Cortisol and Stress
We’ve all heard about stress and how it can negatively affect health, and life in general. But where does it come from? The usual answers will stem from work, to home, to play, and everything in between. Not to mention all those little things we don’t even consciously recognize. But let’s not talk about that. You know where the stress is, activity-wise, but do you know where it comes from in your body?
The body is energized by hormones. There are many different kinds, but we want to focus on one very important hormone for this topic in the hopes that it will help us understand how to respond to stress better. That hormone is called Cortisol.
Perhaps you’ve heard of it, or know a thing or two about it, but never thought about it too much. It is true that the study of hormones can become quite confusing, which is why we are going to focus on just this one.
Cortisol is often called the stress hormone. When the body undergoes stress, cortisol is released as a response to survival. Stress tells the body that it is in some sort of danger, and cortisol jumps into action to respond to that danger, whatever it may be. This is a good thing - for survival – not every day life.
When we put our bodies under stress, cortisol puts the body into survival mode. This naturally causes the body to hold on to fat in order to maintain energy. The more stress induced on the body, be it work related or survival related, the more fat is stored for the sake of making it out alive.
However, if we never let our bodies rest from the stress, we find ourselves in a constant state of fat storage that only gets worse as the body assumes it is dying and holds on to everything it can.
It’s no surprise that stress is unhealthy, but many aren’t aware of exactly why. While there are many other reasons stress can cause dysfunction physically, mentally, socially, etc., this is one simple concept to “store” in the back of your mind.
Eliminate the stress and you drop the cortisol back to a normal level. This doesn’t happen overnight, as cortisol takes time to realign to a new normal state. Which means you have to create new habits! Habits of relaxation, calm responses to those inevitable stressors, quality sleep, quality food (junk food places stress on the hormonal system) and a healthy social life. All of these factors play into a more stress-free environment, which translates directly to an optimal hormonal system.
Recognize the stressors in your life, and address them appropriately. Slow down. Take a breath. A deep one. Create some habits of relaxation.