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The good, the bad and…the Cortisol

The good, the bad and…the Cortisol

Cortisol is one of the steroid hormones and it is made in the adrenal glands. Secretion of the hormone is controlled by the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland and the adrenal gland. In a nutshell, Cortisol it’s notably known to be the “the stress hormone” that’s for a good reason indeed.

The cortisol, once released, can be received by most of the bodily cells, so it can affect many different functions in the body.

Cortisol can do really a lot of positive things to our body, such as:

-helping control blood sugar levels

-regulating metabolism

-reducing inflammation

-and much more…

In women, cortisol also supports the developing fetus during pregnancy. If so, why cortisol is commonly considered as “bad” and often included among the stress response biomarkers?

All of its functions make cortisol a crucial hormone to protect overall health and well-being under normal circumstances, that’s really true.

On the other side, our lifestyle and daily demands are constantly altering or unbalancing the cortisol levels in our system, and here comes the bad side of cortisol.

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Bear in mind that cortisol is also the major age-accelerating hormone. Cortisol is able to weaken immune function, reduce bone formation through calcium absorption, and create a loss of collagen (which weakens support in muscles, tendons, and joints).

Cortisol also counteracts insulin, contributing to high blood sugar and that’s why cortisol is also linked to weight gain and storing of belly fat. In a nutshell…we don’t want to interfere with the normal functions of our body, and in particular with the levels of cortisol inside our personal living system. But, what can be considered as “normal” and under which circumstances?

Variability of Cortisol levels

In a ‘normal’ situation (i.e. you are not chased by a lion or undergoing any similar life threatening situation…) and for a person not suffering of any particular disease, Mr. Cortisol’s typical day can be schematized as follows:

corti1

    Cortisol production is at its peak around 30 minutes after waking up. And this is actually needed, to ensure a correct and fresh waking up (you can kick the adrenals up drinking some lemon water with a pinch of salt, it’s worth the try, or sun exposure, that will help as well).

    Then, the levels of cortisols gradually fade to a minimum before going to sleep, so reasonably low levels of cortisol in the evening are more than welcome.

    Beside that, we all know that during the day we receive external stimuli or we can face events that cause us to undergo “stressful” situations, and so a series of chemical reactions start inside our body. One of the consequences of this chemical production is to have peaks of cortisol when we don’t want.

    corti2

      When a stressor occurs, in fact, our limbic system, a more primitive part of our brain, instantly responds to danger and thus we face a “fight or flight” response.

      In the old times we, as humans, used to consider a stressor any life threatening situation (see lion above) so this primordial reaction is something we inherited from our ancestors, and it’s not so bad, in line of principle.

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      But nowadays we rarely have the same type of life threatening situations inducing a “fight or flight” response: the predatory attacks of the new era are completely different things, such as demanding tasks, losing our keys, starting a new company, or in-laws coming for Thanksgiving.

      The problem is that, in terms of chemical reactions, the above situations are considered pretty much the same from our inner body.

      A big difference in today’s world, though, is represented by the frequency and the intensity of the stimuli. Something occurring rarely in the prehistoric era (i.e. predator attack) is now occurring more frequently, almost on every day, with less intensity but still effective in terms of body reaction to the stimulus.

      In the long run, the fight or flight stress response is not even turning off, thus, the cortisol levels are not following the normal path as they should be and they remain relatively high during the evening, impacting consequently on the quality of our sleep and body recovery.

      In addition to that, there are other elements and situations inducing the release of cortisol in our organism, and these are, again, associated with the lifestyle of the modern era. Some examples of conditions releasing cortisol are:

      -Staying up late

      -Poor sleep

      -Caffeine intake

      -Poor diet

      -A non properly planned workout routine

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      -many others…

      So, what to do to keep cortisol levels under control?

      6 things to do to manage cortisol

      Spending time in Theta

      No, it’s not the name of a fancy island or a new planet on another constellation. I am talking about brain waves, and in particular about the ones linked to the brain state of REM sleep (dreams), lucid dreaming and advanced levels of meditation.

