The adrenal glands produce this hormone in response to stress. It controls our hunger, digestion, blood pressure, sleep cycles, physical activity and ability to cope with stress. Initially high levels of cortisol are produced when the stress-response is activated often. With chronic or long-term stress, cortisol production can swing between very high and very low levels.
During the stress-response a release of cortisol helps us run faster, see further, hear better and it releases fuel into our blood for quick energy, so we can fight or fly away from the stressor. Unfortunately excessive stress can cause weight gain, insulin resistance, elevated blood pressure, high cholesterol, muscle loss and can also cause our digestion to shut down and metabolism to slow.
How to reset the stress response
- Practice active relaxation. This means set aside a particular time of day for about 15 minutes and try some deep breathing, yoga, meditation, Tai Chi or even a sauna or steam bath. Regular practice is what reaps the benefits.
- Don’t be fooled by negative thoughts. Many of us get very caught up in our own reactions, habits and ideas that keep us stressed. Learn to recognise when this is happening and choose not to believe them, let them go.
- Connect with friends and family. Choose to be around positive people who uplift your mood and make you feel happy.
- Create an endorphin rush with some daily exercise like walking, weights, swimming and cycling. Whatever you choose, make it something that you like to do. When you gain enjoyment from the activity you are more likely to do it regularly.