Cortisol is a hormone released from the adrenal gland when the body is under stress. That stress could come from a variety of sources –
- unexpected life circumstances
- a hectic busy lifestyle
- a life change, planned or unplanned
- physical or emotional trauma
Cortisol has a very functional and necessary purpose. It causes the “”fight or flight” response as a survival mechanism. Your level of cortisol is meant to be high for short periods of time when you’re in a stressful situation. But because the vast majority of us are in a state of “adrenal fatigue” day-in and day-out, cortisol is being released all the time. What does this mean? Possible negative effects include:
- Inhibits fat loss
- Disrupts sleep cycles
- Digestive problems
However, a normal level of cortisol is important. It is responsible for waking you up and getting you going in the morning as well as helping you gear down at night and prepare for sleep.
Our bodies go through natural cortisol rhythms throughout the day. In the morning, cortisol levels are at their highest. They start to drop around mid morning and come to a daytime low in mid-afternoon. This is why you may feel sleepy after lunch and have a hard time getting through the afternoon at work. The rhythms peak again around dinner time before dropping again and coming to an all time low later in the evening.
Are you a morning person and jump out of bed ready to take on the day? Or are you a night owl and have to press snooze 5 times before rolling out of bed half awake?
Well the difference very likely lies in your cortisol levels throughout the previous day.
Are you a night time TV watcher or computer user? Do you drink a lot of caffeinated beverages? Are you under more stress than the law should allow, or are you a “type-A” person who can’t seem to settle down? All of these scenarios will affect your normal cortisol rhythms throughout the day and probably put you off course for the entire next day.
Exercise also increases cortisol levels. If you exercise in the evening, do you ever come home feeling totally primed and lay awake for hours? Cortisol is to blame. Unfortunately, we can’t all quit our jobs to fit in a daytime workout schedule. Rather, take the time right after your workout or when you get home to engage in some cortisol reducing activities such as stretching, deep breathing or mediation exercises. Relax!
Start controlling cortisol rather than letting cortisol control you!
Health and happiness, Kriss
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