Unless you have been living under a rock, you will be similar with the feelings of ‘stress’. It is pretty impossible to not face any stressful situations in our lives, even when our ancestors we were living in ancient times, they would have still battled stress. In the 21st century stress can look like, trying to get the kids out the door for school, meeting a work deadline, or simply just breathing over the past 18 months in pandemic life. Stress seems like a bad word, a word that holds a lot of baggage. But - stress actually serves us a purpose and it is needed in our lives. However, it is all about balance! Stress helps you get the kids out the door for school and reaching that work deadline, and it also helped our ancestors survive from running away from that tiger. Where the problem lies, is that prolonged Chronic Stress, which has us constantly living in fight-or-flight, is very harmful to our health and is twinned with out hormone - Cortisol! Our hormone cortisol, is the fight-or-flight hormone that is produced during times of stress and inflammation. When our bodies perceive stress, our adrenal glands release cortisol, which causes our blood pressure and heart rate to go up. This is not a bad thing, it becomes a bad thing when cortisol levels stay up for prolonged periods of time leading to a negative imbalance of health. In turn effecting our immune health, energy levels, accelerate the effects of ageing, increases anxiety and depression, and decreases the health of the gut microbiome. Essentially cortisol and adrenal imbalance can rob our health away. Also not getting enough sleep is detrimental to cortisol levels, alongside stress and trauma.
Before we go to solving the problem, it is important to know the signs of High Cortisol. If you feel your cortisol levels are out of sync, it is important to see a Practitioner who can check your cortisol levels through blood, saliva, or urine tests. Ideally a few times over the course of one day as cortisol levels can fluctuate. But there are some classic signs of high cortisol levels to watch for:
1. Feeling Tired but Wired
If you feel exhausted but can't sleep, or feel fatigued throughout the day. If your cortisol levels are still high when you are trying to sleep or sleeping, your body can’t do the healing it needs. So, you wake up feeling fatigued and jump for a coffee, which raises cortisol, and you may also struggle recovering from exercise. 2. Brain fog
If you are struggling with brain fog or having trouble concentrating, it could be a sign that your cortisol levels are too high. This is because high cortisol levels can impair the prefrontal cortex, which is the region of the brain that controls most of our cognitive functions.
Ready to snap at anyone and everyone but have no idea why?! High cortisol levels are a clue that you're in a state of fight-or-flight and the very essence of that state is being on edge at all times. 4. Hair Loss
If you are experiencing hair loss, this could be a sign that something is up with your cortisol levels. Because - cortisol can trigger the body to produce an oily secretion called sebum, which is an overproduction of sebum which can clog hair follicles.
5. High Blood Pressure
Fight-or-flight mode activates and rises cortisol levels, increasing blood pressure and heart rate.
So how can you bring homeostasis back to the body now you know the signs and symptoms?
1. Prioritising Restorative Sleep It can be tricky getting into the flow of this one. You may want to invest in some blue blocking glasses, stay away from screens 1 hour before bed, buy some blackout curtains, find that one true mattress you love! Anything to get that beauty sleep in, it doesn’t matter if you are sleeping 10 hours a night but wake up every 3, your sleep needs to feel restorative to break that high cortisol perpetually tired cycle.
2. Reduce Stress
If you have been stressed for so long, you probably no longer know you are stressed until the body starts sending you signals that you are. Start working our your Diaphragmatic breathing, do some meditation, yoga, seek a therapist which have all been linked to lowering cortisol levels.
3. Incorporate Herbs
Adaptogenic herbs like Ashwagandha, Lions Mane, Reishi, and Chaga are brilliant for bringing balance to the body and easing that jump from fight-or-flight. Herbs have been around for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
4. Increase Omega-3’s and Anti-inflammatory Foods.
You can get your Omega-3s through food such as oily fish, walnuts, flax seeds, and chia seeds.