Are you a stress addict? You may not even realize that you’re chronically stressed out, what with the job and the kids and the errands and all your social obligations. Stress is everywhere and with it comes the stress hormone, cortisol. Way back in ancient times, cortisol evolved to help us survive by telling us to run away when a tiger was chasing us and give us the boost of energy we needed to hunt our own food. However, nowadays we use cortisol way more than we are meant to and it’s causing some seriously negative side effects. Here are some signs that you are chronically stressed and producing too much cortisol. And if these apply to you, it’s time to slow down, take a break and chill out so that you can live a happier, healthier life.
- You feel anxious. If anxiety creeps up out of nowhere and catches you by surprise on a regular basis, you may be chronically stressed out. You shouldn’t feel anxious while you’re doing something relatively mundane and stress-free like eating dinner or watching TV. Too much cortisol and epinephrine in your system can lead to a constant or recurring feeling of the jitters, butterflies in your stomach, panicky feelings and paranoia even when there are no apparent stress triggers present.
- You feel blue. High levels of cortisol actually suppress the production of serotonin, the happiness brain chemical (aka neurotransmitter). Since it didn’t do our caveman ancestors any good to feel happy when running away from that saber tooth tiger, the energy that it takes to secrete that happy chemical was conserved for more pressing matters. However, nowadays, many people tend to experience stress so regularly, that serotonin doesn’t have much opportunity to be released and the result can be chronic depression.
- Your sex drive is in low gear (or turned off). Again, since no one should try to reproduce while running from a bear, cortisol suppresses any body functions that aren’t necessary to immediate survival, so things like reproduction get put on the back burner until the threat, or stressor, is removed. When you’re stressed for long periods of time, levels of sex hormones like testosterone drop to nearly nothing and your interest in intimacy dissolves.
- You crave unhealthy foods. When in the state of cortisol-induced survival mode, one of the best ways to ensure survival is to eat. And the foods that give your body the fastest charge of energy are sugary carbs like donuts and cookies. In order to give your body this signal to eat, cortisol raises blood sugar which is then suppressed by insulin causing a crash in blood sugar which sends you into a feeding frenzy on every kind of food you know you should avoid.
Always consult your chiropractor or primary care physician for all your health related advice.
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