Watch the Cortisol Video
Cortisol is an essential hormone for energy and stress. Cortisol has a reputation for being a BAD hormone. This is not true at all. We NEED cortisol to have energy during the day, to think quick on our feet, and handle stress. If cortisol is optimal during the day, you are going to feel great.
Can you relate to any of these symptoms?
- Trouble sleeping
- Hormone imbalance
- Extremely low energy in the morning
- Rapid weight gain especially in the mid-section
- Loss of muscle mass, mainly in arms and legs
- Feelings of exhaustion and extreme fatigue
- Inflammation symptoms such as chronic pain
I bet I got your attention! If this is you, keep reading to get the answers you are looking for.
I want to start out by explaining what cortisol does and why it is so important for your health.
How Cortisol Works
Cortisol is made in the adrenal glands, which are located at the top of your kidneys. It’s main functions are the following:
- Manages how your body uses carbohydrates, fats, and proteins
- Keeps inflammationdown
- Regulates blood pressure
- Increases blood sugar (glucose)
- Controls the sleep/wake cycle
- Boosts energy so you can handle stress and restores balance afterward
Controlling the sleep/wake cycle is an integral role of cortisol. Another name for this cycle is the circadian rhythm. Cortisol works opposite of another key hormone, melatonin. It’s easy to understand actually. Cortisol rises in the morning to give us energy, alertness, and focus. At the same time, melatonin levels fall. At the end of the day, cortisol decreases and melatonin rises so you can fall asleep easily, stay asleep, and get deep healing sleep. Wouldn’t this be a dream for most stressed-out adult Americans?
So how does this sleep/wake circadian rhythm get out of balance and cause so many problems?
The culprit is stress – actually multiple kinds of stress.
Different Types of Stressors
- Mental/emotional stress
This is a biggie. Super busy schedules, financial pressure, work overload, beating yourself up, lack of compassion and forgiveness towards self, negativity, perfectionism, toxic emotions (fear, anger, resentment, bitterness), wrong core beliefs, and I am sure I am forgetting something. Year after year of mental and/or emotional stress will mess up the circadian rhythm, leading to adrenal fatigue and hormone imbalance.
- Lack of activity
Mental stress needs a physical outlet. All the chemicals in the body that come from stress need to be burned off. When you exercise, you feel better both mentally and physically afterwards, right? Physical activity burns off adrenaline. It’s like an outlet for built up internal pressure.
- Nutritional deficiencies
Not getting enough nutrients through food creates physiological stress in the body. The adrenal glands need B vitamins, vitamin C, key amino acids, and so much more to function properly.
- Too many stimulants
Sugar and caffeine are a problem for the adrenals.
- Too much technology
We stare at screens all day long and all night long. The artificial blue light burns out our natural melatonin which leads to cortisol being higher than it should at night.
Cortisol Levels: What is the Right Amount?
Too much cortisol over time leads to a phenomenon called the “Cortisol Steal”. It can overpower other hormones such as progesterone, melatonin, and DHEA, that all key for being able to relax and sleep. Also, year in year out of high cortisol can lead to cortisol being too low. This is known as adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue can be mild, moderate, or severe.
Another result of chronic cortisol imbalance is “Shallow Sleep Syndrome”. This is where you can’t turn it off at night and get enough deep sleep. This is a big problem for many 40+ somethings, and it can make you flat out miserable. Being exhausted day in and day out is no way to live, and not how it has to be.
It will definitely take patience and a serious commitment to lifestyle changes to get out of adrenal fatigue and start feeling like yourself again. There is no magic pill, medicine, or quick fix.
How to Balance Your Cortisol Levels
Let’s look at the way out of this mess. Not one of these suggestions will work by themselves.
- Deep healing sleep
This is a key initiative. You most likely will need to take a cortisol blocker, higher doses of melatonin, and products that will help relax the nervous system such as high doses of pure CBD oil. I always start with recommending natural products to get better sleep. Sleep heals the adrenals, period.
- Heal nutritional stress
You will need to eat a more nutrient-dense, whole foods diet.
- Weight Loss– Losing weight creates a more efficient metabolism and better hormonal balance. Hormone balance for women will be easier to achieve if bodyfat is under 30% and your BMI is 25 or less.
- Less Caffeine
I didn’t say zero caffeine — just less. I recommend staying under 200 mg of caffeine a day and only before noon for adrenal fatigue and/or high cortisol.
You may have spent years beating yourself up with your self-talk, trying to be a perfectionist, and thinking negative thoughts. It will take a very committed effort to change your thinking. You need to cultivate self-compassion, patience, optimism, a growth mindset, gratitude, and forgiveness. This might seem overwhelming and look like an impossible feat. Yes, it will take time to change.
A great place to start is with gratitude. Keep a gratitude journal by your bed and write down 5 things you are grateful for THAT day. Also, cultivating an internal dialogue of self-compassion will calm you down.
What is self-compassion anyway? Let me ask you this — would you talk to your child or significant other like you do to yourself, inside your head? I’m ugly — I’m fat — I can’t do anything right — I’m not good enough — I should do more – etc. etc. etc. Heck no! You wouldn’t talk to someone you love like you talk to yourself. It’s time to change this.
Be intentional about winding down and getting more rest. Sleep in if you can a couple of days a week. Take naps on the weekend. Take a screen break at 3 in the afternoon and do a 10-15 minute meditation with an eye mask on. You will be amazed how much better you feel after this!
- Reduce technology at night
Stop watching tv and looking at your phone 2 hours before bedtime. Read books, spend quality time with your spouse, read to your children. Also give the gift of a hard stop on technology to your children. They need their melatonin too!
I hope you have HOPE that you can feel like yourself again. There is a clear path out of hormone imbalance and exhaustion. Start working the steps!
If you want information on exactly how to take action on all of this information and are ready to take control of your life and begin your health journey, watch my free webinar.