When put under high-stress situations, our body’s flight or fight response is activated. In these moments of stress, fear, or excitement, the hormones within our body begin to act erratically, causing the unique responses we experience. Whether we fight in moments of stress, or whether we flee, is largely determined by our body’s levels of cortisol.
Cortisol is a tricky hormone that plays a huge role in various functions throughout the body. If you’re familiar with anything about cortisol, then you probably know about its relationship with stress. If you are unfamiliar with it , don’t worry, we’re here to make it clear.
Cortisol and Stress
Most generally, cortisol is your body’s main stress hormone. As I said, this specific hormone is very closely related to your body’s fight or flight response. People also consider it to be your “alarm” hormone, as it essentially “goes off” when you undergo stressful or intense situations. By working directly with parts of the brain like the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, cortisol has a direct influence over your moods, fears, triggers and motivations.
Sometimes your body produces more cortisol than it needs or holds off when it needs to produce more. Your cortisol levels can be thrown out of whack a bit at times. Almost always, this is a direct result of stress. But, your cortisol levels can be easily regulated.
When put in stressful situations, your body reacts in funny ways. These are all its ways of protecting itself until danger has passed and it feels safe again. When this happens, your heart rate slows back down, your potential tremors or shakes have subsided, and your blood pressure lowers from the adrenaline produced. So, what happens when you’re always stressed out?
The more stressed we are, the higher our body’s cortisol levels will be. The longer, more consistently we are stressed out, the more difficult it will become for those levels to lower and return back to normal. This overproduction of cortisol and constantly-sounding alarm can cause headaches, worsened anxiety, depression, problems with sleep, weight gain, and more. Overall, too much of this hormone will have us feeling a lot more than just stressed.
This is why learning how to find healthy ways to manage stress is crucial. Otherwise, we’re never able to fully turn off that alarm.
Lowering Your Cortisol Levels
Luckily for us, there is a myriad of ways we can learn to lower our cortisol levels naturally. Although prioritizing healthy amounts of sleep, getting proper exercise, and eating right are all no-brainers in helping us feel better, these specific practices have all been proven to lower our stress (and cortisol) levels.
We can simultaneously enjoy ourselves while lowering our cortisol levels too. Activities like drawing and gardening have shown to help regulate the production of this hormone. Laughing is one of the easiest ways to reduce it almost immediately. Even just spending a little bit of time enjoying the company of your furry friend can help you achieve the relaxation your body needs to feel just a little bit better.
Do your best to make an effort to pay attention to the amount of stress you’re putting on your body, and how it’s affecting you. When we do this, we can take the steps necessary to control this hormone's production, refocus and maintain regular cortisol levels.