Cortisol – Lifestyle Changes that will help you chill out

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series as we’ve explored what cortisol is, what it does, what happens when it goes bad and what to eat and supplement to get you back on track.
Today we’re talking about lifestyle changes that you can make to help with the food and supplements.  My top lifestyle recommendations for dealing with stress:
  • Water. Drink lots of water.  Seems simple and basic but it works.
  • Breathe.  Most of us don’t breathe properly.  We breathe from our chest instead of from our diaphragm.  Next time you’re feeling stressed, check to see if you’re holding your breath.  Chances are … you’re either holding your breath or you’re breathing very shallowly.  Meditation will help with this.  But you don’t have to meditate in order to breathe deeply.  Simply inhale through your nose to the count of 8, hold for 4 and exhale through your mouth to 4.
  • Exercise!!!  I don’t mean three hours at the gym or training for a marathon which are exactly what you don’t want to do if your cortisol levels are high or if you become exhausted after even moderate exercise.  Extreme exercising will stress your body and actually release more cortisol.  Just what you don’t want.  I’m talking about going for a walk, swimming, tai chi, a leisurely bike ride, or if you’re already reasonably fit, PiYo.
  • Yoga.  There are so many types of yoga available from a very slow, easy, beginning style that emphasizes relaxation and stretching to hot yoga, and everything in between.  I don’t recommend hot yoga, or any type of strenuous yoga for that matter until your cortisol levels are rebalanced.  Your final pose while doing yoga, or meditation, or you can incorporate it at the end of any exercise really, is a pose called Savasana or corpse pose.  It’s actually harder than you might think.  While lying flat on your back, close your eyes, breathe deeply and tune in to a clear state of mind and subtle shifts of energy in your body.  Believe me, it takes discipline to lay still, breathe deeply and go inward.

  • Meditation. No, you don’t have to spend an hour locked away in a remote place, cross legged and saying “om” (although you certainly can if you want to).  I’m talking about 10 minutes a day.  You can play soft music (I have a Zen CD which is amazing), no music or do a guided meditation if you’re having trouble with it.  I recommend developing a mantra which is essentially a couple of affirmations.  Something as simple as “I am strong, I am powerful, I am worthy” (yes, this has been one of mine). There is something incredibly powerful about anything that follows “I am”.
Inversion.  Whether it’s legs up against the wall, a full on headstand or using an inversion table, getting your feet above your heart activates the rest of digest counterbalance to the fight or flight response  which helps calm your mind and your body.
  • Sex.  Yes … I said it.  There is nothing like an orgasm to release stress.  But there’s no pressure to actually orgasm.  Sexual contact itself is very relaxing.  “But  Sandy, I’m stressed and the last thing on my mind is fooling around.  As much as I love my partner, sometimes it’s just too much work.”  Well guess what?  Chances are, once you get into things, you won’t be thinking about how much “work” it is or what else you should be doing instead.  Just relax and enjoy.  Trust me … I’ve been in the headspace of “it’s too much work”.  What if you don’t have a sex drive any more?  I understand.  That’s usually hormonal imbalance.  Sometimes it’s an emotional block.   My libido was playing hide and seek on me for far too long.  Part of it was stress, and part of it was hormonal imbalance.  So what happens if you don’t have a partner or maybe they’re just not interested at the time?  That’s where toys come in very handy.  Or you could just take matters into your own hands…..
Now don’t stress … I’m not suggesting that you have to do all of these things.  They are options.  I would, however, highly recommend that you at least drink water, breath deeply and move your body in some way at a minimum.  I promise, you will feel much better.

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