Feeling fat, sick or tired? Address stress.
Our main stress hormone is Cortisol. Cortisol is good for us in the short term and bad for us in the long-term.
SHORT TERM EFFECTS OF CORTISOL:
b. Regulates metabolism
c. Regulates blood pressure
d. Regulates blood glucose levels
This is why in times of short term stress, as a deadline or a speech approaches for instance, we can often feel pumped and energised.
LONG TERM EFFECTS OF CORTISOL:
a. Inflammatory, producing oxidative stress
b. Increases blood glucose levels through inhibiting glucose uptake and stimulating new glucose to be pushed into the bloodstream
c. Damaging to our body's cell and tissues by creating "Advanced Glycation End products" (AGEs)
Over time, these damaging effects can play havoc on our system and may even cause inflammatory responses such as allergic reactions, arthritic symptoms, irritable bowel syndrome, acne and other such affects.
At the same time, the overproduction of cortisol through ongoing stress can cause a cortisol drain - where the adrenals cannot produce the levels of cortisol the body is asking for. This can lead to dysregulated sleep (cortisol balances melatonin), increased hunger, afternoon slumps and blood sugar swings, cravings and moodiness amongst other symptoms.
What to do if you're experiencing ongoing high levels of stress?
1. Learn to recognise your stress. I went for years not recognising when I was stressed. It was only when I measured by cortisol levels in an adrenal stress test as part of a study that I realised I was basically always stressed! A nice way to recognise stress is through your heart beat. Try using a Heart Rate Variability monitor such as Ben Greenfield's Nature Beat or ithlete which just asks for one measurement per day.
2. Find out what relaxes you. The most basic things are a good place to start such as deep breathing, walking, talking to friends, playing sport or music.
3. Remove caffeine after midday. Be careful with green tea as it can sometimes be even stronger than coffee!. Caffeine stimulates a stress response - and in some more than others.
4. Talk. If you feel exhausted and know it's down to stress, or if you just feel like everything is getting too much, it can help to simply talk to a friend, a family member or a clinician.