Though most people hear “hormones” and think reproduction – estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone – there is another root-cause hormone causing mass hysteria in your body.
Your body naturally produces cortisol in response to perceived stressors, telling you to either fight the danger or flee for preservation. The problem arises when you consistently experience perceived stress throughout the day and don’t give your body the self-care that it needs. Compounded stress over time has negative health implications.
Our modern life sets the stage for frequent bouts of stress brought on from everything we encounter: social media, work, never-ending to-do lists, and environmental pollutants. Activated stress responses in the body often are triggered by lifestyle choices that tip us into imbalance, like inconsistent sleep schedules, poor nutrition, and limited social connections.
This leads us into the chronic stress realm. It activates the HPA-Axis and sets our survival system into overdrive, leading us into a vicious cycle of feedback from stress and allows damaging effects to have a domino effect in our bodies.
How does this happen? The adrenal glands are the primary effector of our stress-response mechanism. The HPA Axis – the communication center from hypothalamus to pituitary to adrenals – allows the brain to rapidly respond to any perceived stressors. When the HPA Axis activates, this causes a release of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine throughout the body. Too much cortisol sends this system into overdrive and it simply cannot keep up.
If this disregulation is not addressed pronto, you can set yourself up for long-term failure. Recognizing that stress – cortisol – is not a fuel source and understanding that you need to manage your stress are the first to steps to getting your hormones back under control, including your reproductive and metabolic hormones.
Consider the following from the journal Hormones in 2009:
“Chronic stress can lead to overeating, co-elevation of cortisol and insulin, and suppression of certain anabolic hormones. This state of metabolic stress in turn promotes abdominal visceral fat. Both the direct stress response and the accumulation of visceral fat can promote a milieu of systemic inflammation and oxidative stress.”
Since the root cause is usually a deregulated HPA-axis, the key is to reset it, starting with cortisol. Any other attempts at fixing hormones in the body will likely fail in the long-term if the wayward HPA is not addressed.
Here are my favorite ways to balance the HPA-axis and cortisol to get your hormonal levels back on track:
#1 – Speed Dial Your Bestie
Having your bestie ready to talk you through life’s stressors can be a great way to keep your hormones from going over that ledge. Be honest. Be real. And be diligent about airing out what bothers you rather than bottling it up.
#2 – Massage Away the Stress
If you don’t have a self-care routine that includes a little massage, it’s time to invest in yourself. Whether you buy a shiatsu back massager online and plug it in while you unwind, enlist the help of a partner for hand-to-skin relaxation, or treat yourself to a spa-sational experience, massage can help send those relaxation messages to your brain so that cortisol lowers naturally. This is a once- or twice-a-month self-care essential!
#3 – Drink Green Tea Instead of Coffee
Or alcohol. Or caffeine boosters. The L-theanine in green tea is an amino acid that helps reduce the stress in your body naturally. Let nature work its magic, especially when you combine your green tea with calming tunes or other self-care cures. Looking for some great Matcha recipes? Check out how to superpower your smoothie and how to get the most from green smoothies with matcha!
#4 – Use Essential Oil Rollerballs
Essential oils can help support your body and bridge the gap to getting your true self back in action, the one who isn’t hammered down by the weight of stress. For details on other essential oils that help you rebalance cortisol levels, check out my blog 7 Essential Oils to Take You from Stress to Zen.
Here is my top secret sauce recipe for reducing stress when it threatens your day.
Instant Stress Tamer Rollerball Blend
8 drops Cedarwood essential oil
7 drops Frankincense essential oil
7 drops Clary Sage essential oil
3 drops Turmeric essential oil
5 drops Bergamot essential oil
To a 10 mL glass rollerball bottle, add the essential oils and top off with a carrier oil of your choice. Replace top, cap, and swirl to combine. To use, apply on the back of your neck, temples, wrists and mastoids, and behind the ears whenever stress threatens to derail your day. Note: This is a powerful mood reset blend, so be ready for stress-relief, mood balance, and emotional release!
#5 – Schedule Your Sleep
I realize how ridiculous this sounds, but it is time to make sleep a priority. If you don’t tell yourself to go to bed, you might get caught in front of the television, or drinking another glass of wine, or binge-eating a late-night sugary snack. You also need to sleep in regular intervals so that your body knows when to expect some rest. Cortisol levels depend on regular, restful sleep, so helping your body know when it will get its respite is essential. If you want the particulars on sleep, check out my blog series Sleeping for Your Hormones.
Essential oils can also help you find the calm in your evening, so try this Deep Sleep Spray to prepare your environment for a restful night. And if you have to set an alarm on your smartphone that says “SLEEP!,” do it!
Deep Sleep Spray
10 drops Lavender essential oil
10 drops Cedarwood essential oil
Distilled water or Witch Hazel (evaporates quicker)
To a 2 oz. glass spray bottle, add water or witch hazel and then add essential oils. Replace spray top, shake, and spritz on pillows, comforters, and around your bedroom to promote restful sleep.