Cortisol is a stress hormone that has been linked to increases in weight gain, and can eat away at your muscle tissue. This is not just physical stress on the body, but also actual stress from other areas of your life such as work, family, relationships and money. All of these factors increase cortisol levels and this can prohibit weight loss. Research has just shown that high cortisol levels not only make it difficult for us to lose weight, but can also weaken your immune system and contribute towards hypertension, diabetes, depression and osteoporosis.
So, what is the relationship between stress and the hormone cortisol?
Stress arises when we find ourselves in a position we can’t cope with. The body interprets the situation as being dangerous and responds by releasing a number of hormones preparing us to ‘fight or flight’ – to fight the danger or run away from it. Our heart rate increases, blood pressure rises and the mind becomes focused on the ‘danger’ to hand. These mechanisms were designed to help our ancestors battle mammoths and other man-eating beasts – not to activate on the worry of whether we’ve completed everything on our to-do lists. THIS FIGHT OR FLIGHT RESPONCE IS NORMAL AND NECESARY IN OUR EVERYDAY LIFE FOR SURVIVAL!!!!
Although the body’s basic mechanism of responding to stress remains the same, modern-day stress is less sudden (acute) than facing mammoths but much more prolonged (chronic). When we remain in this prolonged fight or flight state our body releases a hormone called Cortisol. Cortisol can cause irritability, headaches, increased or decreased appetite and skin problems – this means stress is starting to affect your immune system and your health.
So what are the Facts about Stress?
- Figures show that stress affects one in five of the working population in the UK – from the newest recruit in the post room to the board of directors.
- Over 105 million days are lost to stress (and stress related illness) each year – costing UK employers £1.24 billion.
- Stress is now the single biggest cause of sickness in the UK.
So what are the Symptoms of Stress? Physical and emotional….
Stress occurs when the amount of pressure a person is under exceeds their ability to cope. Stress can affect people differently and they may be either emotionally or physically affected.
Headaches/Muscle aches and Pains – physical symptom
Anxiety/Irritability/Panic Attacks -emotional symptom
Facial and Body Skin Conditions -physical symptom
Lack of Energy/Depression- physical and emotional symptom
Sleep Problems – emotional leading to physical symptoms
Low Immune System/Coughs and Colds – physical symptom
However, we all do need a certain amount of Stress in our lives – it’s what drives us to achieve, get’s us up in the morning and gives us that fire-in-our-belly feeling. It’s just how we deal with this Stress that is so important.
How to really manage and eradicate stress? Follow these tips:
1. Get outside – not only is the Vitamin D from daylight good for us, but being outside and walking in nature not only heals us, but also releases our feel good hormone serotonin into the system to counter balance the cortisol. (And burn calories)
2. Cut down on caffeine – when we’re stressed we may feel anxious and unable to cope, caffeine is not going to help this as it raises our heart rate further. (Plus, no coffee, no cookie)
3. Sleep well – have a relaxing bath before bedtime, a good night’s sleep is essential to our well-being and health. (It’s well known that when we’re tired we crave sugar and stodgy carbs)
4. Breathe Easy – take up yoga and learn how to breathe properly. Calming breath will reduce anxiety and stretching will release muscle aches and pains, while once again releasing serotonin into the system. (Plus, once again calorie crunching)
5. Drink water – dehydration can lead to headaches. Plus, when we tense muscles we create toxins in the muscle, which need to be flushed through to enable relaxation of the muscle more quickly. (And, make you feel fuller for longer)
6. Take supplements – multivits are recommended for the immune system, whilst Rhodiola Rosea is great for balancing anxiety highs with feeling blue energy lows.
7. Have a break – can’t afford a holiday, then book yourself a tension busting massage. (Less calories than a chocolate bar, but still a treat)
If you follow these tips not only will you be managing your hormones, but also the big baddy fat making cortisol coursing through your system. Manage your stress and manage your weight.