One thing that we know is that stress can have negative effects on our life. It’s just the way it is. We know that the more stressed you are, the higher your cortisol levels will be. Cortisol is the hormone released by the adrenal glands which sit on top of the kidneys. Cortisol is a good thing when you need it in times of emergency, but chronic elevations of cortisol can be detrimental to your health by disrupting many functions of the body. There are two very common disruptions that we see all the time. The first is that it raises your insulin levels, which causes you to crave sugar and gain weight. The second is that it impairs the conversion of the inactive thyroid hormone T4 into the active form of T3. T3 controls your basic metabolic rate. This is what they call hypothyroid, which causes your metabolism to be low. This further contributes to weight gain and fatigue.
So what do we do about this? In addition to knowing that stress has a negative impact on our health, we also know that we can never completely rid ourselves of it. People get stressed, it’s just a part of life. The thing we can control about stress is our response to it and the story we tell ourselves about it. There are a number of healthy ways to respond to stressful situations. Exercise is a great way to respond to stress. Eating healthy is another. We combat stress with lifestyle actions that we can control and we know that are good for us.
Many people have tendencies to overeat when stressed, some tend to miss meals. Neither one is a good thing. But if we decide to focus on taking care of ourselves during the stressful times that will inevitably come and go, then we take stress out of the driver’s seat. And we have to do this even when we don’t feel like it. That is why understanding the effects higher cortisol levels has on our health is important. As the old saying goes, knowledge is power! It gives you the extra conviction you need to do the things that are sometimes difficult. So don’t focus on doing things that aren’t stressful, understand what stress is and what it does so that you can respond to it in a healthy way.
Do you know what your cortisol levels are? The best way to check this is by doing a four point cortisol curve salivary test. This is where you collect saliva at four different times of the day to see at each time where your cortisol levels are. You want higher cortisol levels in the morning and lower cortisol levels at night. Do we need to even mention how important sleep is?