What is Cortisol? And how to we regulate it for a less stressful life?
“I’m feeling stressed out.” “Stressful time at work.” “Lots going on at the moment.” “I need to de-stress.”
Many of our members practice hot yoga to combat stress and find their zen place. Some postures, such as Childs Pose or Standing Forward Fold have a super awesome ability to reduce stress and tension.
Stress isn’t just annoying and tiring, it can wreck havoc on our bodies. This physical add-on we owe to Cortisol.
What is cortisol?
Cortisol is a steroid hormone which is pumped though our bodies when we feel anxious or tense. Ever heard the phrase adrenaline hit? Cortisol is exactly that; beginning in our adrenal glands and rushing into our blood stream at times of stress.
It’s not all bad.
Cortisol plays a number of roles in the body, and not all of them are bad, including maintaining healthy blood pressure levels, regulating blood sugar, and turning food into energy.
Rewind the clock to prehistoric times and you’ll find that Cortisol is closely linked to the fight-or-flight sensation experienced by our ancestors in times of danger; perhaps when they were being chased by an angry Mammoth! This burst from the adrenal gland meant they could act super quickly to save their lives (hopefully).
When does it appear?
Time travel back to the current day and we’re no longer being chased by wild animals, but this pesky hormone can be released when your train is cancelled, if theres’s an important meeting to attend or you got the time wrong for your hot yoga class! Incremental stress releasing events throughout the day can leave the body flooded with Cortisol and the associated negative health impacts.
Side effects of high cortisol levels.
If Cortisol is being released in a steady flow, this can cause negative health problems such as difficulty sleeping, digestive issues, headaches, anxiety and depression, immune system imbalances and even Alzheimer’s and heart disease. A whopping 70 percent of diseases are related to stress, experts suggest.
How to regulate your level of cortisol.
Sound like you might be higher on the stress-o-meter than your thought? Cortisol management is all about stress management. Some simple lifestyle changes that have been proved to help regulate cortisol levels:
- Catch up on regular sleep. Aim for 7-8 hours. Maybe even lay off the caffeine later at night?
- Move your body. Ever felt incredible, or even invincible post workout? Regular exercise is key to lowering Cortisol. Even a brisk walk will do the job.
- “No thanks – I’m sweet enough” Less sugar equals less Cortisol. Sugar overload stresses your body and can encourage the release of the stress hormone.
- Practice yoga and meditation to relax the muscles, encourage deep breathing and physical awareness. Regular hot yoga practice can help to decompress quicker – just ask our members!
- If all else fails. Grab cute dog or cat and have a cuddle. Many studies have shown that stroking an animal during stressful situations causes cortisol levels to drop.
The benefits of getting your cortisol under control.
You will feel so much better; lower blood pressure, muscles relax, circulation improves and more blood flows to the brain. Chances are, you’ll get fitter and your health will be improved for the long haul.
Top studio tip: take our IN class. Described as ‘yin on steroids’, this class is deep compression to the max. We scheduled this wonder class in the evenings to allow you to float home into an excellent sleep. Its so relaxing that sometimes members don’t even wait until the class is finished to drift off into a snooze!