I think we can all agree that stress is public enemy number one. And no matter how many journal entries we write, cold splashes we dive into, or meditations we log, that all-too-familiar “flight or fight” mode inevitably kicks in, thanks to trying to balance everything: deadlines, relationships. , family obligations, life in general – you know the story.
Our bodies need the stress hormone cortisol to survive, and a certain amount is necessary and healthy: Cortisol levels naturally rise when you wake up or when you exercise, for example. Chronic cortisol – also referred to as elevated levels of cortisol over an extended period of time – can keep our bodies in a constant state of stress and wreak havoc on both our mental and physical health, leading to increased health risks such as depression and anxiety, immune system. , and illness.
But here’s the good news: When we keep our cortisol levels under control (read: getting good quality sleep, eating right, exercising but not exercising too much, and having a stress-relieving ritual like meditation), we can reap a host of health benefits. experienced for our body will thank us for it. I enlisted experts to walk us through the telltale signs you have chronically elevated cortisol and the benefits you can expect from relaxing TF. Read on for what they had to say.
Signs you have high cortisol levels
There is no denying that our body sends us signals when we are hungry, tired and stressed. And as much as stress gets a bad rap, it can send us red flags to pay attention. These are the common symptoms that your body is producing too much cortisol:
- weight gain, usually around the abdomen and upper back
- weight gain and roundness of the face
- thinning skin
- easy bruising
- red face
- delayed healing
- muscle weakness
- severe fatigue
- difficulty concentrating
- high bloodpressure
Benefits of lowering cortisol levels
1. Reduced inflammation
If you have consistently high levels of cortisol, your body can get used to having too much cortisol, which can lead to inflammation and a weakened immune system. “Cortisol can raise blood pressure and cholesterol levels while also affecting insulin sensitivity, so lower cortisol levels can help reduce inflammation in the body, leading to fewer aches and pains,” explains Becca Smith, a licensed professional consultant and chief clinical officer. at BasePoint. Academy. No pain, all gain, am I right?
2. Lower blood pressure
During times of high stress, your heart rate and blood pressure increase, so it should come as no surprise that when you lower your stress, your blood pressure does the same. “Robust evidence shows that sustained cortisol rest causes your muscles to relax, which lowers your heart and breathing rate, normalizes blood oxygenation, lowers blood pressure, and lowers blood sugar and fat release and deposition,” says Jessica Houston, MEd, MSPH, founder and CEO of Vitamin & Me.
3. Better skin
It’s no secret that stress can lead to nasty breakouts — none of us are immune to waking up with an untimely breakout trying to meet a work deadline or after a fight with your SO. But when you’re zen out, your skin is one of the first to reap the benefits. The result? A big glow. “Because cortisol stimulates oil production (which can lead to acne and other skin problems), reducing cortisol can help improve the health of your skin,” Smith confirmed. “Low cortisol results in clearer skin, brighter eyes, shinier hair, and a more visible blush on the cheeks,” repeated Lauren Cook-McKay, a licensed therapist. “This is because stress no longer impairs internal bodily processes, allowing internal organs to function more efficiently.”
4. Improved Digestion and Metabolism
If you’re anything like me, the digestive drama isn’t far behind when stress kicks in. The reason? Stress can cause a decrease in blood flow and oxygen to the stomach and slow down digestion to have more energy to fight or flight (referred to as your body’s primary stress response). These changes can lead to cramping, inflammation, or an imbalance of gut bacteria. The silver lining? “When we lower cortisol to take better care of ourselves through incremental positive health behaviors (i.e., stress management, sleep, food choice, exercise), our blood sugars stabilize and less excess glucose circulates through the body with nowhere to go, improving digestion and metabolism described Sarah-Nicole Bostan, clinical health psychologist and director of Behavioral Change Strategy at Signos What’s more, “Appropriate cortisol levels modulate the inflammatory response and regulate metabolism, leading to improved gut and immune health,” explains Houston.
5. Boost the mood
There are the aforementioned physical health benefits of keeping your cortisol levels at bay, and then there are the mental health benefits. “Neurochemical changes in the brain resulting from lowering cortisol not only improve hormone levels involved in the stress pathway, but they also stimulate the production of mood-boosting endorphins,” Houston explained. And we can do our part by turning those endorphins up by exercising, eating foods we like, and having sex.
Chronic cortisol also affects symptoms of anxiety and depression. “Lowering chronic cortisol may help reduce anxiety and depression symptoms by increasing serotonin production in the brain,” Smith said. “It helps you respond better to stress in the future by giving your body more tools to handle stressful situations without resorting to unhealthy coping mechanisms.” Don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor or therapist if you suffer from anxiety or depression.
6. Improved focus and energy
“Chronic stress and high cortisol levels can lead to a decrease in serotonin, interfering with the normal functioning of the brain,” Smith said. “This, in turn, can lead to poor concentration, low energy levels and loss of interest in activities. [Lowering chronic cortisol] helps restore the balance of your body’s hormone levels, resulting in improved concentration and focus on tasks, as well as increased energy levels. Bottom line: Keeping your cortisol levels in check translates into bringing you A-game (hello, productivity).
Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider if you have any questions about a medical or mental health condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay your search because of something you have read in this article.