The elevated cortisol levels coupled with chronic stress have devastating effects on mental health ranging from an increased risk for depression, mental illness, and even early death. According to one study, an increase in cortisol levels is also linked to a response to fear or stress by the adrenal glands as part of the fight-or-flight mechanism.
Stress can be broadly classified as eustress and distress. Eustress is also known as “good” stress and distress, as the name suggests, is also known as “bad” stress. Eustress is all about “carpe diem” and makes you feel full of energy and the cortisol levels get back to normal once the task causing eustress is over. On the other hand, distress causes problems in providing a way out for the cortisol leading to impaired fight-or-flight mechanism.
Both eustress and distress cause the release of cortisol as a part of the fight-or-flight mechanism. In other words, once the adrenal glands are triggered to release cortisol, your body readies itself for action and such action needs a physical release; fight or flight. In case of not taking any action, the levels of cortisol, in the blood, dramatically rise resulting in possible irreversible damage to your body. This shows how a system built for your own protect backfiring against you and causing significant damage to you physically and mentally.
So how do we fightback this silent killer?
Fortunately, a few tweaks to your lifestyle can help you to keep cortisol levels in check.
As mentioned earlier, fear causes an elevation in cortisol levels. Work on your self-confidence, and courage.
Recreating a fight response by kicking and throwing punches at a sandbag is one great way to bring down cortisol levels. On the other hand, aerobic or cardio activities such as jogging, running, etc help in recreating flight response and help in decreasing the cortisol levels.
Yoga and meditation is a great way to gain control over your anxiety. Taking deep breaths helps you calm your nerves down and slow down the heart rate and lower your blood pressure. Spare 15-20 minutes every day for meditation to keep yourself calm and composed. This, certainly, will have a positive impact on your health by reducing the cortisol levels.