Do you feel you are constantly racing from one task to the next?
Do you feel both tired yet wired?
Is it difficult for you to calm down before bedtime, or do you experience a second wind that keeps you up late, or wake up very early?
Do you find yourself quick to feel anger or rage – find yourself screaming or yelling?
Do you experience memory lapses, brain fog, lose your keys especially when you feel stressed?
Do you crave sugar after meals, usually chocolate?
Have you noticed increased abdominal weight gain?
Are your cycles irregular, do you suffer with PMS or have a history of fertility issues?
Well, if this sounds like you, then likely you are running on too much cortisol!
Do you use caffeine to bolster your energy, or fall asleep while reading or watching a movie?
Do you feel inflamed and struggle with chronic joint and muscle pain?
Do you find yourself crying for no particular reason?
Do you struggle with simple tasks and making decisions?
Do you wake in the night, especially between one and four in the morning?
Do you often experience low blood pressure or often feel dizzy?
Do you get sick easily, struggle to recover or your skin takes a long time to heal?
Do you crave salt cravings or sweat easily?
Well, if this sounds like you, you may be experiencing symptoms of low cortisol!
Most of us however, relate both to the symptoms of high and low cortisol which influence our mood and resilience, and will be determined by both our daily and chronic exposure to stress. The key is to learn how to wrangle our perception of stress as our hormonal organs become confused and struggle to differentiate between real life-threatening stress and the constant “to do lists” we expect of ourselves every day. When we take our daily cortisol levels for granted, we begin to deplete our cortisol reserves and can experience fatigue and more permanent inflammatory and hormonal health consequences.
Emerging research is also illuminating how contagious cortisol can be which is why we must be cognisant of the stress we could be absorbing from those around us, as well as being equally aware of the stress we may impart onto our partners, children or co-workers. This is why it is important to get our cortisol just right. To keep cortisol in the goldilocks position it is all about moderation – to be aware of under and overeating, under and over exercising, our workload and our deliberate habits around relaxation.
To refuel our cortisol bank, the practice of rest which is very distinct from sleep is the game changer. When we rest our body will respond from our healing parasympathetic nervous system and have the chance to repair. Finding unstructured time to breathe, wander, read, spend time in nature and sunshine is the way to refuel our cortisol and rewire our adrenal responses. To find time for stillness and relaxation may almost seem impossible but the good news is that it isn’t about quantity but instead it is the quality – the very deliberate quiet and times of pause that we sprinkle throughout the day. And remember the power is often in the regular practice; a slow 10- minute morning or evening routine will remind our cortisol responses that the emergency is over and the daily demands are done.
Aim to go bed earlier, as the sleep hours before midnight count as double because adrenal repair begins from 10pm. Incorporating a breathing practice, drinking tulsi and licorice tea, taking showers in the dark, dim the lights and light the candles, spend time outdoors every day, listen to classical music and spend time with loved ones; these are all powerful antidotes to our cortisol spikes. Watch out for cortisol as she is the boss lady, but with little changes you can keep on her side. Wishing you all more rest and sleep amongst these darker and longer nights.