According to scientists, the key to preventing a host of stress-related ailments lies in simply controlling the hormone cortisol.
Have you ever forgotten where you left your keys while rushing out the door or grabbed for the bag of M&M’s when faced with a rapidly approaching deadline? If so, you may have been under the spell of cortisol—a fight-or-flight hormone that has recently been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, memory loss and weight gain.
In a Yale University study, researchers monitored the cortisol levels of 60 women performing high-stress tasks. Afterward, the subjects were offered snacks ranging from fruit to potato chips. Not surprisingly, the women with high levels of cortisol munched on the high-fat treats, while those with lower levels opted for healthier foods.
An additional study at the University of California at Irvine found that cortisol inhibits memory. Researchers say the effect peaks 30 minutes after the initial stressful surge and can last for up to four hours. Fortunately, it is possible to control cortisol before it begins to control you. Just follow these scientifically proven techniques.
1. Lighten things up.
British researches have found that fluorescent lighting will spur the production of cortisol, while exposure to sunlight can break the cycle. If you can’t get outside, try the new full-spectrum light bulb that mimic natural light.
2. Laugh out loud.
Scientists have discovered that humor can lower cortisol levels. Read cartoons, watch funny movies or call a good friend who can always make you laugh.
3. Get a massage.
Massage can restrict the release of cortisol. Try to find a spa service near your area. It doesn’t have to be in a luxurious spa. Try to find massage school near your area. A student massage should cost you far less than your regular spa spending.
4. Burn it off.
Doctors say that using up nervous energy is another great way to lower levels of cortisol. Go for a walk, head to the gym or simply punch pillows to “lighten your load.”