I am very emotional. I am anxious, stressed, nervous, worried, wired, busy, highly agitated, a work-aholic, insomniac...
You can see it on my face (I flush easy), you can read it in my body language (tense, teeth grinding) and you can read it in my writing.
I know that I cannot win at poker. My body shows the wear and tear I put it through. Having said that, it is not until I am unable to sleep, am scratching my head, elbows, legs and back and find blood in my poop that I stop and notice how much my body is screaming at me to pay attention.
The biggest thing that has happened to shine the spotlight on my stress level was getting sick last summer. Blood in your poop kinda scares the shit out of you and stops you in your track. Learning that the reason you are double up in pain is because you have ulcers lining most of your colon is frightening when you realize how long your colon is. Another auto-immune disease added to my life. I have allergies, ezcema and now ulcerative colitis. The ezcema and colitis flare up when I get stressed and when I stay stressed.
My days of drinking and drugging and smoking have turned into juicing, forced water consumption and taking tons of medication to deal with consequences of the bad food & lifestyle choices of my teens, twenties and thirties.
My days of being a bad ass have caught up with me. I love that Dr. Gottfried uses that analogy.
All of the stress & striving & hard living are either going to take my health away and shorten my life or I can make some radical changes and ease my old age as best I can.
It is an easy choice for me to make, but not so easy to implement.
Some weeks are better than others. Some weeks I am better at hiding it than others. In the past couple of years, my stress has been very high and I truly have lived on a nasty scary roller coaster.
Getting sick last summer brought to my attention, again, that I have to learn to manage and lower my stress. Unlike your average person who believes they thrive on stress, I know it is making me sick and is damaging my internal organs. The more I learn, the more I understand that my colon is only the first of organs that are going to start showing the damage of the prolonged stress I have carried for two decades.
For the past year I have read everything I can get my hands on and watched countless hours of videos to learn just how the hell do you manage your stress. This has been a good year for me as I have found real "things" I can easily do to stop my physical reaction to stress. To limit the time I allow my body to stay in a stressed state of being.
So what does stress and cortisol have to do with each other? Why do I need to lower my cortisol level?
"Cortisol is a steroid hormone which regulates a wide range of processes throughout the body including metabolism and the immune response. It also has a very important role in helping the body respond to stress."~Society for Endocrinology
"The symptoms of too much cortisol include:
- Rapid weight gain mainly in the face, chest and abdomen contrasted with slender arms and legs
- A flushed and round face
- High blood pressure
- Skin changes (ie, bruises and purple stretch marks)
- Muscle weakness
- Mood swings which show as anxiety, depression or irritability
- Increased thirst and frequency of urination.
High cortisol levels over a prolonged time can also cause lack of sex drive and, in women, periods can become irregular, less frequent or stop altogether (amenorrhoea)."~Society for Endocrinology http://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/cortisol.aspx
Here is what I took from this video with Dr. Sara Gottfried on ways to lower my cortisol:
1. Pranayama breathing. For me, the first and easiest thing I now have in my tool box is paying attention to and changing my breath. This is a super easy one, but unlike the 4 count breath & hold I have used in the past, this one is very visible in public. Not that I mind looking crazy and for a quick fix, looking crazy is the least of my worries.
You can add this mantra Inhale: I am energized Exhale: I am focused while practicing pranayama.~ http://www.yogajournal.com/meditation/kathryn-budigs-rise-shine-meditation/
2. Cocktail Time: I heard the message again that my wine is waking me up at night. Choosing to ignore that, but I may go back to no wine on weekdays. The cocktail that Dr. Gottfried suggest is a Holy Basil, Phosphatidylserine and Omega 3's. I have a link at the bottom of this page with her doge recommendations. (Always talk to your doctor before trying any supplements or medications) Each of the items in the cocktail are to lower your cortisol levels.
3. Eat a pound of veggies every day. She wants you to eat veggies with breakfast, lunch & dinner to lower your cortisol. Holy shit that is a lot of veggies. Eating that many veggies will produce a Holy Shit.
4. Get/give 8 hugs a day. Easy to achieve! You have to hug men longer for them to get the same cortisol lowering response from a hug.
5. Sleep 8 1/2 hours a night. She talks about the full adrenal repair process and how it happens we when sleep and that most of us don't sleep long enough for our body to get through the entire process. She also states that the sleep you get before midnight counts double in effect for the sleep you get after midnight.
She suggest that if you are unable to sleep, to cut out caffeine all together.
6. Dark Chocolate lowers cortisol if it is 80 % cocoa.
7. Orgasms!!! She recommends these often as they also lower cortisol.
8. Do Yoga and enjoy Music, both lower cortisol.
My take away on reducing my stress and lowering my cortisol levels is to turn on the relaxing music, eat my veggies with my cocktail, follow it with eating dark chocolate while hugging, followed by orgasms and then 8.5 hours of sleep. Can I get a hell yea!!
Why didn't anyone tell me about this healthy way of life in my twenties? Oh well, doesn't matter. I know it now, and have a couple more decades left to dedicate to this healthy way of life!