Stress is inevitable.
It is how we interpret, react and manage this stress that determines the effects on our body.
Common symptoms that you may experience due to stress include headaches, fatigue, weight gain, appetite changes, anxiety, palpitations, skin eruptions and gut issues such as reflux, constipation and diarrhoea.
For more physical indicators of stress, read this.
Are you currently struggling with overwhelm or inability to efficiently manage your life stressors?
Maybe you work full time while simultaneously trying to raise a family, care for your elderly parents and maintain a social life all at the same time?!
Do you feel like your running through your day at 100mph, rushing from one task to another and then struggle to wind down and sleep at night?
Here are 5 ways to manage stress and lower cortisol levels...
1. Get moving
Did you know that 30 minutes of daily exercise can be just as effective (if not more) than the conventional anti-depressant medication for boosting mood. The cocktail of neurotransmitters and endorphins (feel good chemicals) that are released after exercise, could never be replicated in tablet form.
Your workout environment could also provide additional benefits too! At home you can crank up your favourite tunes and lose yourself in dance. In a gym class, your friends or the motivational instructor may inspire you to push your limits and try something new.
Taking your workout outdoors could help boost your vitamin D levels (in summer months), connect you to nature and further oxygenate your body! It is important not to over-train or participate in very intense exercise if your body is under immense stress, or if you have chronic HPA-axis (adrenal) dysfunction, as this will exacerbate the problem.
2. Take Relaxing baths
Ahhhh...there's nothing better than a nice, long soak, don't you agree?
Epsom salts can be added to your tub for an extra boost of magnesium, which can be absorbed through your skin, and can help with lowering stress levels, relaxing muscles and restoring magnesium levels which are depleted during times of stress. To read more about the benefits of magnesium specifically for hormonal balance, click here.
Some other stress relieving additions to add to your relaxing bath and evening routine could be a few drops of essential oils (lavender, holy basil, chamomile, clary sage), turn on your favourite playlist, grab a magazine or book, slap on a natural non toxic face mask, finished off with a nourishing body oil or body butter. Who needs a fancy spa when you can create your own at home?!
3. Try Yoga and Meditation
Practicing meditation, yoga or breathing exercises have all been shown to improve certain health conditions, such as anxiety and hormone imbalances, mainly by reducing cortisol. The best time to engage in these practices are first thing in the morning upon waking and last thing at night before bed, when your brain is most receptive.
I recommend trying guided meditations with app's such as Headspace and Calm if you are a beginner, to get you into the habit and more easily calm the 'monkey mind'. Some benefits you may experience through regular meditation and mind/body activities, are improved stress resilience, reduced reactivity and calming of anxiety related symptoms.
4. Spend time with friends and family.
Especially for us women, spending time with loved ones and female friends can help to reduce high cortisol levels, through the release of oxytocin (the love hormone) which has been shown to counteract stress. Women best respond to stress through 'tending and befriending'.
Go out for lunch with your bestie, call your mum for a nice long chat or go for a walk with your partner after dinner to talk about the days events. Especially for you work-a-holics, stay at home mums and those who work at home, it is really important to get out and spend time with friends on a regular basis, not only for your own sanity, but for reducing some of the negative effects of cortisol.
5. Optimise your Nutrition
Now, I couldn't write a blog post without mentioning food could I?
Certain nutrients are actually depleted during times of stress, including magnesium, vitamin C and calcium. These nutrient deficiencies could also be contributing to some of the symptoms we experience from stress, such as palpitations and anxiety (magnesium), fatigue and premature ageing (vitamin C), muscle cramps and confusion (calcium).
Even though it is difficult, during stressful periods we need to give our body extra nutrient support through nourishing foods and supplementation. Increase foods such as leafy green vegetables, which are rich in magnesium, oily fish which provides anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats and fresh fruits and vegetables, rich in vitamin C, which help to nourish our adrenals.
Stress can have a major impact on the whole body and can negatively affect fertility, hormones, digestion and immunity, if the stress response is triggered too often, or for too long.
If you feel overwhelmed, start by choosing just one of these recommendations and see how you get on with that over the next week or so.
"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom".
What are your favourite way to relax and unwind? Let me know in the comments below....I'd love to hear!