Stress, Cortisol and Immunity
by Dr. Gabrielle Francis
Wow! I know, this is all seems unreal. But here we are on this unexpected adventure so let’s figure out how to navigate it with some Serenity and Sanity.
It seems relevant to talk about Stress, Cortisol and Immunity. And if you stay with me until the end of this letter…. we will get to the Fun Part, which is, what we can do about it! I am going to keep offering you nuggets of empowering things that you can do to navigate the situation we are currently in with Grace.
Shall we talk about Good Stress first?
GOOD STRESS (AKA Eustress)
Did you even know that there was such a thing as Good Stress, Eustress? Well there is and it is actually necessary for human survival and growth. Good stress is invoked by the situations and things that challenge us to strive, change and grow. Good stress is defined by the condition that the Gap between what one wants and what ones has is slightly pushed. This fosters challenge and motivation for a goal that is in sight.
Some things that cause good Stress are a new career or job, an exercise program and fitness goals, new relationships, travel, and learning something new either in school or on your own. We can all relate to the times when we were excited and challenged!
Here are some of the Benefits of Good Stress:
- Stimulates the Immune System
- Enhances Neuroplasticity, or new brain connections
- Learn new skills
- Physical Fitness
- Increases well-being hormones such as: Endorphins, Dopamine, Adrenaline
- Gives feelings of hope, satisfaction, purpose and meaning
The most important factor in determining GOOD STRESS is your Perception of the events significance in your life and the ability to manage it and feel in control. That is, that if you feel in control of the situation and that it is manageable then this is a stressor that is Positive and will help you to grow.
Which leads me to the next topic being Distress, or Bad Stress.
BAD STRESS (AKA Distress)
Distress is the Mental, Emotional, or Physical Strain or Tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. Stress is created when….
- WE Can’t Predict outcome
- Can’t Control situation
- Perception of threat or danger
- Feeling that something is going to get worse
Sound Familiar???? I know!
Stay with me, People….
We are going to learn solutions too!
THINGS THAT CAUSE DISTRESS:
- Environmental Toxins
- Poor Diet
- Blood Sugar Imbalances
- Tragedy or Loss
- Financial Problems
All these things can lead to a state where our Brain and Body go out of balance or homeostasis.
CORTISOL, STRESS RESPONSE and IMMUNITY
The Stress Response in the body is regulated by our Adrenal Glands and Nervous systems. The alarm goes off, signaling the body to mobilize Cortisol and Epinephrine, our stress hormones. They are coming to the rescue to give us focus, attention, action, and the ability to take control of the situation. These are our “fight or flight” hormones. We are wired to have a short-term surge of “fight or flight” and then for the body to relax, restore and regenerate. This regenerating reset is called the “rest and digest” phase. So, there is a natural dance between Stress and Action followed by Relaxation and Resetting.
Well, that’s great! But what happens when the Stress continues and there is no sign of things letting up? Like the situation we are in now? It seems as if there is no clarity, no specific answers, and that the situation can continue for a very long time to affect some us adversely in the realm of health, finances, social interactions and so much more.
When the stress continues and we don’t see an end in sight, we continue to secret Cortisol and Adrenaline. The long-term effect of stress will begin to deplete our emergency reserves and suppress our immunity.
High Cortisol can suppress and weaken our immune systems.
So that, of course, makes it more concerning…right now.
OK, Don’t Panic…. Now for some good news!
BAD STRESS can be turned into GOOD STRESS
by changing our perception of it.
STRESS and CORTISOL REDUCING TOOLKIT:
THINGS that LOWER CORTISOL: (Try to incorporate 1 or 2 of these into your life every day)
- Gentle Exercise
- Diets high in Protein and Fat and low in Sugar and Simple Carbs
- Bonding with people you like or love
- Playing with animals/pets
- Listening to music that you love
- Walking in nature or sitting in nature
- Massage: We may have to hold off on that one for now! Or massage each other at home!
- Sleep 8 hours per night
- Watching funny or heartwarming movies
THOUGHTS and BEHAVIORS that EMPOWER and LOWER CORTISOL:
- Doing something kind for someone in need
- Focus on the positive lifestyle things that you are already doing such as eating a healthy diet, taking supplements, exercising, etc.…
Give yourself some credit and watch the cortisol drop.
- Educating yourself on the ways you can keep Safe
- Using the time on hand to Spring Clean, learn something new, and catch up on some of your favorite hobbies
- Spend time with your loved ones either in person or on the phone just listening and showing love and caring
- Reflect on the Opportunity that this time of crisis has to bring Transformation to you and your family…by helping to restore a sense of purpose and priority to your life.
- Listen to and Love your family and friends
- Make a list of all the things you are grateful for right now and read it every day!
- Reconnect to your spirituality, or that which makes you want to be a better person.
This is the foundation that allows healing to take place.
SUPPLEMENTS and HERBS that LOWER CORTISOL and STRESS:
- Ashwagandha and Magnolia (Cortisol Manager)
- Theanine (Gabatrex, Calm G)
- CBD Hemp Oil Capsules and Tinctures
- 5-HTP (Serotrex, Serene, Travacor)
- Passion Flower, Lemon Balm, Holy Basil,
- Flower Essences (Lotus Wei)
- Rescue Remedy (Bach Flower Remedy)
- Epsom Salt and Sea Salt Baths
- Essential Oils such as Lavender, Ylang Ylang, Rose, Basil
So, as you can see, there are so many ways that we can and already are able to reduce Stress and Cortisol by changing our perceptions, behaviors and lifestyles. That’s right. A lot of you are already doing many of these things. It’s OK to feel great about yourself!
This in turn will help you to feel empowered and proactive. We can turn our adversity into our opportunity for healing. This is the best thing that you do for your immune system.
You got this!
Dr. Gabrielle Francis is a Naturopathic Doctor, Acupuncturist, and Chiropractor in New York City.