Wednesday, February 18, 2009

So Long Stress! How You Can Conquer Cortisol

You know you lead a busy lifestyle, but sometimes stress just sneaks up on you and you don't know what to do about it. Why do we even get stressed in the first place? Blame our ancestors.

Stress hormones such as adrenaline and Cortisol are produced by the adrenal glands whenever we feel as though we are in some sort of danger. You may have heard of the "fight or flight" response, which means that your body experiences a rapid (acute) release of these stress hormones in order for you to garner all of your strength and avoid a crisis situation. You almost become super-human for that time and can do things you would not normally be able to do. Historically, this response was meant to protect early humans from being eaten by lions or bears, but, um...I don't see any lions or bears around. And I don't feel super-human when I'm stressed, just frazzled, hungry and tired! When we talk about "stress" today, we really mean chronic stress.

The stress response isn't meant to be chronic, or constant, such as what we are experiencing nowadays. Our bodies don't know the difference between a lion and rush-hour traffic jams, and thus we are constantly overworking our HPA axes and stress responses, leading to potentially disastrous effects. Chronically high levels of stress hormones can send your blood pressure skyrocketing, leading to heart disease. It can also cause sleep problems, a depressed immune response and weight gain.

Well, now that we've cleared the air - here are some tips for how you can quell the unhealthy effects of chronic stress:

- give meditation a try
- listen to your favourite tunes
- get some more sleep or take naps
- drink black tea
- have a really good laugh
- grab a massage
- and lastly, chew some gum!

Can you say Om?


Anonymous said...

The breathing part of meditation really helps me. Sometimes just inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly is all I need. Other times, I need a little bit more... Thanks for the reminder that its ok to be stressed - we just have to learn how to control it.