“THINK HAPPY THOUGHTS” 

If your mental well-being is not incentive enough to practice this motto, some science may convince you that it’s at least worth an attempt for your physical appearance.  How you think may affect how you look. A positive outlook can help your body evade over-secreting stress hormones like cortisol which can take a toll on your figure.

POWER OF MIND OVER BODY?

When you stress, your mind alerts your body to react as if it is being threatened. Starting at the site of the hypothalamus in your brain, a cascade of metabolic events is triggered.  The anterior pituitary gland releases ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) which causes the adrenal cortex to produce higher than normal quantities of the “stress” hormone cortisol.

Chemical Structure of Cortisol

WHY IS CORTISOL REFERRED TO AS A “STRESS” HORMONE? 

During physical or psychological stress, your muscles thirst energy and cortisol helps to deliver it in the form of glucose to the overtaxed tissues. Cortisol mobilizes non-carbohydrate reserves of protein and fat by increasing the rate of gluconeogenesis which converts amino acids and triglycerides (building blocks of protein and fat) into usable energy.

WHY IS TOO MUCH CORTISOL BAD ?

Chronic high levels of cortisol can lead to:

1. Weight Gain

When the adrenal glands chronically secrete more of the hormone than needed, adipocyte growth is over-stimulated, leading to enlarged fat cells.

2. Belly Fat

Body fat is categorized as visceral or subcutaneous. Subcutaneous describes fat beneath the skin surface and visceral refers to deep abdominal adipose tissue. Since there are more visceral cortisol receptors, when cortisol mobilizes triyglyerdes from fat reserves it deposits it more readily in the belly. Thus, added stress is often correlated to added pounds in tummy.

3. Acne

Although cortisol has anti-inflammatory properties, when secreted in high levels over an extended period, it can have the adverse effect. The immune system becomes suppressed and inflammation exacerbates. Oil glands are over-stimulated which can result in clogged pores and breakouts.

TIPS ON HOW TO REDUCE STRESS & MAINTAIN LOW CORTISOL LEVELS:

1. Retrain your brain

Practice positive thinking. When you catch yourself fixating on situations that you can’t control or negative thoughts- actively steer your mind in a constructive direction.

2. Take a break

If you reach a plateau in work productivity and can’t concentrate anymore, instead of getting all frustrated-simply take a break. Go for a walk or switch tasks and return to it later. This is a healthy practice for your mind and will increase your efficiency.

3. Live in the present moment

Don’t dwell on the past or think too far into the future. This can flip your mind into a state of panic. Enjoy the present moment and don’t try to solve all your problems in one day.

4. Exercise & Switch it up

Working out is a great stress reliever and should be fun. Try to workout on a regular basis and switch up your routine so that it is something you look forward to and not a laborious task. Maybe try alternating between gym, outdoors and group classes to maintain variety. Incorporate mind & body approaches to fitness like yoga or pilates.

5. Healthy diet

6. Minimize caffeine intake

7. Get sleep

8. Not all on you

If you are overwhelmed- don’t bottle it up. It is cathartic to have a support system. Whether you seek solace in talking to a friend, family member, in religious faith or seeking professional help- do whatever best suits you.