The Impact Of Genetics On Reducing Cortisol
Up to 45% of differences in the way you perceive stress may be attributed to genetics. It can influence:
- Stress hormones like cortisol
- Calming brain chemicals
- Brain function
Its difficult to present an accurate scope of just how much your genes can affect an interactive system of stress-inflammation-disease. So many elements are involved that the list of potential mutations that might impact you would be pages long.
The other issue is the fact that these genes do not act in isolation. Your body is a system, interconnected in a vast number of ways, with so many interdependencies that it is impossible to just look at one element by itself. This also doesnt even take into account the outside world, which is constantly changing and interacting with your body.
So, with that small grain of salt, here are a couple of examples of how genetics can have an effect on your cortisol levels.
- A GRM8 gene variant is linked to higher stress. This variant may increase glutamate, a brain chemical involved in stress.
- A GABRA6 gene variant may be more sensitive to stress. This variant may lower the activity of GABA, a mind-calming chemical.
Can knowing your genetics solve your cortisol problems? Not by itself. It will not give you definitive answers. It does give you better background and contextual information for how and why your body and brain may respond in the ways they do. Creating effective change requires this. It informs you about making the best decisions going forward.
How To Manage And Reduce Stress
Here, we would like to start, by giving you an introduction to what stress is, what the signs of stress are, what simple steps you can take when feeling stressed and provide practical advice for preventing it, to show why we are passionate about moving towards a less stressed nation.
Practice Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation involves relaxing all the muscles in your body, group by group. To practice, you can start with a few deep breaths.
Then, practice tightening and relaxing each muscle group, starting with your forehead and moving down to your toes.
With practice, you’ll learn to recognize tension and tightness in your muscles and you’ll be able to relax more easily. Each time you practice, however, you should experience a feeling of relaxation sweeping through your body.
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Quick Stress Relief At Home
Entertaining. Prevent pre-party jitters by playing lively music. Light candles. The flicker and scent will stimulate your senses. Wear clothes that make you feel relaxed and confident.
Kitchen. Ease kitchen stress by breathing in the scent of every ingredient. Delight in the delicate texture of an eggshell. Appreciate the weight of an onion.
Children and relationships. Prevent losing your cool during a spousal spat by squeezing the tips of your thumb and forefinger together. When your toddler has a tantrum, rub lotion into your hands and breathe in the scent.
Sleep. Too stressed to snooze? Try using a white noise machine for background sound or a humidifier with a diffuser for a light scent in the air.
Creating a sanctuary. If clutter is upsetting, spend 10 minutes each day to tidy. Display photos and images that make you feel happy. Throw open the curtains and let in natural light.
Cut Out Caffeine Or Consume Less
A 2005 study in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that caffeine increases cortisol secretion even in people at rest. Because caffeine can stimulate cortisol production and increase blood pressure, Krista King, MS, RDN, of Composed Nutrition, offers a solution to lower cortisol: “Try doing a caffeine reset. Gradually you have each day by swapping it out for a caffeine-free or lower caffeine alternative.”
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How Can We Handle Stress In Healthy Ways
Stress serves an important purposeit enables us to respond quickly to threats and avoid danger. However, lengthy exposure to stress may lead to mental health difficulties or increased physical health problems. A large body of research suggests that increased stress levels interfere with your ability to deal with physical illness. While no one can avoid all stress, you can work to handle it in healthy ways that increase your potential to recover.
There are several other methods you can use to relax or reduce stress, including:
Highly Effective Tips For Relieving Stress
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all option when it comes to stress relief, however. What works for one person might not work for another.
And what works for you at home might not be an option when you’re at work or in the community .
So it’s important to have a variety of stress relief tools at your disposal. Then, you’ll be able to pick a strategy that works best for your current circumstances.
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Make Time For Workplace Wellness
Your workplace should support your sustained wellbeing throughout the day. Say it again so you dont forget. Hard work needs balance to be sustainable. Now, not everyone is lucky enough to have a dedicated home office, but there are plenty of small things you can do to make your work from home experience more enjoyable and healthier. Some excellent items to facilitate this are:
- Greenery in your scenery.