      To cut it short: in a state of very deep relaxation our brain produces waves at a slow frequency of 4-7 cycles per second. This stage it’s extremely calming and it’s really body-restoring. Factors like high levels of stress, overconsumption of caffeine during the day and the faced-paced lifestyle could have an impact on our transition to deep sleep.

      Acting on stress reduction, with meditation, as example, will consequently drop down the cortisol levels.

      Drink milk (or, better, its peptides)

      In various studies, the administration of milk peptides resulted in a net reduction in cortisol of -20.69% when compared with the placebo group. It turns out that nutrients found in cow’s milk (the bioactive peptides) exert a sedative effect on the brain. This is also the reason why a warm glass of milk helps to fall asleep, since generations.

      Eat better

      I know, this ‘magic’ solution seems to be everywhere, but it’s true: we are what we eat, and an anti inflammatory diet, eating whole food, would help lowering cortisol levels.

      Extensive research has shown that a high quality fish oil like cod liver oil or krill oil, rich in omega-3s and fat-soluble vitamins, can effectively lower cortisol levels that were increased by mental stress.

      Sleep and Recovery

      Sleep deficit has been linked to elevate cortisol levels (and for prolonged hours) in helicopter pilots on 7-day duty for emergency medical services. Although the test has involved a particular category of workers (and work related stress), the association between lack of sleep and cortisol is still valid: so hit the sack early, or take a nap.

      Switch to tea

      Caffeine elevates cortisol levels, so drink your coffee, but try to switch to tea or decaf after 2pm or anyway at least 6/8 hours before bedtime, your body will thank you.

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      Eat more fruit

      Oranges and grapefruits, in particular. These 2 citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C, which has been linked to reduced cortisol levels. A study in 2001 examined the effects of supplemental vitamin C on high cortisol levels brought about by physical stress in marathon runners. Ultramarathon runners were given 500 mg a day of vitamin C, 1500 mg a day of vitamin C, or a placebo seven days before a marathon, the day of the race, and two days after the race. Researchers found that athletes who took 1500 mg per day of vitamin C had significantly lower post-race cortisol levels than those taking either 500 mg a day or placebo.

      Resources:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stressor

      http://samples.sainsburysebooks.co.uk/9780471651581_sample_266798.pdf

      https://labtestsonline.org/understanding/conditions/cushing/

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15517308

      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022030294770260

      http://www.journalofdairyscience.org/article/S0022-0302(00)74983-6/fulltext?mobileUi=0

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15558991

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2249754/

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11590482

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      Last Updated on October 15, 2019

      How To Be Successful In Life? 13 Tips From The Most Successful People

      How To Be Successful In Life? 13 Tips From The Most Successful People

      What is success to you? How to be successful in life?

      To some, when they think of success, they imagine wealth; others want power; some just want to make a positive impact on the world.

      All of these are perfectly valid, indeed success is a concept that means different things to different people. Though no matter what success is to you, it almost certainly isn’t something will come easily.

      There are countless guides and books to being successful, however, as success is personal and unique to each individual. The advice contained in these books can often not be relevant. Therefore following the advice of a single individual can often be unhelpful.

      With this in mind, considering the advice of a great many people, people whose ideas of success were different both to each other, and quite possibly, to you can be a good alternative.

      What follows is a list of thirteen of the best pieces of advice from some of the most successful people who have ever lived. If you want to learn how to be successful, these 13 tips are essential:

      1. Think Big

        From Michelangelo Buonarroti, Great Renaissance Artist:

        “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”

        There are few artists as influential as Michaelangelo. Today centuries after his death, his work still inspires and connects to people. His work is world famous, just think of his statue of David, or the Mural in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.

        Imagine then, if he decided not to work as an artist.

        Being a successful artist has always been extremely difficult, imagine if he decided to give up this ambition in favour of something easier?

        Oftentimes, people often decided to put their dreams aside for something more “realistic”. To give up their dream for something easier. This quote teaches us the danger of such a point of view.
        Instead be ambitious.

        2. Find What You Love to Do and Do It

          From Oprah Winfrey, Media Mogul:

          “You know you are on the road to success if you would do your job and not be paid for it.”

          This is a good quote to remember and think about when you’re at work.

