Let’s talk about Stress, Baby!
The adrenal glands are pyramid shaped endocrine glands located upon the kidneys. These small glands produce a variety of 50 different hormones including but not limited to adrenaline, aldosterone, and cortisol.
The adrenal glands help regulate hormones, control sleep and waking cycle. They suppress inflammation and help generate energy from non-carbohydrate good and regulate blood pressure.
During periods of stress, such as before running a race, the brain instructs the adrenal gland to release adrenaline. This causes our heart rate to rise, which in turn supplies the muscles with more oxygen putting the body in a heightened state to react. During longer periods of stress, the adrenal glands release cortisol to give the body energy.
All of this is great for athletes and when humans needed a “fight or flight” response to save themselves from lions and tigers and bears. However, now there are grocery stores. Having the “fight or flight” response in everyday life can be harmful to our bodies.
When the body is stressed due to work, school, money, the elections, or driving on I-4, it does not realize it should not be pumping out adrenaline and cortisol. In the long term the adrenals before over worked and fatigued.
Symptoms of overworked adrenals can include headaches, backaches, and muscles pain. Cortisol should be lowest in the evening, allowing the body to relax and recharge, but under stress full situations cortisol levels are still high creating a “second wind” around bedtime.
During high levels of stress weight gain and bloating are often noticed, even when diet is carefully kept in check, this is again due to high cortisol levels. Ever notice how people often get colds during stressful times in their lives? Cortisol is again the culprit. Cortisol deactivates the body’s immune system because it is trying to save itself from the tigers and bears, leaving an opening for germs and other infections. Sugar cravings are common during stressful times. Cortisol raises blood sugar levels, putting the body at risk for diabetes. High glucose levels bump up insulin levels which drop blood sugar levels causing cravings for sugary foods.
High cortisol levels may also be to blame for drops in libido and new food sensitivities— have any new food allergies? Cortisol can also lead to panic attacks and depression.
What can you do to help reduce your stress?
Exercise: 20 minutes a day. brisk walk, dancing, swimming, bicycling etc.
Meditation: 20 minutes a day.
Laugh: Look at funny videos online or even pictures of cats flying airplanes. (This is my cat Xavi flying a cardboard mustang.)
Turn off the NEWS! It’s ok to skim the headlines, but 24/7 media coverage of everything negative can lead to even more stress.
Color or draw or knit: Find an easy creative outlet. Studies have found coloring—in a new adult coloring book— relaxes the mind as well as silent meditation.