- In addition to improving the air quality, adding indoor plants to your desktop can have a soothing effect and make your space feel calmer.
Get A Good Night’s Sleep
Every dietitian we spoke with mentioned the positive impact an adequate night’s sleep can have on one’s cortisol levels. Cortisol rises and falls based on our sleep cycles: it’s highest just after we wake up and lowest right before we hit the hay. So, it’s no surprise that sleep and cortisol levels are so heavily interconnected.
“Due to cortisol levels being linked to circadian rhythm, making sure you are getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night will help keep cortisol levels normal,” explains White. “This can also help keep the fat off.” According to Wake Forest researchers, people who sleep five hours or less put on two and a half times more belly fat, while those who sleep more than eight hours pack on slightly less than that.
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Why Reducing Your Cortisol Level Is Important
Its one thing when your cortisol surges over the course of an hour or soas the result, say, of a near miss on the roadway or from trying to stop a child from running into traffic here and there, its no big deal.
Problems begin when stress is constant everyday, and your sympathetic nervous system is always on. I call this being in a state of sympathetic overdrive.
Once you go into the overdrive state, the stress-related changes become inflammatory and can lead to arterial damage, atherosclerosis, and even heart attacks. In fact, a study published in the journal Stress reported that men who have heart attacks are likely to have elevated cortisol levels during the three months prior to their event.
Of course, heart disease isnt the only health concern associated with higher cortisol levels. The hormone has also been linked with metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, insomnia, suppressed immune function, weight gain and depression.
How Can You Avoid Stress
Stress is a fact of life for most people. You may not be able to get rid of stress, but you can look for ways to lower it.
You might try some of these ideas:
- Learn better ways to manage your time. You may get more done with less stress if you make a schedule. Think about which things are most important, and do those first.
- Find better ways to cope. Look at how you have been dealing with stress. Be honest about what works and what does not. Think about other things that might work better.
- Take good care of yourself. Get plenty of rest. Eat well. Don’t smoke. Limit how much alcohol you drink.
- Try out new ways of thinking. When you find yourself starting to worry, try to stop the thoughts. Or write down your worries and work on letting go of things you cannot change. Learn to say “no.”
- Speak up. Not being able to talk about your needs and concerns creates stress and can make negative feelings worse. Assertive communication can help you express how you feel in a thoughtful, tactful way.
- Ask for help. People who have a strong network of family and friends manage stress better.
Sometimes stress is just too much to handle alone. Talking to a friend or family member may help, but you may also want to see a counselor.
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Tips To Manage Stressful Situations
It might surprise you to learn that biological stress is a fairly recent discovery. It wasnt until the late 1950s that endocrinologist Hans Selye first identified and documented stress.
Symptoms of stress existed long before Selye, but his discoveries led to new research that has helped millions cope with stress. Weve compiled a list of the top 10 ways to relieve stress.
What Happens When You Are Stressed
Stress is what you feel when you have to handle more than you are used to. When you are stressed, your body responds as though you are in danger. It makes hormones that speed up your heart, make you breathe faster, and give you a burst of energy. This is called the fight-or-flight stress response.
Some stress is normal and even useful. Stress can help if you need to work hard or react quickly. For example, it can help you win a race or finish an important job on time.
But if stress happens too often or lasts too long, it can have bad effects. It can be linked to headaches, an upset stomach, back pain, and trouble sleeping. It can weaken your immune system, making it harder to fight off disease. If you already have a health problem, stress may make it worse. It can make you moody, tense, or depressed. Your relationships may suffer, and you may not do well at work or school.
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What Should I Do If Im Dealing With Extreme Stress
Sometimes the stressors in your life are very serious. Some examples of extremely stressful situations are: being in a serious accident being the victim of a crime or sexual abuse, or experiencing violence in your family life, including daily fighting, yelling, and hitting. These serious stressors can have lasting effects on the way your body and mind handle stress, and this can set you up for mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder .
Here are some resources for coping with extreme stress:
Quick Stress Relief At Work
Meetings. During stressful sessions, stay connected to your breath. Massage the tips of your fingers. Wiggle your toes. Sip coffee.
