend this modality as a complementary approach to stress-related issues. A growing body of research suggests that acupuncture can be particularly effective in relaxing the nerves and regulating the hormones. Again the trick here is to find a practitioner you trust and to become diligent about your appointments.
- Spending time in the outdoors
Immersing yourself in nature without gadgets and the dreariness of busy city life can be the perfect antidote for stress. Whether you would like to go camping, white water rafting, head for hikes or yoga, surround yourself in the lap of nature and allow it to slow you down. Research suggests that forest bathing or spending time in nature can do what modern medicine can not- it can lower stress levels, enhance immunity and halt inflammation in its tracks.
- Prioritize your zzzz’s
We all know that chronic sleep deprivation can raise our cortisol levels which go onto to then raise our inflammation levels in the body. Most of us believe that we can catch up on our sleep debt on holidays and weekends but unfortunately, this is not the case. The good news is that regular naps are known to enhance mental clarity, boost productivity and improve immune response. Also, it might be worth your while to maintain sleep hygiene before going to bed so as to allow for a restful and full nights sleep. Yes, this starts with doing away with your phone and gadgets a few hours before bedtime to prime your body for rest and relaxation.
No one is immune to anxiety and ALL of us at some point in our lives have really bad days when nothing seems to be going right. If you have been suffering from moments of overwhelm and you feel like you are unable to sleep or be productive at work, we suggest you dial your routine down by a few notches. Whether you have been dealing with a relationship issue or a potential stressor at work or whether you are worried about your finances, you have to know that you are not alone. The first step to feeling better and feeling less overwhelmed is to identify the problem and ask for help. This help could be in the form of a therapist, a counsellor at work or another mental health professional. Remember, there is absolutely no shame in speaking to someone and there are plenty of mental health resources so you can find someone that works for you. There’s absolutely no need to suffer in silence and it is perfectly #okaytonotbeokay.
We hope you will share this article with someone who might need it today and we will continue to expand upon this and share other things that can help you lower cortisol levels.
Disclaimer: Ojas Way does not in any way aim to diagnose or treat any medical conditions. We strongly recommend that you check in with your general physician if you are experiencing chronic stress and anxiety. This advice is not in any way a substitute for medical advice from your health practitioner.