Have you ever just wanted to get away? To start fresh? To have a new life?
I often have thoughts of doing just that. It all started during the pandemic. I was in such a stressful situation with my work during the COVID-19 pandemic that my fight or flight response kicked in.
I even came home one day and told my husband that I wanted to sell most of our stuff and our house and buy an RV and live on the road. Crazy, right? Chronic stress can make us think and do crazy things. (Although that thought has still stayed with me and creeps up sometimes).
When your body is under stress, a hormone called cortisol is released. Cortisol is a natural, essential hormone that affects many different systems in the body. The pituitary gland in your brain sends signals to the adrenal glands located on top of the kidney. The adrenal glands release cortisol on a daily cycle. Cortisol helps to regulate your stress response, metabolism, and helps to control the sleep-wake cycle. But high cortisol levels can cause complications.
Stress is usually a leading cause of high cortisol levels. Stress can be acute – a sudden danger, like being chased by a bear (or a dog), just barely avoiding a car accident, or hearing that your weird uncle is in town and wants to stay at your house. Traumatic stress is experiencing a life-threatening event – like an extreme weather event (like a tornado), violence, or assault that can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder. Chronic stress is often daily, long-term stressors like meeting a deadline at work, chronic illness, or other frustrating or anxiety-inducing situations. All of these types of stress can lead to high cortisol levels.
High cortisol levels can increase blood pressure, increase inflammation, and increase blood sugar levels. This can lead to metabolic disorders and eventually Type 2 diabetes. Cortisol levels are naturally higher in the morning than later in the day.
Cortisol is indirectly made from another hormone in the body called progesterone. When under large amounts of stress, the body will divert resources to making cortisol, which can lower progesterone levels. Low progesterone can lead to symptoms like insomnia, waking in the middle of the night, mid-cycle spotting, infertility, anxiety, restlessness, and mood swings.
So, how can you reduce your stress and cortisol levels?
Get a good night’s sleep. If you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night or suffering from insomnia, it might be high cortisol levels. Practice good sleep techniques like no screens for 1 hour before bedtime. Soft lights for 1 hour before bed and full darkness while sleeping. Drink chamomile tea or cocoa with reishi mushrooms before bedtime.
Exercise can improve sleep, reduce stress, and release endorphins which can reduce cortisol levels over time.
Deep breathing triggers your vagus nerve, which activates your parasympathetic system (which is the rest and digest system) and can lower cortisol levels.
Be social and have a good laugh. Laughing also releases endorphins which can reduce cortisol levels over time.
Whatever your coping mechanisms, reducing stress and cortisol levels can lead to a healthier you!
OR….You could always choose to sell all your stuff and go RVing full time.
Are you ready to PIVOT to functional health and wellness?