The How-Well-You-Manage-Stress Hormone
That’s the hormone I’m talking about.
I’ve always heard it referred to as the “stress hormone”, but when you think about it, it’s really the anti-stress hormone. It’s the how-well-you-manage-stress hormone! Our brain assesses the challenge we are currently facing and, if it deems the situation “stressful”, cortisol is released.
This makes me think of high school science class where we learned about the fight or flight response. Cortisol is a big part of that response. If our life or safety is immediately threatened, cortisol is secreted as part of a cascade of hormonal changes made in an effort to handle the threat.
As cortisol is released, other hormones and bodily functions are down-regulated in response. Things like healing and repair, digestion, some cognitive function, and other functions that don’t necessarily serve immediate life-saving purposes. The focus shifts – all hands are on deck to help you survive the threat.
This is all good… when there IS a life-threatening issue or immediate danger.
Sadly, our stress isn’t usually the immediate life or death kind. It doesn’t tend to go away after a few seconds, minutes, or hours. It’s the long, drawn-out, day in and day out stress that wears us down… AND creates an overflow of cortisol day in and day out in the process.
These chronically high levels of cortisol play a role in the serious, chronic degenerative diseases we see everywhere now (cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, metabolic syndrome, etc.), as well as anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, memory issues, lack of mental clarity & focus, insomnia, sleep deprivation, low libido… it basically just interferes with our overall quality of life.
So, maybe you’re not feeling the immediate threat of a saber tooth tiger at your watering hole. Maybe your stressors look more like these:
- Always in a hurry
- excess screen time
- constant notifications on your phone… or watch!
- poor sleep, sleep deprivation
- refined grains, insulin-producing foods
- artificial sweeteners, flavors, colors
- eating too often
- financial stress
- relationship stress
- not loving your job
- not having a job
- mild dehydration
- environmental toxins
- exposure to microwave ovens
- spending a lot of time close to a cell tower
- overly strenuous activity
- chronic pain
I could go on… and on.
Sure, stress is “normal”. It’s part of life, right?
Not the way WE do stress! We now have what’s known as “Super Stress”. We have the ability to be constantly aware of a gazillion bad/stressful things happening across the entire world with just the glance at a screen. Stress is coming at us from more directions than ever.
Our modern stress is something WE’VE created. It’s not a wild beast chasing us, nor do we need to hunt it down to provide nourishment for our families. The nature of our stress has changed drastically. We are the ones choosing to stay on the hamster wheel and feel the stress we feel. We are the ones that have created the social dynamic we feel we have to keep up with. We’re drowning in cortisol.
All right, all right. Enough of the bad news!
Thankfully, there are countless well-proven strategies for breaking the stress response, turning things around, and creating a healthier response to our overly stimulating world.
Here’s a short list:
- Take your sleep seriously. Make sure you do everything within your power to get enough sleep, and enough quality sleep.
- Do some form of breath work. (google it) It’s incredibly beneficial.
- Move your body! Exercise. Get into better shape. It all helps.
- Prayer, meditation, quiet time.
- Have an Attitude of Gratitude. It’s difficult to remain horribly stressed when you’re overcome with gratitude!
- Mental conditioning – spend some time “training” yourself to think healthier thoughts and to say empowering things to/about yourself.
- Get regular Chiropractic adjustments for the NEUROLOGICAL benefits.
- Reduce your intake of Tasty Toxins – food, beverages, condiments, spices… etc. Eat real food, healthy fats, and eat less often.
- Practice some different types of fasting as part of your healthy lifestyle.
- Schedule your priorities… not prioritize your schedule.
- Avoid exposure to toxins & chemicals as much as possible.
- Balance – “me” time, family time, along with healthy social relationships and activities.
- Get outside… preferably bare foot.
- Get your face outta’ that screen!!! (after you finish reading this, that is!)
While cortisol isn’t inherently bad, and it IS definitely beneficial in the right circumstances, we’re not wired to deal with chronic, constant stressors and resulting (seemingly) steady drip of cortisol.
A few peaks here and there … no big deal. We can overcome with the best of them.
But, the continuous secretion or cortisol, in response to the crazy environment we’ve created, combined with the natural dissipation from our system as we age, sets us up for one very vicious cycle of imbalance!
Get clear on what’s most important in your life… get rid of what’s not. Add GOOD things that will build your spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical health. Take care of yourself. Love your people. Do good things.
The answer to the overwhelm and hormonal dysfunction is NOT more drugs.
Create more healthy function… across the board.
Dr. Colleen Trombley-VanHoogstraat (“Dr Mom Online”) is a popular personality in Natural Health & Wellness and is in her 24th year of active practice in Michigan, along with her husband Dr. Marc VanHoogstraat. She’s also the proud mom of two rather fabulous kiddos that she currently home schools. Her unique perspective of the science of Wellness provides predictable solutions and transformational results for those struggling with chronic health issues, as well as those seeking lifelong health. To discover her simple strategies for creating better health through nutrition, movement, mindset, cellular detoxification, and metabolic re-setting, jump on board as a regular reader of Dr Mom Online when you plug in your name and email address.
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