Guest writer for Wake Up World
We all know stress is bad for us, yet many of us wear it like a badge of honor. See if this sounds familiar:
Dude: “OMG, I’m so stressed out! I’m working 14 hour days and haven’t used my vacation days for two years now, but hey – sometimes you just gotta keep your eye on the prize, right? Hey, you still seeing that guy?”
Dudette: “Nah. We tried to make it work, but it was such a headache. Relationships are just too stressful. Plus, who has time for a relationship when you’re on a deadline and you’ve got the boss lady to impress?” You know the drill.
Many of us are stress addicts. We claim to want inner peace, but if life gets too peaceful, we go seeking our next hit of our drugs of choice – cortisol and epinephrine. It’s almost as if being stressed makes us feel important, valuable, and useful. What we forget is that we’re already worthy souls deserving of love and a sense of worth, simply because we are all little sparks of divinity, shining our lights on the planet.
Why Should We Avoid Stress?
Our bodies know how to heal themselves. In my new book Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself, I share boatloads of data about the placebo effect, which provides concrete proof that the body is equipped with natural self-repair mechanisms that are under the control of our brilliant minds.
Our bodies know how to fix broken proteins, kill cancer cells, retard aging, and fight infection. They even know how to heal ulcers, make skin lesions disappear and knit together broken bones!
But here’s the kicker – those natural self-repair mechanisms don’t work if you’re stressed! No wonder Dude and Dudette wind up sick or injured!
10 Signs You Have WAY Too Much Cortisol
So how do you know if you’re a stress addict? Here are 10 signs that you’ve made cortisol your drug of choice.
1. You’re not sleeping well.
Cortisol levels are supposed to drop at nighttime, allowing your body to relax and recharge. But if your cortisol levels are too high, you might notice that, even if you’ve been tired all day, you get a second wind right around bedtime. Then you toss and turn all night – and feel tired again the next day.
2. Even when you sleep well, you’re still tired.
Over time, high levels of cortisol deplete the adrenal glands and predispose you to chronic fatigue. So if you feel like your get up and go got up and went, you’re probably stressed.
3. You’re gaining weight, especially around your abdomen, even when you eat well and exercise.
Cortisol tends to make you thick around the middle, even when you’re doing everything “right.”
4. You catch colds and other infections easily.
Cortisol deactivates your body’s natural self-repair mechanisms, which means that your immune system which is perfectly designed by nature to keep you healthy goes caput, leaving you vulnerable to every cootie you encounter.
5. You crave unhealthy foods.
Cortisol raises your blood sugar, putting you at risk of diabetes. High glucose levels then bump up your insulin levels, which then drop your blood sugar – and all of a sudden – yes, you guessed it – you’re struck with wild cravings for Twinkies.
6. You experience backaches and headaches.
When your cortisol levels are high over a long period of time, your adrenal glands start to get depleted. This raises prolactin levels, increasing the body’s sensitivity to pain, such as backaches and muscle aches. Excessive cortisol also hypersensitizes the brain to pain, such that even the slightest twinge can excite the nerves of the brain, causing headaches.
7. Your sex drive is in the crapper.
Consider cortisol the anti-Viagra. When stress hormones are high, libido-inducing hormones like testosterone drop and voila… nothing.
8. Your gut acts up.
Your gastrointestinal system is very sensitive to stress hormones like cortisol. You might experience nausea, heartburn, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, or constipation as a result of too many stress hormones.
9. You feel anxious.
Cortisol and epinephrine can lead to jitters, nervous stomach, feelings of panic, even paranoia.
10. You feel blue.
High levels of cortisol suppress production of serotonin, and next thing you know, you’re awash in doom and gloom.
When your cortisol levels are bumped up, day after day, your adrenal glands, responsible for the production of cortisol, get pooped. Precursor hormones required for cortisol production get depleted. And boom – you’re looking at full blown adrenal collapse. (Read more about adrenal fatigue here).
Write Your Own Prescription
Ready to go to rehab for your cortisol addiction? Check out my follow up article: 10 Fun Ways To Reduce Your Cortisol Levels.
You can also learn more about how to reduce stress responses, increase relaxation responses, make your own Diagnosis, write your own Prescription, and implement the 6 Steps to Healing Yourself at LissaRankin.com or in my book Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself.
Are You Stressed?
Tell us how you measured up in the comments below?
Trying to relax,
Previous articles by Lissa
- 8 Ways Overcoming Fear Can Improve Your Health
- 10 Fun Ways to Reduce Your Cortisol Levels
- 6 Stories To Make You Believe In The Power Of The Mind To Heal You
- Why Engaging In Work You Love Could Save Your Life
- The Health Benefits Of Finding Your Tribe
- 7 Tips For Finding Your Tribe
About the author
Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and health care providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself. She is on a grass roots mission to heal health care, while empowering you to heal yourself.
Lissa blogs at LissaRankin.com and also created two online communities – HealHealthCareNow.com and OwningPink.com. She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.