Situations that are beyond people's control - moving, suffering the loss of a loved one, working more than necessary, sleeping little, getting out of routine - generate an increase in the cortisol hormone, which is responsible for regulating body stress.
Known as the stress hormone, cortisol plays a fundamental role in various body functions, but its imbalance can trigger a series of problems that disrupt the proper body functioning.
Cortisol is secreted, along with adrenaline, when a person is experiencing an extreme situation. For example, all 'dangerous' situations that make the body go into a state of alert and we have the ability to respond efficiently. Cortisol and adrenaline put us in a state of intelligent alert, that is, they increase our focus of attention, concentrate us on what is happening, activate our memory, make all the tools and resources available to us to be the best version of ourselves. and get out of the dangerous situation in the best way. So we can say that cortisol plays a relevant and necessary role in the body. The problem, say specialists, is when people are constantly subjected to stressful situations that secrete the hormone and are unable to lower it once the problem is “resolved.”
Chronic cortisol is something of recent times:
If it is permanently elevated, it costs much more to manage, negatively impacts the body and can have negative effects on health. High levels of cortisol can cause weight gain, especially in the abdominal area, decreased bone density, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and immune system suppression.
Blood, saliva, or urine samples may be tested to assess cortisol levels at different times of the day. These tests can help healthcare professionals evaluate the function of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and determine if there are imbalances in cortisol production and regulation.
Recommendations to improve cortisol levels:
- Practice relaxation: Relaxation techniques such as yoga, deep breathing and meditation can decrease stress levels and improve cortisol levels.
- Healthy eating: A healthy, balanced diet can help reduce stress and improve cortisol levels. Eat enough fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats.
- Practice activities that you like: doing an activity that we are passionate about will make us stop thinking about what worries us and will focus us on the present.
- Regular physical exercise: a walk, running, yoga or whatever exercise you like the most can help lower cortisol. In addition, physical exercise increases endorphins, hormones that produce satisfaction.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol consumption: Excessive caffeine and alcohol consumption can increase stress and cortisol levels. Try to limit your consumption and opt for healthier options such as green tea or water.
- Adequate rest: Adequate sleep is crucial for reducing stress and improving cortisol levels. Sleep at least 7 hours a day and make sure you have good quality sleep.
- Learning to recognize stressful thoughts: This does not mean trying to eliminate, but rather accepting them without judgment or resistance and allowing yourself the ability to process them and find a solution.
- Respect the circadian rhythm: the most intense activity should take place during daylight hours, and you should rest at night. In general, it is advisable to wake up at dawn, around 7 in the morning, and go to bed around 11 p.m., or even earlier if possible. In this way the melatonin (sleep hormone) and cortisol cycle are regulated.
- Manage emotions: it is important to have tools and self-knowledge to properly manage the emotions and challenges that arise every day.
Cortisol and oxytocin:
Oxytocin is the “hormone of love and bonding”, as it plays a fundamental role in creating emotional bonds. This chemical messenger actively influences the feeling of pleasure and well-being. When we release this hormone, we tend to be more loving, attentive, and generous.
It seems that cortisol and oxytocin are closely related to each other. It has been shown that when the level of oxytocin increases, the level of cortisol inevitably decreases. That is, emotional ties help us cope with stress and cushion its biological impact on us. The best way to reduce cortisol levels is by trying to reduce those things that trigger its production. One way to do this is precisely to apply these simple changes in our lifestyle that help us relax the nervous system, reduce stress and regain well-being.