Don’t Freak Out, Here’s How to Reduce Stress
It is the butterflies, the heavy breathing, the shaking, the quivering voice, the sweat, the nervous laughter and your all too obvious twitch.
No I am not talking about the feeling before Monday Night Football or The Bachelor. I am talking about stress. We all get it. It comes in a variety of forms and we express it in a variety of ways as I mentioned.
You probably have other quirks that are very unique and personal to you, but does any of this sound familiar? There also are some common reflexes that you may use to deal with this stress: Ice Cream, sappy movies, running, Cheetos, watching a baseball game, going for a ride on the bike, sleeping, seeing family or friends, blogging on a health site, biting a pillow, and the list goes on.
Not only are these things potentially unhealthy depending on what your “go-to’s” are, but also stress can cause some major health issues. If you can follow some of these steps we are going to share with you today on how to reduce stess, it can make a huge difference in your stress levels and your overall health.
Say Hello to Cortisol
In order to know how to reduce stress, you first have to know about cortisol. So what happens when our body is injected with a large serving of “flight or fight”?
Stress triggers the release of a hormone some of you may be familiar with called cortisol. It has quite a few effects on your body and can be potentially dangerous to your health.
Cortisol is a rare hormone in that it both works to put fat in your fat tissue and also influences fat coming out of the cells and into the bloodstream to use for energy. This is why some people gain fat while others lose fat when they get stressed. Cortisol can cause unique behaviors and and body responses. This is why the have coined the term as “fight or flight”.
Cortisol stimulates an enzyme called LPL (lipoprotein lipase) which tells your body to store more glucose as fat in your body. Cortisol’s action causes a ripple effect, which leads to higher levels of another hormone called insulin. Insulin triggers fat gain as you eat more sugar, dairy, and grains, but the high levels of stress and cortisol promotes insulin to do the same thing. More fat, leads to more stress, which leads to more fat. Eventually you become more and more resistant to it (insulin resistance). Your body has to produce more insulin in order to counter the high cortisol levels. This vicious cycle keeps getting worse and worse.
Stress also increases our levels of sodium, which in turn raises our blood pressure and that my friends is called hypertension. This is a bad initial step on the way to heart and artery problems.
It doesn’t stop there. Stress is also fueled by the types of foods we eat. The leaky gut issues and other inflammation caused by grains, dairy, and beans actually releases cortisol as well because of physical stress on your body compared to the emotional stress that we may be used to. All of these cause the same cortisol and fat accumulation issues we just talked about.
Too much cortisol weakens the connective tissue in our bodies making you age faster and get more wrinkles. Some of you may like that, so go with it if that is your thing. I am guessing most of you don’t like looking 60 when you are 40.
So as if that wasn’t enough, what else can cause stress? For those of you that are workout freaks, you should be careful. As you put stress on your body with extensive exercise, those hard, long levels of impact can release more cortisol. Oh and if you are throwing down a Coke while working out, you get even more cortisol thanks to the caffeine. I think you getting the point: stress and cortisol can cause a lot of problems.
Does Cortisol have Benefits?
All hormones in your body have a positive purpose, but if we mistreat our bodies then our hormones have a way of eventually getting out of whack. The same goes for cortisol.
One of the major benefits of cortisol is that it holds the immune system in check. Often our immune system can overreact so badly to harmful invaders that it ends up killing us. It is like overcorrecting on a road. Cortisol is the checks and balance for your body. Cortisol also helps our bodies to realize that we are sick to begin with. With the proper amount of cortisol it will act as an anti-inflammatory by lowering the activity of the immune system.
It also can liberate fat cells by stimulating another enzyme called hormone sensitive lipase or HSL. HSL does the opposite of LPL. The fat release is your body’s way of providing you with the energy you need in order to run from bulls, lions, or holiday shoppers. This explains the paradox we talked about of why some people put on weight, while others drop some pounds when they are stressed.
Now even though you could be dropping pounds when cortisol is released, it doesn’t mean dropping fat. When you lose weight, it can mean losing lean muscle tissue, which is often the case.
So cortisone can bring a lot of positivity into your life. In fact, it is necessary, just like insulin, but if we treat our body poorly by putting ourselves in physically and mentally stressful situations, then cortisone can go haywire.
Life, Food, Sleep: Great Ways How to Reduce Stress
So what are some ways to reduce stress? Here are a few tips to reduce stress:
Plenty of Sleep: Get 8-10 hours of sleep. This can be a lot easier said than done, but you have to make this stress reducer a priority. We talked about before how sleep is so important to maintaining hormone levels. Sleep in a dark, cool place. Light, heat, and even noise can interrupt deep sleep cycles.
Easy Job: Avoid a stressful job and shift-work if you can to reduce stress. I know for some of you that may be impossible, but do what you can to simplify things. Take out the drama, frustration and anger.
Easy Life: Find ways to simplify your life and make it less complicated and demanding. This is one of the hardest stress reducers if you feel like you are obligated on so many levels. The best way to helps others is by first helping yourself and getting your life right. If you need to get counseling or some sort of help, then do it. It is worth it.
Food: We have talked quite a bit about how you should focus your meals around fresh, unprocessed food. Each meal should be based around animal protein, veggies, and fats. Avoid sugars, grains, dairy, and legumes. Obesity and stress go hand in hand and by getting lean it helps you in reducing stress.
Short, Powerful Workouts: Keep your workouts under an hour. This is one of the biggest stress reducing techniques that is pulverized. We tend to think more exercise means less fat, but that isn’t true Ideally under 40 minutes. Make them impactful with high energy. Work out in the morning or afternoon. Avoid working out in the evening because cortisol levels are designed to lower as you get closer to sleep. Exercise only rattles your cortisol level up.
Cortisol is a natural hormone that is intended to help us release glucose and fatty acids from the liver for energy and keep our immune system in check. We just have to be careful about what we do to our bodies so it doesn’t turn on us.
If we are smart with our nutrition, exercise, sleep, and lifestyle then cortisol will be controlled and on our side. This is key. You can’t get in shape, or at least not quickly, unless you are maintaining your stress levels.
Well now you should know how to reduce stress and live a more peaceful life. Take advantage of these tips for a better life. So please calm down, so you can lose some fat.