Lower Your Stress Hormones in 8 Minutes
Life pushes you around. People place demands on you, social convention places demands on you, personal expectation, your loving family, your boss, the government, the Easter Bunny, yes everyone gets in on the act and the result is “stress.” Today’s existence is very taxing and includes everyone, even our children. The demands placed on our kids today is staggering compared to what I recall growing up and it’s getting worse. The toxins in our environment continue to mount; the quality of our food deteriorates with GMO’s, pesticides, and processed food replacing whole food. Where is all of this leading?
I want you to understand that “any” demand placed on the body whether it be social, emotional, dietary, toxin, weather, poor sleep, excessive exercise, family relationships, etc. all contribute to a generalized level of demand that our brain registers and responds to. The hypothalamus is the central computer in our brain that measures all of this demand, and then determines how much cortisol it must tell the adrenal glands to make in order to deal with our life. This is what we refer to as physiologic stress. You may not “feel” stressed but your body may say otherwise. If this signal for cortisol stays elevated then you get to enjoy all of the following potential issues:
- Poor sleep
- Weight gain
- Joint pain
- Foggy headed
- Hormone imbalance
- High blood pressure and blood sugar
- Cholesterol imbalance
- Sugar cravings
- Mood swings, anxiety and depression
Wow, what a party pooper. These symptoms are rampant. Why do you think everyone is gobbling up 5 hour energy drinks? By the way, energy drinks are a very poor solution that will cause more problems in the long run. So what are we to do? Glad you asked.
Understand that the amount of cortisol you make can and should be managed before it manages you right into a state of Alzheimer’s. Yes stress leads to increased Alzheimer’s risk. Scary. So how can we actively manage this? There are many ways to address this issue but I want to focus on one very well studied lifestyle habit that consistently shows benefit . . . Meditation. Before you click the delete button give me 30 seconds.
- Meditation is not a religious practice it is a physiologic principle that is well suited for todays “multi-tasking” people.
- Meditation is simply quieting the mind for a brief period to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is our cool and mellow persona.
- Meditation takes as little as 8 minutes per day.
- Mediation doesn’t cost a penny and is very portable.
- Scientific medical research has proven that meditation reduces cortisol
- Proven to lower blood pressure
- Proven to rebalance the nervous system.
In an evidence based study by Vandana in 2011 a simple habit of practicing meditation for a whole 13 minutes per day progressively reduced cortisol and kept it under control over time. No drugs, no professional psychoanalysis, no office visits – just balance restored through simple focused time spent in meditation. Very little time in fact.
So what do we DO about this? Ideas are nice but action gets results. I strongly recommend you start simple and not bite off more than you can chew. If you are inclined to rush off to an ashram in an isolated forest then by all means have a great time but success can come with as little as 8 minutes per day in the comfort of your living room, office, patio or any quiet place you care to employ. I recommend reading a little book called “8 Minute Meditation” by Victor Davich. It offers a simple uncomplicated approach to meditation that is written with humor and simply serves to offer week by week instruction to quickly get you under way. Within 30 minutes of reading you will be off and running (sitting) for your first meditation. It’s too easy.
The book has tons of questions and answers to address all of your concerns. It does not promote any agenda other than good health. It lowered my blood pressure and improved my ability to focus. I continue to commit a whopping 8, or sometimes 10 minutes if I’m feeling generous, to my meditation habit and it continues to net consistent results. My sleep is better, my calm is calmer, my mental sharpness and creativity benefit and my whites have never been whiter.
You might be saying, “I tried that before but my mind is too busy to meditate”. The very person who feels that there mind is too busy is the very person suffering from elevated cortisol and stands to gain the most from meditation. The practice of meditation is just that . . . “practice”. You wouldn’t go for a jog and quit because you aren’t in good enough shape to run a marathon. You would slowly get in better shape and find greater enjoyment as you improved. And so it is with mediation. It’s a journey that you start and enjoy, getting better along the way.
As a final thought I want to offer a few insights. To lower cortisol and take control of stress in your life there are several things you can add to your lifestyle:
- Exercise – shown to be equivalent to drugs in reducing heart attack deaths and better than drugs for reducing stroke deaths.
- Prayer – I don’t talk religion or politics but simple prayer is just good for you. Studies have shown this to be true.
- Meditation – enough said
- Pet your dog – or cat or fish or bird or whatever floats your boat
- Play with children – their innocence is contagious
- Love your lover – relationships diffuse stress. Of course it has to be a good relationship so work on that if you lover is causing you stress.
These are the things that add balance to life and will help steer you away from disease in general and toward a healthier existence. Taking control is an attitude, a predetermined commitment to not be a victim. Don’t be a statistic, don’t be a drone, don’t follow the herd over the cliff. Stand your ground and take control over stress and cortisol with simple identifiable actions that lay the groundwork for excellent health. Redefine your path and make it unacceptable to fall into ill health based on the demands of others. Take control. Take action. After all it’s YOUR life.
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