Cortisol regulates a wide range of processes throughout the body. This important steroid hormone is involved in many body functions, including proper glucose metabolism, the regulation of blood pressure, immune function, and the inflammatory response, among others. It also has a central role in helping the body respond to stress. Cortisol is released in response to fear or stress by the adrenal glands as part of the fight-or-flight mechanism. This causes heightened levels of breathing and an increased heart rate. These short-term bursts of cortisol are necessary to help us recover from the effects of stress. They boost blood sugar levels, providing immediate energy. They also reduce the response to pain and enhance short-term memory, helping us survive when faced with threatening situations.
A little cortisol goes a long way. The heightened state of arousal that cortisol provides as stress response to a tangible event is invigorating and helpful. Cortisol levels then return to normal upon completion of the episode. But when free-floating anxiety interferes, there’s no outlet for the cortisol and it causes the fight-or-flight mechanism to backfire. Cortisol levels remain elevated, creating additional anxiety, and ultimately causing a multitude of serious health issues, including digestive disorders, immune deficiencies, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
Eating disorders can stimulate the production of cortisol and other stress hormones. In turn, that fuels feelings of panic, anxiety, and depression. And while food, exercise, and body image are the surface issues, eating disorders are actually anxiety-based illnesses. Healthy brain chemistry starts with meeting your body’s nutritional needs to break the anxiety cycle. In addition to feeding your brain the nourishment it needs, coping mechanisms that elicit the relaxation response can dial down your stress, too. Try these relaxation techniques to help calm your mind and enhance your life:
- Meditate. There are a wide range of useful meditation techniques that help to establish mindfulness in eating and thinking patterns. These techniques can be completed in less than 10 minutes and help to bring your mind, breath, and body in unison with the present moment. Meditation also fosters self-acceptance.
- Listen to music or read a book. Lie in your bed and listen to soothing music or dive into a good book. This calming distraction helps to provide a productive outlet so that you can take a break from the bustle of the day’s events.
- Enjoy nature. Getting outside, breathing in the fresh air, and soaking in the sun’s rays will restore your thoughts and release your stress. It helps provide peace of mind so you can let go of the stressful things in your life.
- End worry habits.Replace your worry thoughts by visualizing a positive scene. There doesn’t need to be a resolution to your problem. Simply visualize any situation where you can see yourself feeling relaxed, such as floating in the water at the beach, lying in the sunshine, or sitting in a colorful, fragrant garden.
The best part about these relaxation techniques is that they can easily be incorporated into your daily routine. Taking 15 minutes out of your busy day and finding time to relax will help lower your cortisol levels while leading to more positive thought processes. Do you want to learn more about how to reduce your cortisol, decrease your anxiety, and improve your overall wellness? We’re here to help. Please contact us anytime.