Are you chronically stressed? Do you even know if you’re chronically stressed?
Sit in a chair, back straight, feet planted on the ground. Inhale deeply through your nose, and exhale slowly through your nose. Remain still. Did you feel a slight shift in your perception? Did your shoulders relax ever so slightly? Slowly look around? Do your surroundings seem more “real,” more vibrant?
Do you get a second wind, late at night when you should be winding down? Do you stay up to late and wake up tired? Do you feel tired and wired throughout the day?
If you answered yes to any of the above, you most likely ARE chronically stressed. As a result, your cortisol levels are chronically elevated.
What IS cortisol? It’s a hormone that surges through us when we're stressed out. We need this surge in times of emergency. Its role is beneficial, protective but ideally infrequent. For many of us, this cortisol surge never turns off! So our hunger cravings, digestion and initial ability to cope with stress are ALL hindered. In addition, but not limited to, we may experience adrenal fatigue (adrenals help to regulate hormones) high blood pressure, high blood sugar, weakened immune system and advanced aging.
Of course stress is everywhere. Just reading this may be stressful for some. Everything, ranging from losing a job or the death of a loved one, to what to wear, and what to pack the kids for lunch; ALL of it is stress. If it’s not kept in check, even the most simple, mundane routines become stressful.
Check out some of the ways of how chronic stress (elevated cortisol) specifically affects your weight:
So how DO you lower cortisol levels?
Trying to find time to actually do commonly known stress relieving activities (i.e. yoga class, exercising, long walks) in itself is stressful for a lot of people! The good news is that all it takes is a little awareness, slight discipline, and a few minutes every day.
1. Deep breathing:
While ideally it would be nice to be able to meditate for 20 minutes a day, for many it’s not realistic and also lack the discipline to do so. We just don’t have an extra 20 minutes a day. Thankfully, all you need is just 1 minute, every hour. Spend 1 minute inhaling and exhaling deeply through you nose. This will allow your cortisol levels to drop. Practice this while you’re waiting for a glass of water to fill at the fridge, pumping gas, at a red light or waiting in line. Hormones are constantly fluctuating, so while a minute might not seem like a lot, it is.
According to Sarah Gottfried, MD, The Hormone Cure, you can reduce your cortisol levels by simply chanting. Worried what others might think while yourdoing this? Doesn’t matter, because your momentarily stress free self won’t care what others think! Try chanting OM, pronounced ah-ohhh-ummm. Start with a deep inhalation, and chant on the exhale. Repeat slowly, synched with your breath.
3. Pay attention to the little miracles:
Practicing gratitude throughout the day is a great way to manage stress. Consciously letting go of the thoughts of what you don’t have or what is not, and instead switching them to what you DO have is an excellent way to manage stress. Keep this practice in the fore front of your mind by paying attention to ALL the little miracles around you. When we think of miracles we tend to think of them as a huge event, when in fact it's the little miracles that happen every day that matter.
Photo credit Google Images
4. Love yourself:
Make a conscious effort to visualize "hugging" yourself through the day, regardless of how you’re feeling! Loving yourself is one of the best ways to immediately relieve stress. Not only are you more likely to do all of the above if you’re actively “loving yourself” but you will also immediately lower cortisol.
Photo credit Google Images
Inevitably we will find ourselves in stressful situations. However, the above listed, are just a few small steps that if implemented throughout your day, on a daily basis, will make room for big changes. These changes will allow you to be the healthiest and happiest that you can be, in turn allowing you to achieve your weight loss goals.
The Hormone Cure: Sara Gottfried, MD.