Stress reduction is a very hot topic these days because people are stressed to the max. I know there are some days when I certainly am, and I’m sure you’ve had those days, too. Unfortunately, those daily stressors that add up, like money issues, work demands, family life, and traffic, aren’t going away anytime soon. Furthermore, this is a difficult time of year. The holidays may be over, but for some of us, the bills are still being paid off. The weather has been erratic and dangerous, making it difficult to travel and get errands done, and we’re still stuck in the dark and dreary days of winter.
If all these factors weren’t enough, going online to search for “stress reduction help” opens up a whole new can of worms. There is so much information telling you to do this, that, and the other thing that even following these tips to reduce stress could end up adding stress to your life. So I’m going to try to keep it simple for you.
The Simple Way to Cut Stress: Cut Cortisol
The stress you feel is a direct result of cortisol hormone being secreted in your body. It’s what triggers that fight or flight response to stressful situations. When you’re feeling stressed, cortisol levels are high.
But cortisol plays a key role in some other functions, too, so stick with me…
Cortisol also plays a role in your body’s glucose metabolism, insulin release, and inflammatory responses. So, in a way, your cortisol levels are affected by what you eat. If you eat a lot of refined carbohydrates (white rice, white pasta, white potatoes, etc.) and sugars or products containing HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup), which is found in countless processed foods, juices, sodas, and candy, you are likely increasing your body’s cortisol levels. These foods are directly related to your glucose metabolism and insulin secretion, as well as your body’s ability to absorb insulin.
If you become insulin resistant (a symptom of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes), which is typically a result of a high-sugar, high-HFCS diet, you overproduce insulin, blood glucose is not absorbed, and it’s stored as fat. Belly fat and cortisol secretion are also associated. So the more fat you have, the less efficient your body is at absorbing glucose and insulin, and the higher your cortisol will be.
Easy Three-Step Action Plan to Eliminate Stress
So, what’s the first thing you can do to limit stress? Try limiting your sugar intake.
As well, resting cortisol can be reduced by exercise. Yes, cortisol levels rise during periods of exercise, as the body is under some degree of stress, but they drop following exercise. Exercise exposes your body to cortisol, so that it is better able to deal with increased levels of cortisol at other times. If you want to keep cortisol levels low and reduce your stress, try to get some exercise in every single day. It will make a big difference.
The last thing you can do to make a difference in your stress levels is to get more—and better—sleep, something that is much easier to do if you’re eating healthy and getting exercise. When you sleep and are well-rested, cortisol levels drop. Conversely, if you’re up all night worrying (because your cortisol levels are high), you’re not going to sleep, your cortisol levels will stay elevated, and you’ll feel greater stress and fatigue, not to mention you’ll be more susceptible to other illnesses, too. However, if you follow steps one and two (eat healthy and exercise regularly), you’ll be able to bring your cortisol levels down, so you’re ready to sleep—and sleep well—each night.
This is a proven three-step action plan to reduce stress that is realistic and attainable. Yes, you can try to meditate during the day, but sometimes that method may not be so realistic, especially when the silence needed to completely shut your mind down can be hard to come by.
If you’re able to find some quiet time to meditate, great. But if that’s not so easy for you, then know that controlling what you eat, getting a half-hour of exercise per day, and getting adequate sleep is a simple three-prong way to cut stress. In the end, controlling stress is all about taking the right steps to control your cortisol levels. The less cortisol you secrete, the less stressed you will be.
Also Read :
- How Stress Can Lead to Acidity and Disease
- Preventing Cumulative Stress Before It Becomes Overwhelming
- Healthy Stress Snacks That Satisfy
- Is This Therapy the Most Effective Stress and Pain Reliever?
Sources for Today’s Article:
Elliot, S., et al., “Fructose, weight gain, and the insulin resistance syndrome,” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition November 2002; 76(5): 911–922.
“Exercise and stress: Get moving to manage stress,” Mayo Clinic web site, July 21, 2012; http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-management/in-depth/exercise-and-stress/art-20044469, last accessed February 19, 2015.
Leproult, R., et al., “Sleep Loss Results In An Elevation Of Cortisol Levels The Next Evening,” Sleep October 1997; 20(10): 865–870.