Stressed out? Sleeping poorly? Eating your feelings?

When your body is under stress it releases cortisol from the adrenal glands. Cortisol is an important part of the body's response to stress. Small elevations cause an increase in energy, heightened senses and memory, decreased sensitivity to pain, etc. After any stress it is important that the body then activate a relaxation response so the body can then return to normal. Unfortunately, in our current high stress culture the body's stress response is activated so often resulting in a state of chronic stress. Higher more prolonged levels of cortisol have many negative side effects. It elevates your blood pressure, elevates glucose levels, increases fat storage in the abdomen, decreases lean muscle mass, suppresses your thyroid gland which controls your metabolism, and suppresses the immune system. So while you feel like you are running around like a chicken with your head cut off doing everything you need to do to keep your head above water, your body's metabolism and functions are sluggish. At the end of the day you feel completely exhausted and worn out, like you ran a marathon, but inside your body is in slow mow trying not to burn too much fuel so that you don't burn out. Cortisol secretion varies among individuals. People are biologically wired to react differently to stress, some secret more cortisol than others. The more cortisol you secret, the more you eat and the heavier you become in response to stress. So what can you do? I mean, my father is right, we will always have some kind of stress, that's life. Well, there are a few things that you can do to help your body not produce so much cortisol. There are things you can do every day to help your body manage the stress so that your cortisol levels do not stay in a chronically elevated state (even though your stress does).

All of the modalities have one thing in common, they help you relax, take your mind off of the stress and release endorphins, all of which will allow your body to lower cortisol. Journaling (keeping a diary or journal), cardiovascular exercise, yoga, playing with your children, singing and listening to music, cleaning(yeah, I know), gardening, self hypnosis and sex(shocker). Now you can't do these only occasionally, they have to be done regularly and consistently to help your body relax and out of a state of chronic stress. You don't need to devote hours a day doing it either. Once a day, take some time for yourself, thirty minutes….if all you do is sit there in your car and wait for your children to get out of school, that's okay. Those 30 of minutes of quiet, not talking on the phone, listening to yourself breathe in and out, allowing your body to relax before the 3 oclock rush hour hits will go a long way. I would also like to take this opportunity to suggest some other strategies to help you cope.

SLEEP. It is much harder on your body to not sleep than it is to take something to help you sleep. Insomnia will take years off of your life. Your body and brain need that time to help it heal after all the rat race you put it thru during the day. When you do not sleep it is hard to function at full capacity. Somewhere between 2 and 4 in the afternoon you hit a wall, you reach for a sugary caffeinated beverage or something carby to help you push thru. Your weight increases, your sleep patterns worsen…you get the picture. If you are not sleeping well, I would suggest you visit your PCP and get a prescription for a sleep aid. That otc one that you may take has a lot of generic Benadryl, leaves you sluggish (anti-histamnes also slow down your metabolism) and foggy in the morning and slow to wake up. The prescription sleep aids are better for you than insomnia and will not leave you feeling sluggish!

SUPPLEMENTS. I highly suggest taking supplements to help your body cope with the life you put it thru every day. A good multi-vitamin(ours is the best!), 400mg of magnesium(keeps your bowels regular), 1500mg calcium(good for metabolism and bone health), Selenium tablet(keep thyroid function optimal, Vit D(deficiencies, caused by our lack of being outside enjoying a daily dose of sunshine, have been linked to allergies, asthma, fatigue and a plethora of other ailments) , Omega Three(potent anti-oxidant, great for your skin) and a good sublingual B vitamin(all B vitamins have been shown to boost energy and metabolism, we have a great one!). You want a sublingual B vitamin not onw that you swallow, so that it will by pass the liver, this will maximize the absorption of it. I take my multivitamin, selenium, vit d with breakfast and take all my Omega three, calcium and magnesium at bedtime. The sublingual B I take at work sometime during the day. I have not always believed in supplements but I am a true believer in them now and encourage you to do the same!

Well, that is all I have for now. Life is hard… that we know, sometimes we make it harder than it has to be. Take care of yourself so that you can take care of your life. Learn to say no (its okay), don't over-extend yourself more than you have to and always, always ,always take some time for yourself. Get in some kind of routine that helps you decompress. You will feel better, look better and function better if you allow your body to release that tension daily.