          Imagine being as successful as possible in your current job. Ultimately you’ll probably find yourself working extremely hard and this it will take up much of your time.

          If it’s a job you hate, then being successful at it might only mean filling your life with something you hate to do. What’s the sense in this?

          Instead, why not focus on doing something you love? When you’ve found what you’re passionate about, you get the motivation to keep you moving. Success at this means the fulfilment of your dreams.

          Not sure what your passion is yet? You should learn about this Motivation Engine first.

          Even if you’re not successful, you still filled your time with something you love to do. Many successful musicians spent years of their lives doing unpaid performances, the only reason they kept playing was because they loved to perform.

          3. Learn How to Balance Life

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            From Phil Knight, CEO of Nike Inc.:

            “There is an immutable conflict at work in life and in business, a constant battle between peace and chaos. Neither can be mastered, but both can be influenced. How you go about that is the key to success.”

            All too often, people think that to be successful, they need to make the object of their success their life.

            If a person thinks their job will lead them to success, then they may spend countless hours per day, and well into the evening working hard.

            However this comes at the cost of rest, your health and having an enjoyable life. Ultimately they may burn out and cease to be successful at their job anyway.

            If success comes from having a strong social life and a good group of friends, their job may suffer; meaning that they may lose their job, and then be unable to afford going out with friends.

            In these ways, success, as Phil Knight says above, is helped by balance. Think of it as a balance between rest and work, or work and play.

            To achieve that balance, this Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Your Work And Life can help you.

            4. Do Not Be Afraid of Failure

              From Henry Ford, Founder of Ford Motors:

              “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

              There is a story, it’s unconfirmed whether it actually happened, yet the message within is none the less true:

              Thomas Edison inventing the lightbulb was the result of several hundred failed attempts. In an interview, he was asked “How do you feel after all of your failed attempts?”

              His response was great, “I didn’t fail, I learned hundreds of ways not to invent the lightbulb”

              He saw each “failure” as a lesson. From that lesson he learned what won’t work, and also might work instead.

              Each failed attempt, each rejection, were key steps on his path to success. It is easy to feel like you should give up after a failure. But perhaps in that failure is a lesson.

              Pay attention to your failures, study them. Perhaps then you’ll learn how to succeed.

              If you find it difficult to fight your fear of failure, here’s a guide for you: Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Conquer It Step-By-Step)

              5. Have an Unwavering Resolution to Succeed

                From Colonel Sanders, Founder of KFC:

                “I made a resolve then that I was going to amount to something if I could. And no hours, nor amount of labor, nor amount of money would deter me from giving the best that there was in me. And I have done that ever since, and I win by it. I know.”

                This, in many ways relates to the above quote about learning from your failures.

                It’s the easiest thing in the world to give up from a failure. The only way to push on is if you have the true burning desire to succeed, to not be moved or dissuaded from your goals.

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                If you are not truly dedicated towards success, then each failure will hurt more, each set back will slow you down.

                Success is hard; without the unwavering desire to succeed, this difficulty may seem insurmountable. With the desire, it is merely an obstacle to go through.

                6. Be a Person of Action

                  From Leonardo da Vinci, Renaissance Genius:

                  “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”

                  Though it was said hundreds of years ago, it works just as much today as it ever had. It applies to literally any successful person.

                  Think about it, picture someone like William Shakespeare:

                  When we think of the time he lived in, we think of the time in a way shaped by him. When we think of Renaissance era Italy, we think of Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci. Or think about the present day, Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Our current way of life would simply be incomparably different if they didn’t accomplish what they did.

                  You’re probably reading this article on a device by a company that they either founded or companies influenced by them.

                  All these figures were proactive, they saw ways to do things differently and did them. If they let the world shape them, then they’d simply fit into the background. Instead they shaped the world.

                  Applying this to you?

                  Don’t be afraid of going outside the norm. If you can think of a better way to do something, do it that way. If you fail, try again.

                  7. Cultivate Positive Relationships

                    From Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of America: “

                    The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”

                    The best leaders and some of the most influential people (and Theodore Roosevelt is one of the best leaders and one of the most influential people to have lived) were not those who caused commotions, who fought with people or disregarded people; but were people who were friendly to those around them.

