I think we can all agree that the holiday season is one of the most stressful times of year.
Maybe you have a *sense* that it affects your health, but do you actually know why or how?
If you want to train your body to be more resilient to stress (so it doesn’t have so much control over your life), it helps to understand stress hormones and what your body does with stress.
So let’s start there.
There are 2 hormones to know:
Cortisol & Adrenaline (also called Epinephrine).
Here are the differences:
- Adrenaline is released rapidly as an immediate response to stress, whereas cortisol is released in a daily rhythm regulated by the brain & the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.
- Adrenaline has fast effects to activate the body when in danger (think “fight or flight!”) Cortisol has slower effects that are not as obvious to track.
- Whereas adrenaline increases the heart rate and can make you feel anxious during intense moments, cortisol has longer-term health effects related to metabolism, sleep, brain, and mood.
Cortisol is the backbone behind stress so let's dive into this hormone a bit deeper.
Did you know the stress hormone cortisol follows a 24-hour rhythm? The pattern helps you feel alert in the morning and calm at night, like this:
Cortisol peaks within 30 minutes of waking to kickstart the body for the day.
Levels decline throughout the afternoon and into the evening.
Cortisol is lowest at midnight to allow for restful sleep.
But if stress or lifestyle disrupt this natural rhythm…
- Cortisol can be persistently high, making you anxious or sleepless.
- Cortisol can be persistently low, making you fatigued and moody.
- Cortisol can be flipped, making you feel tired in the morning and wired at night.
Cortisol is a “stress hormone,” but it also influences metabolism, weight, inflammation, blood pressure, brain function, mood, and SO. MUCH. MORE.
We should know by now that stress is no joke.
That’s because the stress hormone *cortisol* has a ripple effect on just about every aspect of physical and mental health, like…
Cortisol keeps inflammation in check, but too much can lower the body’s ability to fight off infections and illness.
Cortisol increases blood sugar (to help us respond to stress), but this can lead to insulin resistance and blood sugar issues over time.
Chronically elevated cortisol leads to weight gain—particularly around the middle.
Bloating & Digestion
The gut is our second brain and responds to stress hormones too!
Cortisol can contribute to anxiety, restlessness, apathy, and other mood changes.
So, what can we do?
This is one of the most significant root causes of health issues in so many of our patients. What we do is look at what is actually happening with cortisol and come up with a plan to bring it back to a healthy and natural rhythm.
Surprising Things that Spike Cortisol
Have you ever thought about what’s actually creating stress in your body?
Because it might not be what you think.
YES, there are the usual suspects:
- Running late for work
- Toddlers throwing tantrums in public
- Getting stuck in a traffic jam
- The list of to-do’s that never seems to get done
But here are some others:
- Under eating
- Staying up late
- Scrolling screens before bed
- Chugging coffee instead of food
Any of these things trigger the cascade of stress hormones. That means any of them (if repeated over time) can disrupt cortisol and contribute to chronic health issues.
I’m ready to flip the narrative on this.
Instead of normalizing habits and lifestyles that stress the body, don’t you think it’s time we start normalizing habits and lifestyles that put the body in a state of feeling safe and calm?
If you are ready to start managing stress in your body, let's chat. You can book a discovery call with Hope Natural Health.