We usually know when we are feeling stressed. However, we often ignore the physical symptoms of stress and blame them on the fact the we "have a lot going on at the moment" or we need to take a few days off in a few months to relax. Sometimes that's just not good enough. These symptoms are your body telling you that it is not okay and it's asking you for help! Ignoring these symptoms will increase your cortisol levels (the hormone that is released when we get stressed) and it has some very negative consequences for your health if it is not kept in check.
It is not all doom and gloom though. Cortisol is actually a vital hormone in our bodies as our survival depends on it working efficiently. However, it's when we allow our cortisol levels to rise to a chronic level that it can turn into a killer or have serious effects on your physical and mental health.
By recognising these symptoms as early as possible we can reduce our cortisol levels dramatically and get our bodies back to the healthy and happy level where it likes to be.
These are some of the main symptoms you should be looking out for:
- Muscle aches and pains
- High blood pressure
- Increased anxiety
- Feeling tired and sluggish
- Mood Swings
- A swelled or puffy looking face
- Increase in weight especially around the abdomen
- Excessive thirst
- Acne or skin breakouts
- Changes in libido
- Increase in urination
- Low immune system or increase in infections
- Irregular or changes in menstruation
- Brittle bones
There are lots of ways in which you can reduce your cortisol levels and build up your immune system again. Try out a few of the following and watch your stress levels decrease and your every day life become a little bit more manageable.
- Start exercising frequently. This doesn't mean you need to join a gym and start pounding the treadmill for hours. A moderate 15 minute walk once a day is known to significantly reduce your cortisol levels as well as getting your blood pumping, bringing more oxygen to you heart, brain and lungs. You could also try yoga or pilates if you prefer less strenuous exercise while still reaping the benefits.
- Watch what you eat. Your nutrition is vital in maintaining good mental and physical health. Avoiding sugary, processed foods is the best way to cutting out bad food choices. Take a look at the ingredients on the package of food and see how many you actually recognise. The general rule of thumb is anything with more than five ingredients is usually overly processed and should be avoided if possible. Take herbal supplements such as Ashwagandha, Ginseng, Licorice or Holy-Basil, all of which are known to reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety and aid better digestion.
- Make changes to your lifestyle. First things first, getting a good nights sleep is the best possible way to reduce stress in your life no matter what you are stressed about. When we are over tired we cannot think straight and it effects our mood and our ability to make good decisions. Try to get at least six to seven hours good sleep every night so that you give your body the best possible start each day and allow it to recoup after the previous day. Give your mind as much natural stimulation as possible by going for a walk on the beach or in a forrest and taking in all the beautiful scenes, smells and sounds around you. My favourite lifestyle change for anyone to make and one I urge all of my clients to do on a daily basis is practice mindfulness. The benefits are outstanding and have changed peoples lives in unimaginable ways. If you would like to read more about mindfulness read my post here.
Whether you experience high levels of stress on a daily basis or not you still need to be aware of and manage your cortisol levels wherever possible in order to maintain a healthy body and mind. Recognising the symptoms and taking action as early as possible allows you to maintain a healthier lifestyle overall and reduce stress significantly. Wouldn't it be nice if we could sail through life in a stress free bubble? :)