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Another Little Thing

Stress increases cortisol levels and this helps us to respond to and survive threatening situations.

There is a normal rise in cortisol that occurs with our normal circadian rhythm changes, particularly in the early morning, however, under normal circumstances, cortisol levels decrease throughout the day.

Increased cortisol levels lead to an increase in glucose production in the liver, and a decrease in insulin sensitivity. (Insulin helps to move sugar out of the bloodstream and into storage for later use.) Cortisol and insulin work together under stressful situations to increase the amount of glucose (sugar) available to our muscles, which allows us to escape a threat (or perceived threat), and to prepare for the day. Amazing!

The problem arises when we have continuous high levels of stress, and, consequently, continuous high levels of cortisol. Is anyone not stressed out these days? With frequent or sustained elevations in cortisol levels eventually our body stops responding to insulin, or becomes less responsive to it, and we become what is known as insulin resistance, and/or develop diabetes type 2. Insulin resistance (and of course, diabetes) causes higher than normal blood sugar levels. Chronic high blood sugar is harmful in many ways; it puts us at increased risk for diabetes, heart disease and other metabolic and inflammatory illnesses.

Okay, so now that you are feeling incredibly worried about your cortisol levels, here is one little thing you can do to to decrease your cortisol levels: Relax! Do some deep breathing! Even just a few minutes every day will help. You can reduce the stress response with yoga, or a guided relaxation, or meditation. There are some great apps for this: Calm , Headspace , Insight Timer , Exhale, DownDog. Or do it on your own right now. Here’s how: close your eyes, picture yourself someplace beautiful, and breathe slowly in through your nose for a count of 4, and slowly out your mouth for a count of 8. See yourself in that beautiful place, hear whatever sounds you might hear there, smell whatever smells you might smell there, and now breathe in for a count 4 and out for a count of 4. Repeat. Do this for as long as you like.

You have the power to improve your own health.