Stress hormones. What are they? How can we reduce them?
The human body is complicated. It’s filled with complex machinations that not even the best researchers and technologies of today can figure out or analyze. Fortunately, our topic of discussion for today is something that modern science has been able to shed some light on.
You’ve no doubt heard of them, perhaps not in name but in fleeting lessons at school. If not, then it’s safe to say that you’ve experienced them wrecking havoc inside of your body at least once or twice. It’s a perfectly normal thing - instinctive even.
When we manage to get ourselves into high-stress situations the body’s response is immediate. The following will describe all there is to know about Stress Hormones. What are they? And what can we can do to keep away from them?
WHAT ARE STRESS HORMONES?
Stress hormones are exactly that. They’re the hormones in our bodies that regulate stress. Much like other hormones, they serve as messengers to the brain to keep us alert and able to deal with everyday life. Of course, it’s not always just about the bad things, stress hormones are related to other things as well. These processes include reproduction, metabolism, and even the regulation of energy.
If you haven’t already guessed by now, we’ve been referring to multiple stress hormones. There’s a couple of types, each of them different in their own unique way.
Adrenaline: This one is the easiest to explain. You’ve no doubt heard the term used before, especially if you fancy the occasional sport. It’s something that is covered in school as well. It’s the fight or flight hormone. Basically, it’s the hormone that is produced after a physically dangerous situations arises.
It’s a very tangible reaction. You’ll be able to see the changes happening before your very eyes, or at least feel as it works through your body. You’ll probably sweat a little, breathe a little faster, begin to stiffen up, etc. It prepares you to strike or flee, setting your body aflame.
Norepinephrine: The Huffington Post more than adequately describes the job of norepinephrine in this article. It’s a backup, just something to help push your body a little more. A helper to adrenaline.
It’s also in charge of making sure that your body is focusing on the “important” stuff. Keeping it taut and ready to react. This means that it shuts down certain bodily functions as well. Which, although helpful at the time, might prove to be concerning later. Especially when the hormone is steadily produced.
Cortisol: It’s not as a largely covered as adrenaline, but it should be. It’s commonly referred to as the stress hormone. It’s very important for survival, but also incredibly damaging to your body and mind. This isn’t the kind of stuff that you want your body producing all day. We’ll talk more about why later.
HOW DO THEY WORK?
It’s an autonomic reaction, it happens without our say so, and it happens fast. The Harvard Health Medical Publishing describes the process in detail on their blog. If we were to summarize their findings, it would go a little something like this...
We start at the stimuli. It’s the sound that wakes you up in the middle of the night, it’s the fight that happens between you and someone you care about, it’s the realization that you had made a big mistake at work, etc.
Your senses take in this stimulus and figure out the immediate danger. It’s a complex process that involves a large part of the brain. It’s what gets your heart pumping, your blood rushing through your veins, gulps up air desperately filling your lungs, etc.
WHAT DOES IT DO?
All of this happens in an instant. It sounds magical. It’s the flight or fight response that keeps us safe from harm, to be able to do what needs to be done to survive. It’s definitely very interesting - if you’re into stuff like that. However, it can also cause a great deal of damage to your body.
According to the Mayo Clinic, people who deal with chronic stress are more likely to experience health problems. These can include “...high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.”
These kind of complications are common and could lead to other problems as well. Sometimes even visual ones, like the lack of sexual energy, the inability to sleep, acne, etc.
HOW TO REDUCE STRESS
There’s a bunch of ways that you can get your body back into working order. However, the concept of it all remains pretty much the same. In order to reduce stress, you’re going to have to find a way to shut down the production of cortisol.
But… how do you shut down something autonomic? Well, it’s actually a lot simpler than it sounds. All you have to do is replace the existing stimuli with something else. Of course, it would be better to make sure to choose something that is good for you.
There are tons of substances out there that can make your problems go away. However, if you want the change to be permanent, then you can’t rely on things like alcohol or cigarette. Those kind of things make stress more likely to accumulate over time. Here are just a couple of things that you can try to keep your stress levels low.
Exercise: In the case of exercise, it’s a bit a weird situation. Exercise does incite its own set of stress hormones. More specifically, adrenaline. It keeps your muscles active and your feet racing against the ground. However, it’s not in a harmful way. It’s a natural high that will make your body feel bursting with energy - despite the physical exhaustion.
Sleep: One of the thing stress tends to affect the most, is sleep. People who deal with chronic stress have problems sleeping, which only causes even more stress. Try to find something that will help you sleep. Light a candle, listen to some music, or activate your happy hormones by cuddling or wrapping yourself in weighted blankets.