We’re living in a time of really high stress – there’s no doubt about that. Our worlds have become smaller, and our worries are a whole lot bigger. High stress in your body means high cortisol levels. High cortisol can impact your health in so many different ways, both big and small. Stress during quarantine is impacting us all to some degree, so being aware of what this might look like should be important to you.
This information isn’t intended to scare you or make you even more stressed. This information is intended to help you reflect on how well you might be managing your stress right now. Knowing what signs to look for may help you prioritize strategies that can help you balance your cortisol.
What is Cortisol?
Cortisol is known as the “stress hormone”, because it plays a crucial role in how the body responds to stress. However, there is much more that cortisol plays a role in. It is a very important hormone for overall health and wellness, as it also plays a role in metabolism, inflammation, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and memory.
High Cortisol Effects on the Body
When it comes to cortisol, the most important aspect is balance. While a certain amount of cortisol is vital for regular healthy body function, an overproduction can lead to many significant health issues. All of the following are common signs of high cortisol.
• Anxiety. I know, I know! As if being stressed about self-isolation and more wasn’t enough, high cortisol can further promote anxiety. Stress causes, well, more stress. It’s a bit of a vicious cycle, and it can be really difficult to get out of, especially when this becomes a more chronic or ongoing issue.
• Depression. There’s no doubt that high cortisol impacts mental health. Many people with depression have high cortisol levels. However this is not really a one way street. Stress and depression have more of a circular relationship, where they both influence one another.
• Digestive Problems. In times of particularly high stress, your body will restrict functions deemed as “non-essential”, as our body remains in a fight-or-flight state. This includes digestive function. Blood flow may be restricted, holding your digestive system back from functioning properly.
• Headaches. In a fight-or-flight state, the brain releases certain chemicals that result in changes in vascularity. These chemicals work to dilate and restrict blood vessels. This can cause headaches and migraines.
• Sleep Problems. Those worrisome thoughts that keep you awake at night also keep you from having a good quality sleep. This can sabotage your mood the following day, and lead to even more stress. Sleep problems can look like trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or just not having a good quality sleep.
• Bloating. Stress causes a fluctuation of hormones, which alone can lead to bloating. High stress can also influence your gut bacteria, throwing your microbiome out of whack as a result and also leading to bloating.
• Memory Impairment. Have you not quite felt like yourself lately? Stress can lead to forgetfulness, confusion, and memory problems. The way your body reacts to stress changes the way our brain processes information. You might be forgetting particular parts of conversations you’ve had, or putting your belongings in bizarre places.
What You Can Do To Combat Quarantine Stress
Stay Connected. Not being able to catch up with your friends and family in person can impact your mood and leave you feeling lonely. Nothing can replace a warm hug from your loved ones, but for the time being take advantage of what you can do to stay connected. Try FaceTime, Skype, or HouseParty so you can see your people face to face.
Keep Moving. Daily movement promotes a balance mood and can help stave off stress! Whether that’s a walk that allows for social distancing, yoga in your living room, or a 20 minute bodyweight workout, daily activity whether short or long can help combat stress.
Engage in Enjoyable Activities. Yes, it’s fun every once in a while to binge hours of a new show! But don’t forget to engage in the other activities you enjoy. Art, photography, baking, reading – you have so many options. Doing enjoyable activities when possible can help you pass the time more easily.
Take Time For You. If you are alone right now or have a lot of time to yourself, this suggestion might seem silly. But just because you have the time doesn’t mean you make it meaningful to you. Taking time to yourself means planning out something that’s just got you. If you are taking care of others right now, really take this suggestion to heart. Try to get your own physical space for at least 30 minutes a day to do something that’s just for you.
I hope you found this information helpful. I would love to hear more about what you’re doing to combat stress during this unprecedented time – feel free to share below.
Take care Babes.
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