The hormone cortisol prepares the body for action in times of stress. According to professor Len Kravitz, Ph.D., of the University of New Mexico, cortisol mobilizes energy by using stored proteins and fat, delivers resources to working muscles and acts as an inflammatory agent when the immune system acts up during stressful situations. Despite its benefits, continuously high levels of cortisol can wear down the body. Therefore, engage in stress-reducing activities to lower cortisol levels.
Exercise not only combats health problems related to obesity, it also provides distraction from everyday worries, improves physique and de-stresses the mind. In fact, the University of Maryland Medical Center says even walking at a high speed for short distances can help the body to relax. As your mind stops worrying about its problems, it will stop telling the hypothalamus to release cortisol to prepare it for action. In other words, 30-minute daily episodes of physical activity can help lower your cortisol level by reducing your stress level.
Deep breathing activities calm the body, refocus the mind and decrease stress. To partake in one, start by placing yourself in a relaxing position, whether in bed, on the couch, on the floor or in a comfortable chair. Then, concentrate on breathing deeply in through your nostrils as though you were inhaling all the oxygen around you. Hold that breath for two seconds and then exhale it from your mouth in a large sigh of relief. Carlos P. Zalaquett, Ph.D., of the University of South Florida, says sighing may help to heighten the effects of the relaxation response. Cortisol and other stress hormones can accelerate your heart rate, causing undue stress on the walls of the blood vessels. Deep breathing exercises will counteract the effects of stress and cortisol by slowing down your pulse rate and blood circulation.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meditation relaxes the body, improves your psychological well-being and helps you to cope with illness. Begin by finding yourself a comfortable, quiet location, free from any distraction. The goal of meditation is to focus the mind on a thought, or mantra, like “peace,” on an object like a flower or on controlling your breathing. Along with mental concentration, meditation encourages you to breathe deeply, slowing your heart rate and lowering your stress level, which in turn will naturally reduce your cortisol level. Although meditation may not work for unnaturally high levels of cortisol due to a disorder, it can relax you in normal situations where stress overtakes your body.
- Stress image by Yvonne Bogdanski from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.