On the phone. Inhale something energizing, like lemon, ginger, peppermint. While talking, stand up or pace back and forth to burn off excess energy, or take calls outside when possible.
On the computer. Work standing up. Do knee-bends in 10-minute intervals. Suck on a peppermint. Sip tea.
Lunch breaks. Take a walk around the block or in the parking lot. Listen to soothing music while eating. Chat with a colleague.
Your workspace. Place family photos on your desk or mementos that remind you of your life outside the office.
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How To Reduce Stress
This article was co-authored by Trudi Griffin, LPC, MS. Trudi Griffin is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Wisconsin specializing in Addictions and Mental Health. She provides therapy to people who struggle with addictions, mental health, and trauma in community health settings and private practice. She received her MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Marquette University in 2011.There are 21 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article received 15 testimonials and 87% of readers who voted found it helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 665,914 times.
What Happens To My Body When I Experience Stress
People react differently to stress. Some common symptoms of stress include sleeping problems, sweating or a change in appetite.6,7
Symptoms like these are triggered by a rush of stress hormones in your body which, when released, allow you to deal with pressures or threats. This is known as the ‘fight or flight’ response.
Hormones called adrenaline and noradrenaline raise your blood pressure, increase your heart rate and increase the rate at which you perspire. This prepares your body for an emergency response.8 These hormones can also reduce blood flow to your skin and reduce your stomach activity. Cortisol, another stress hormone, releases fat and sugar into your system to boost your energy.9
As a result, you may experience headaches, muscle tension, pain, nausea, indigestion and dizziness. You may also breathe more quickly, have palpitations or suffer from various aches and pains. In the long-term, you may be putting yourself at risk from heart attacks and stroke.10
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Focus On Just Two To Three Stressors At A Time
You cannot deal with everything or everyone in your life that makes you feel stressed. Instead, focus on just two or three main stressors at a time.
If you use a stress diary, or a tool like our quiz Whats Stressing You Out?, it is easy to identify the most common and/or most stressful situations in your life. You can then start to work out what you can do to resolve them.
Once you have sorted your top stressors, you can then move onto lesser stressors.
Look After Yourself Physically
When you are physically fit and well, it is much easier to cope with stress.
When you become stressed, it is harder to motivate yourself to care about what you eat, or whether you exercise. However, not doing so can also make you more stressed. Get into good habits while your stress levels are fairly low, and you may find that they never go up again. These good habits include:
Taking regular exercise
Stressful situations increase the level of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol in your body.
These are the fight or flight hormones that evolution has hard-wired into our brains and which are designed to protect us from immediate bodily harm when we are under threat. However, stress in the modern age is rarely remedied by a fight or flight response. Physical exercise can be used as a surrogate to metabolise the excessive stress hormones and restore your body and mind to a calmer, more relaxed state.
Try to incorporate some physical activity into your daily routine on a regular basis, either before or after work, or at lunchtime. Regular physical activity will also improve the quality of your sleep.
You can assess your levels of daytime sleepiness with the Epworth Sleepiness Scale.
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Other Types Of Relaxation Techniques
Many de-stressing therapies have common goals. They aim to help you pay attention to your body and focus on aspects of your breathing or other exercises that will lower your blood pressure and increase feelings of well-being. You can try:
- Biofeedback, which measures body functions and helps you learn to control them.
- Self-hypnosis, in which a practitioner teaches you to relax when you hear a phrase or get a nonspoken cue.
- Massage therapy, which can include Swedish, sports, Shiatsu, or other types of massage.
- Music therapy, when a therapist uses music to accomplish health goals.
- Art therapy, which uses art to enhance your physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
- Aromatherapy, or using essential oils as a type of treatment.
- Hydrotherapy, which can include soaking, compresses, or even steam baths.
While relaxation practices are mostly safe for heathy people, there have been reports of negative impacts, such as increased stress, bad thoughts, or a fear of losing control. Talk to your doctor about what practice might be best for you, depending on the relaxation technique you want to try and your health.