Last week we spoke about cortisol; the hormone that is secreted from the adrenal glands in response to physical or psychological stress, prolonged exercise, poor sleeping habits and sleep deprivation.
Having high levels of cortisol in your body leads to increase fat storage, muscle breakdown and a weakened immune system. It’s essential you keep your cortisol levels balanced to ensure your body is ready to perform at its peak.
10 EASY STEPS TO REDUCE YOUR CORTISOL LEVELS.
1. Sleep and nap
Sleep is the time your body does all of its repair, growth, and balances out your hormonal system. Sleep is often labelled the cheapest weight loss supplement on the market – literally because when you sleep, your body decreases its cortisol levels and therefore your body will not be encouraged to store fat. If your sleep is poor in quality or quantity then your stress levels are probably high and your probably unable to shift that stubborn belly fat.
2. Put the right fuel in your body
When you eat the foods your body was designed to eat, your hormonal system has a normal response and you are less likely to create inflammation and stress on your digestive system. I always choose foods that are from nature – like vegetables and lean meats over man-made processed foods.
Learning to breathe properly is one of the simplest ways to decrease your stress and cortisol levels. When you take a deep breathe in and out you help to activate your parasympathetic nerve system, the part of your nervous system that controls the reduction of your heart rate, blood pressure and stimulates your body to go into “rest and digest” mode. When learning to breathe deeply, you should focus on breathing through your abdomen, not your chest.
There are many types of yoga, but the type I really love most to decrease your cortisol and help your body to recover is the slower paced Yin yoga. Yin focuses on holding stretches (up to 5 mins per pose) on the ground, coupled with breathing and meditation so is great for decreasing stress and improving your flexibility and range of motion at the same time.
Often when I ask my clients to do some meditation as a stress reduction technique, they look at me roll there eyes and say “I’ve tried meditation, it was so boring i hated it”. The truth is, most of us don’t like meditation the first couple of times we try it because it is hard! Take a mediation class or download a meditation app to help you get started. Maybe meditation for you is as simple as sitting on the beach, breathing and listening to your own thoughts for a while. Work out what works best for you that allows you to calm and centre yourself.
6. Go Offline
These days we are permanently attached to iPhones, laptops, desktops, TVs and tablets. So much time spent behind a screen stresses your body out and doesn’t allow you to switch off from the world. Spend this sunday turning all your devices off (yes – including your phone) and spend some quality time outdoors with your friends and family. See how rejuvenated you feel at the end of the day when you go offline and get off emails, phone calls, snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
7. Cut back on caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant on your nerve system. It activates the other half of your nerve system – the sympathetic nervous system or flight/fight response. When we activate this half of our nerve system it has the opposite effect to the parasympathetic mentioned above – in that it causes an increase in your heart rate, blood pressure and stress hormones. This can be beneficial some of the time, but having this side of of your nerve system “on” all the time can have detrimental effects on your performance and body composition. If you can’t live without coffee, try and keep it before midday so it doesn’t interfere with your precious sleep.
8. Cut processed sugar
Having sugar particularly before bed will cause a huge rush of insulin into your blood stream. Insulins job is to decrease your the sugar in your blood and it does so by using it for energy or converting it to fat to be stored and used at a later stage. Consuming large volumes of sugar (particularly processed sugar) can stress your body out and drive the production of cortisol.
9. Take rest days
Rest days are absolutely essential to your health and performance. Like sleep, they are a chance for your body to rest, repair and recovery in between workouts and stressful days in the office. Ensure your gym program has at least one or two rest days per week.
10. Get your nerve system checked
Visiting your chiropractor to have your spine and nerve system checked is another strategy to help you reduce the total amount of stress on your body. Your chiropractor can help you work out strategies to decrease the physical, chemical and emotional stress you put on and into your body on a daily basis to help you function more optimally.