The real reason for feeling stressful is a hormone called ‘cortisol’, the stress hormone. This hormone is secreted by the adrenal glands along with other hormones including epinephrine, norepinephrine, progesterone, aldosterone, estrogen and testosterone. During stressful situations, the hypothalamus of the brain signals the pituitary gland to order the adrenal glands to secrete cortisol. Enough cortisol levels stop the communication between hypothalamus and pituitary and cortisol levels recede.
Due to constant stressors, the fight or flight response is not easily turned off, due to which the body functions are affected. Constant stress affects digestion causing gut problems, increases insulin release. Hormones are internally connected and an imbalance of one affects the other causing a cycle of disruption. Many health complains arise due to such hormonal imbalance.
Cortisol is important to the body for fatty acid metabolism, amino acid conversion and helps fight allergies and inflammation. It is responsible for waking us up in the morning and helps us stay calm and focussed. The problem is its levels. Many of us have far too much of it in the body and for a very long time. Some of us just cannot seem turn it off, resulting into chronic stress. This imbalance of cortisol is the culprit.
This imbalance causes headaches, anxiety, can lead to weight gain, irregular menstruation, gut health problems, sleeplessness, low energy and other problems. Modern day stressors like processed foods, less sleep, unhealthy relationships, emotional stress and a polluted environment are now triggering higher levels of cortisol in the blood.
While to effects of stress are very detrimental, the ways to combat stress are fairly doable:
Get enough sleep
Sleep well daily. Go to bed at the same time each day, an early bedtime is widely recommended for maintaining a healthy metabolism. Maintaining a regular bedtime helps reduce the cortisol, upon which melatonin – the sleep hormone is released for a relaxed sleep.
Have a proper diet
A balanced diet composed of nutrient rich foods like fruits, veggies, fiber, good protein and healthy fats support your body to a great extent. Having probiotics contributes to a good gut health. A balanced diet increases your ability to combat with stressors.
Mindfulness with meditation
Meditation is a great way proven to reduce stress. It slows down random thoughts, relaxes your mind and in turn your body to a more aware and mindful approach, reducing stress.
Yoga for stress reduction
Yoga is helps to put your hormones in order, bringing back the very essential balance. Along with the strengthening the muscles and increasing flexibility, it is a great way to reduce stress.
Self-care, a must
Taking the time to unwind and rejuvenate yourself can do wonders. It does not have to be a high-end spa, it can be as simple as a mindful warm bath and some music or reading your favourite book. Anything that makes you more grounded, peaceful and happy. Taking the time to do it is important.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on February 21, 2018, Other