By guest blogger Michelle Leath
Top 3 Signs That You Have Elevated Cortisol Levels
#1: You seem to have developed a stubborn muffin-top.
#2: You feel constantly in a hurry, rushed, like you are running out of time.
#3: You are looking for the quickest fix to your cortisol problem!
We’ve been hearing a lot about the stress hormone cortisol and its connection to weight gain (especially belly fat), low sex drive, and premature aging.1 And by now you may even be getting a little, um, stressed out about it.
That’s good! (Well, sort of.) It’s good because elevated cortisol levels can lead to a whole array of health problems, so you want to take it seriously. But not so good because stressful thoughts in and of themselves lead to (drum roll please)… more cortisol!
So first let’s take a breath. And now let’s get down to business.
According to Shawn Talbott, Ph.D., “When we encounter something (anything) that causes us to feel stress, our cortisol levels go up. If we experience stressful events [or thoughts] on a regular basis and are unable to effectively rid ourselves of the stressor, our cortisol levels stay constantly elevated above normal levels. In cases of chronic stress, when you ruminate, obsess, and continually mull over the “what if’s” of a stressful situation, you put yourself into the Type C condition of having chronically elevated cortisol levels.”2
Notice the underlines. This is key. While it’s important to address the physical aspects of bringing your cortisol levels into balance (and yes, the cortisol has you wanting that to happen ASAFP), just looking for the perfect pill or supplement as a quick fix ain’t gonna cut the mustard. In order to truly restore balance you must also reduce the stressors in your life, and that’s something that may take a little, wait for it… time.
The dictionary definition of stress is “any real or imagined threat and the body’s response to that threat.” We all find ourselves in periodic high-stress life situations such as the illness or death of a loved one, sudden job loss, etc.; but, generally speaking much of our stress is the “imagined” kind – in other words, it is self-inflicted, or at the very least self-sustained.
So what might those stressors be? Well, if you are like me (and most of my girlfriends), see if any of these ring true:
- Digital multitasking (iPhone/Blackberry addiction, texting at the soccer game, at the grocery store, at work, during sex!)
- Trying to be the perfect mom, wife, employee, etc. (an unattainable goal!)
- Trying to achieve the perfect body, eat the perfect diet, reach the perfect weight (no such thing!)
- Eating on the run, in your car, at your desk, standing up
- Overcommitting, people-pleasing, being afraid to say no or ask for help
- Relationship stress – not speaking your truth, harboring resentment
- Work stress – staying in a job you hate because it’s “safe,” or not setting appropriate work/life boundaries
The usual, right? The thing is, because so many of us experience this, we start to believe it is “normal”. It’s a way of being part of the club to share our stories about how stressed/rushed/busy we are, and so we subconsciously resist making changes. But let me remind you of the negative effects of being in this club (see paragraph 2 above). It’s time for a new club!
So what can you do when you ARE ready to let go of being Type C?
Look at the whole picture – physical/mental/emotional. Have your cortisol level professionally evaluated and look for ways to adjust it through the appropriate dietary modifications, supplements and exercise.
Then take an honest look at your life. Where are the stressors? How can you begin to reduce them? How can you more authentically express yourself? Can you carve out 5 minutes a day to relax and connect with yourself? Can you sit down and enjoy at least one meal a day without distraction? Can you commit to some technology-free time each week?
Start with small steps. Find a supportive friend or professional to help you stay focused on your vision and be your accountability partner. And never forget, you deserve to have a life of balance, freedom and fulfillment!
1. Talbott, Shawn, The Cortisol Connection, Alameda, CA, Hunter House Publishers, 2007,
Michelle Leath is a Co-Active Life Coach and Certified Food Psychology Coach, and the founder of www.unlockyourpossibility.com. She helps women find freedom from unwanted food habits so they can create a life and body they love, without dieting or depriving themselves.
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