                    People liked them. They wanted them to do well.

                    This is key to good leadership.

                    It’s logical. If someone likes you, they want to help you; if you give them a suggestion, they’ll gladly follow through with it.

                    But if someone doesn’t like you, they may either refuse to help or actively get in your way.

                    What’s more, it’s always a good idea to cultivate good relationships. You can never tell who will prove to become someone who’ll be able to help you in a big way, or even be a good and supportive friend.

                    As such, help people and they may help you; and be good to people, and they my be good to you.

                    8. Don’t Be Afraid of Introducing New Ideas

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                      From Mark Twain, Famed Author:

                      “A person with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.”

                      It is an unfortunate truth that those with the boldest ideas are often disregarded.

                      Most of us are taught from an early age to think and do things similarly to everyone else. This can be great to fill an existing role. But to truly do things differently (and all successful people did things differently), you need to think differently.

                      If you have a new idea, don’t throw it away because it’s new and different; instead, celebrate it. Your strange new idea might one day be the one that leads you to success.

                      9. Believe in Your Capacity to Succeed

                        From Walter Disney, Founder of Walt Disney Company:

                        “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

                        Success has to be something you can imagine yourself achieving.

                        It is possible that you will come across those who doubt you and your ability to succeed. You must not become one of these people because the moment you cease believing and dreaming is the moment these dreams fall away.

                        Keep dreaming!

                        10. Always Maintain a Positive Mental Attitude

                          From Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of America:

                          “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.”

                          Like the above quote says, you need to trust in your ability to succeed. This is the only way to cultivate the right mindset.

                          Replace negative thoughts with the positive ones. You need to approach problems, not as obstacles stopping you, but merely tasks that need to be completed for you to keep going.

                          If you stay positive and think like this, setbacks won’t affect you so much, people’s doubts won’t impact you and even the biggest obstacles will seem like minor problems.

                          However with the wrong mindset of doubt, you’ll be much easier to stop.

                          11. Don’t Let Discouragement Stop You from Pressing On

                            From Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of America:

                            “Let no feeling of discouragement prey upon you, and in the end you are sure to succeed.”

                            It is an unfortunate fact of human nature — all of us in some way, doubt ourselves. This can be made far worse if others doubt us too.

                            When surrounded by doubts, giving up can actually seem like a good idea.

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                            Don’t pay attention to the doubts. If you are discouraged, ignore it.

                            If this discouragement moves into your mind and you begin to doubt yourself. It is important to ignore this too.

                            This is How Self Doubt Keeps You Stuck and How to Overcome It

                            12. Be Willing to Work Hard

                              From JC Penny, Founder of JC Penney Inc.:

                              “Unless you are willing to drench yourself in your work beyond the capacity of the average man, you are just not cut out for positions at the top.”

                              You might have heard the quote that “success is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration” or you may have heard about the 10,000 hours idea.

                              Whichever way you frame it, they say one thing:

                              True success comes from work.

                              You’ll never become successful if you don’t work towards your goal in life and keep working towards it.

                              Check out this article and you’ll understand Why Hard Work Beats Talent.

                              13. Be Brave Enough to Follow Your Intuition

                                From Steve Jobs, Co-founder of Apple Inc.:

                                “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

                                In ancient Greece, there was a group of Oracles who lived in Delphi. Everyone who needed advice or to know their future visited them, from the poorest of society to kings. Above the doorway of the temple were the words “know thyself”.

                                If you strongly believe and desire something, chances are that you already have an idea how to get there. If not, you may naturally know what things will help you and what things will slow you down.

                                It’s like how your body can detect danger even when things seem safe.

                                Ultimately then, you need to trust your own instincts.

                                Final Thoughts

                                What you might have noticed is that many of the above lessons are similar — most are about developing the right state of mind. This clearly suggests that the key to achieving success, in whatever you wish, comes down to the way you approach it mentally.

                                Moreover, no matter what stage of life you’re at now, you can still make a difference and pursue success. You can make resetting your life possible when you do this: How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

                                More to Help You Succeed in Life

                                Featured photo credit: Ryan Wong via unsplash.com

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