When you feel stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol, which relates to your overall health.
Our bodies have adapted and evolved to be able to handle the stresses of everyday life. However, even as evolved as we are, our brain cannot tell the difference between good (beneficial) stress or bad (harmful) stress.
Good stress might arise from getting promoted at work, or moving into a larger home with more room for your family.
Bad stress, on the other hand, might arise from constant worry about your financial situation, or chronic health problems and pain.
In each situation, when the body feels stressed, a message is sent to the brain to release the hormone, cortisol, which is the 'fight or flight' hormone that enables you to spring into action.
What is interesting is that in a situation where stress occurs, but a goal or the desired outcome is attained, the brain recognises this and cortisol stops being released. The body naturally reduces the amount of the hormone in the blood as it is filtered through the kidneys.
When stress occurs without a resolution, the level of cortisol builds up in the blood, causing all manner of ill health symptoms.
There are a host of negative mental and physical symptoms tied into having too much continuous cortisol in your blood. Unchecked amounts of cortisol have been clinically linked to depression, anxiety, memory loss, learning difficulties, and weakening of the immune system.
However, there are many things you can do to lessen the effects of cortisol and live a healthier life. The greatest weapon against stress is your ability to choose one thought over another
Physical activity, even a moderate amount, such as 20 minutes each day is a highly recommended way to reduce stress, and in turn, reduce cortisol levels.
Meditation, yoga, and practicing mindfulness all rank high as cortisol-busters. However, other things such as simply being social, laughing, practicing an enjoyable activity, and listening to or playing relaxing and enjoyable music also greatly benefit people in the war against stress.
While it’s not difficult to control cortisol by controlling stress, you do have to be conscious of your stressful feelings, and be ready to combat them using relaxation techniques and exercise.
Left unchecked, constant stress will leave your cortisol levels too high, and your mind and body, both inside and out, will suffer for it.
So stop, take a deep breath, and set your sights on a healthier you.
Shanti Gowans is the globally recognised author and founder of Shanti Yoga™, Meditation and Ayurveda for the self, family and community.
Shantiji has brought the concepts and practices of a healthy body and a still mind to thousands of Australians through her Yoga and Meditation programs on national television... Read more about Shantiji's biography
Travel with Shanti & Peter Gowans this November for a trip of a lifetime.