Stress, hormones, and you
November 17, 2023

Stress, hormones, and you

Explore the hidden effects of cortisol and learn to balance stress for a healthier life.

Cortisol chronicles

Stress—it’s a constant companion, an invisible badge of honor. Because most of us live and breathe it every day, we hardly bat an eye to its sensation. Between relentless deadlines, mounting bills, personal conflicts, and the constant buzz of digital devices, stress lingers everywhere. In our modern world, living in fight-or-flight mode is the norm.

If sugar cravings, copious cups of coffee, and cortisol fuel your day, you’re not alone. But this toxic cycle has burnout knocking at the door. Beneath the surface, stress is wreaking havoc on our bodies. Primarily, through the lens of a necessary yet delicate hormone: cortisol.

With the busyness of the holidays within reach, today we’re taking a closer look at the cortisol-stress connection and how understanding it can lead us towards a healthier, more balanced life. Plus, we’re sharing simple yet effective ways to balance your cortisol, whether yours is too high or too low. Sayonara, unnecessary stress!

How does cortisol impact your hormones?

If you know, you know: being chronically stressed impacts your appetite, sleep, and mood. More specifically, an imbalance in cortisol impacts your hormones—particularly, with respect to progesterone and estrogen. 

When cortisol is excessively high, the body tends to prioritize cortisol production over sex hormones. This can lead to a condition known as "cortisol steal," where the body diverts resources from sex hormone production, resulting in reduced progesterone levels. Low progesterone can lead to irregular or absent menstrual cycles.

Conversely, when cortisol is very low, it can lead to a state of chronic fatigue, which disrupts the intricate balance of hormones. This disrupts the menstrual cycle as well, causing irregular periods (including amenorrhea). These imbalances can have far-reaching effects on fertility, mood, and overall reproductive health.

High or low cortisol—telltale signs

How do you know if your cortisol levels are too high or too low?

If you have elevated cortisol….typical symptoms include persistent stress and anxiety, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, digestive issues, weight gain (particularly around the abdomen), mood swings and irritability.

If you have low cortisol…it often manifests as fatigue (even after a good night's sleep), low energy levels throughout the day, cravings for salty or sugary foods, dizziness when standing up, and reduced immune function.

Tips and tricks for balancing cortisol

So, how can you balance your cortisol if it’s too high or too low?

For high cortisol:

  • Practice stress management techniques like meditation, yoga, and / or therapy.
  • Prioritize quality sleep! Aim for 7-9 hours each night.
  • Regular, moderate exercise can release built-up tension.
  • Maintain a balanced diet with protein, healthy fats, seeds, and non-starchy veggies (leafy greens).

Consider taking magnesium to encourage relaxation.

For low cortisol:

  • Establish a consistent sleep schedule to regulate your body's internal clock.
  • Stay hydrated and consume a balanced diet rich in nutrients (vitamin C, B vitamins, magnesium, and zinc).
  • Include gentle exercise like walking or stretching into your daily routine.
  • Consult a healthcare provider for cortisol replacement therapy—if needed.

Re-thinking your habits

If we’re simply living on autopilot—out of touch with our body’s needs—our habits are likely doing more harm than good. Read: they’re likely causing cortisol issues. Therefore, this is a gentle nudge to identify potential habit shifts. This might mean finally dropping that toxic friendship. Or ditching that diet that’s causing stress (and isn’t working). Or maybe, it’s adding a morning walk to your routine. Ultimately, to understand what is working for you, you have to pay attention to what isn’t. Balanced cortisol requires supportive habits, and supportive habits are built from scratch.

A few favorites from this week.

One of our favorite ways to de-stress? Taking a break to eat meals with a balance of fats, protein, and fiber.

Another quick tip to support cortisol? Swap out coffee for green tea or matcha!

Get in touch with your artistic side

Yes, setting boundaries, nourishing your body, and shifting your habits are all important for balanced cortisol. But inner peace also comes from drawing outside the lines. Speaking of, don’t underestimate the power of painting, drawing, sculpting, intuitive cooking, freeform poetry, making playlists, or any form of artistic creation!

These all serve as a therapeutic outlet to channel your emotions and release tension. In turn, this process helps reduce cortisol levels. A more balanced and harmonious state of mind could be a daily artistic habit away.

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Keep your eyes on your inbox next week—we’re doing something we’ve NEVER DONE. We’ve got a good deal coming so you can feel your best this season and gift beeya to the women in your life for happy hormones and holidays!