Cortisol is commonly referred to as our stress hormone. It is produced when we face a real or perceived stressor. Cortisol is the hormone that allows glucose to be released from our cells so it can power the heart and muscles to take action. Traditionally that meant running from a sabre tooth tiger or surviving famine. Nowadays however with increased stress, comes increased cortisol and consequently issues with blood sugar levels, blood pressure, metabolism and inflammation.
However cortisol isn’t all bad, we need a spike of it in the morning to help wake us up. It helps clear waste that our body produced in the night and helps our body control our blood sugar levels. Some common signs of a cortisol imbalance include low energy in the day, finding it difficult to calm down, inability to shift excess weight, craving sweet foods and feeling forgetful – to name a few. So how can you balance your cortisol?
Identify the major sources of stress in your life and take action to reduce their effect on you. Making these changes will take time, but as long as you are aware of them you will be able to start making small shifts. Reducing stress can also be a fun experience, one study found that cortisol levels decreased in response to laughter.
Sleep deprivation has been linked to increased cortisol levels. Get into a nightly sleep routine, making sleep a priority will give your body a chance to rest as well as the energy to take on the day ahead without being exhausted.
Some gentle exercise a few times a week can boost your mood and aid in a good nights sleep. It is important to know that intense exercise can also trigger an increase in cortisol due to the increased stress that the exercise places on the body.