Can your body tell you more about how you’re doing managing stress? Our biochemistry is telling us yes.
You’ve probably heard cortisol referred to as the “stress hormone.” Your adrenal glands make cortisol in an attempt to help your body handle stressful situations. While a little spike of cortisol is good in response to short-term stressors, it starts to become a problem when the body starts making too much, too often. High cortisol is an overreaction to chronic stress. This can lead to a number of unhealthy issues.
We often talk about how to #OwnYourHealth as it relates to nutrition and fitness, your metabolism or heart health – but owning your mental health is also part of the overall picture, as your body is a system of many parts working together.
You can take control of stress today. Prevent it from controlling you by empowering yourself with a preventive stance on your overall health. For this installment in our Own Your Health series, we asked Marc Fernandez, co-founder of The HumanBluPrint, and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, to share some tools and information that can help with stress management and hopefully lowering those cortisol spikes. Take it away, Marc!
How to Own Your Stress: Try Practicing Mindfulness
1. What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the state of being conscious of a particular thing.
2. How is it practiced?
Mindfulness is practiced by setting an intention to allow a time and space to be conscious of thoughts, feelings, and sensations.
3. How does the practice of mindfulness help to let go of negative thoughts?
The practice of mindfulness actually helps people learn how to express gratitude towards what they have, ultimately leading to an acceptance of “negative” thoughts. This shift in perception towards these “negative” thoughts allows someone to be more comfortable with themselves.
4. Can it help you “banish” negative thoughts all together?
Not necessarily. It can help you reframe “negative” thoughts which can train you to effectively suppress those thoughts in healthy manners. External stimulus which a person has little to no control over can always trigger negative thoughts to resurface.
5. What does neuroscience research show about how mindfulness and meditation practice change the brain?
Some of the more compelling research I’ve read comes from Harvard neuroscientist Sara Lazar. A widely circulated research study from 2014, “Change in Brainstorm Gray Matter Concentration Following a Mindfulness-Based Intervention is Correlated with Improvement in Psychological Well-Being” showed that after the 8 week mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention, there was a significant increase in grey matter of participant’s hippocampus; brain area associated with introspection and compassion. There were also reductions in grey matter in participant’s amygdalae; our more primal section of the brain that deals with fight or flight (fear response).
6. Do you have some practical mindfulness exercises to let go of negative or looping thoughts?
- Counting to 10 with each inhale (odd number), each exhale (even number), then start back from 1. Doing this helps a person ground themselves with the task of counting as opposed to fleeting or “negative” thoughts. When beginners try to only focus on their breathe, I’ve found through my workshops that it’s difficult for many to ground themselves to their breathe at first.
- Yoga + explore if you have an interest in learning about the human body. Learning about the physiological happenings (even on a novice level) during yoga gives you an amazingly fresh and new perspective of the practice and allow your thoughts to be grounded on your physiology. Anatomy of Yoga is a great book for this.
- My favorite mindfulness app that I recommend I clients when appropriate is Head Space.
How WellnessFX Can Help
Many WellnessFX panels offered can test cortisol, the key biomarker mentioned in this post. Check the full testing menu to see what package fits your needs best.
This blog post is part of our Own Your Health series. We’ll be sharing tips and thoughts on wellness that are actionable and easy to bring into your everyday life.
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About Marc Fernandez
Marc Fernandez, co-founder of The HumanBluPrint. Marc Fernandez is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist working in many different capacities in public service as well as in private practice. He is an avid long-distance runner and triathlete. Read more of Marc’s topics on WellnessFX with, “Feel an Argument Coming On? Here are 4 Ways to Help Manage Physiological Arousal”
TheHumanBluPrint’s mission is to provide cutting edge health and wellness information meant to help health-conscious people tap into their maximum potential. Expertise in bioscience research and relationship dynamics, backed by years of experience, drive the forward-thinking ideals of TheHumanBluPrint. Continuous self-discovery of how the human body functions and responds on a biological, psychological, social and spiritual level helps one self-tailor the implementation of information available in the world of health and wellness.
The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.