Cortisol (stress hormone) – 5 Lifestyle hacks to lower it

Peri menopause is a state of body & MIND, it’s the opposite to puberty, when once again your hormones are a chaotic mess.

Metabolism becomes less forgiving; you may feel more stressed out. Sleep erodes. Amygdala (reptilian) brain (the non rational side) can take over, making you overreact or snappy. It’s a period of rough waters that can be navigated optimally.

Heres some more things that are happening…

• Happy hormone serotonin declines
• Dopamine also is effected
• Cortisol can dominate as the adrenals work so much harder

Cortisol – the main player during and beyond menopause

• It governs your hunger cravings
• Digestion
• Blood pressure
• Sleep/wake patterns
• Physical activity
• And capacity to cope with stress
• Can be the cause of night sweats in the post menopausal women

Stress itself is unavoidable. It’s part of life. Under normal conditions, your body produces a brief surge of cortisol that is beneficial and protective, and ideally infrequent. It should be brief, help with the situation, then levels should return to normal.

However for many of us, that alarm (cortisol surge) never turns off. The hormone control system called the HPA (Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis, sets of a chain reaction of fear and response.

The HPA axis is like the public announcement system in a school:

The head master (your hypothalamus) tells the deputy head (your pituitary, the boss of your adrenals) to make an accouchement through the PA system (your adrenals) that goes out to all the school kids (your cells, with interact with the cortisol and other mediators of stress). Then the HPA calms everything down, or in normal hormonal harmony times it does….. in peri meno things start to get stuck. And cortisol can get constantly churned out, instead of only used in ‘alarm’ times.

When you make too much cortisol, it raises your blood sugars levels, if this happens excessively it can lead to diabetes. It can constrict the blood flow to the brain, eventually Alzheimer’s. It messes with your sleep and increases your risk of bone loss.

Five Top tips to lower your cortisol levels:

1. Nourish your body with good balanced nutrition and avoid the stress foods (alcohol, sugar, caffeine, processed foods). Stress depletes B vitamins and magnesium, eat foods which give you good doses of these vits and mins.
2. Deep breath, through the nose. When you breath deeply into the lower lobes of your lungs it triggers the calming sensors, telling your body to calm down.
3. Put your feet up the wall for a calming pose. Getting your feet above your heart activates your parasympathetic nervous system, the rest-and-digest counterbalance to fight or flight of the nervous system.
4. Get a massage – it can help trigger the vagus nerve
5. Be grateful, meditate – gratitude and meditation practices have actually been shown to help change traits such as pessimism and worry.

In my online program ‘At Home with Susan’ we regularly practise meditation at the end of our weekly pilates sessions.  Come and educate yourself on your Peri to post menopausal journey.  Find out more HERE