Cortisol, the fight or flight super hormone that is essential in surviving a life and death situations might just kill you! Now I am not going to go into detail on this process, because I am not a doctor and it would just confuse the both of us. Cortisol is a hormone secreted by the Adrenal Glands. When you find your self in a stressful situation your brain will send a signal to your adrenal glands to release cortisol which brings about adrenaline. In a nut shell this hormone saves your ass. Cortisol’s causes:
•A quick burst of energy
•Heightened memory functions
•A burst of increased immunity
•A greater tolerance to pain
•Super hero strength
Your probably saying to yourself, “This all sounds great but where does the ‘kill you’ situation come in?” After a stressful situation where your body perceives harm, the body gradually retreats back to a normal state of relaxation. However, due to our life styles being stressful, we never experience relaxation and if we do, it’s NOT ENOUGH! Therefore, the body is always in a state of excitement and this can be potentially deadly. Prolonged presence of cortisol can cause:
•Decreased thyroid function
•Decreased muscle tissue
•Decreased Bone density
•High blood pressure
•Slow healing and increased inflammation
•Increased abdominal fat
•Loss of attention skills
Long lasting cortisol levels in the blood will increase your chances of experiencing the above symptoms. In the long run you can suffer from greater occurrence of sicknesses, increased weight gain, heart attacks and or strokes. Fun stuff right?
The best thing that you can do to lower cortisol levels after a fight or flight response is to take deep breaths, meditate, hum, self reflect or build up your body’s tolerance to stress. Some exercises you can do that are very beneficial are isometric holds for time. This means hold a position (with proper form) for an extended amount of time. Examples would be:
•Even just regular exercise has benefits on lowering stress levels.
Basically anything that challenges your will power! These exercises will allow you to push yourself to greater relaxation. You are forcing your own body and mind to experience a pain. Once you reach a moment in the hold where your inner voice says “this hurts, I have to stop” you push through and don’t stop. Experiencing a self inflicted pain (in a healthy manner) and pushing your mind and body to a new limit will allow you to interpret a once very stressful situation to a not so stressful situation. Now, I am not saying your are going to be skipping through a gum fight like your on the yellow brick road, but you will be able to greater handle the situation as it unfolds around you.
Our everyday lives are stressful but they don’t need to be. Isometric holds are a great exercise to incorporate into your workouts. It’s a self help exercise that will keep your cortisol levels down when your wife is yelling at you to take out the trash or if your trying to meet a deadline. There is no reason to be stressed with mundane life events.