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There’s this myth about the lazy days of summer when everyone’s relaxing and you don’t have a care in the world.
But, I know that for me, summer is one of the busiest times of the year.
Between the kids being out of school, planning vacations and the million and one other things that have to get done each day, it seems like I never slow down — much less enjoy any real relaxation time.
In fact, by the end of each summer, I feel like a big ball of stress rolled up into another ball of tension.
And, it seems like I’m not alone.
Turns out, there’s a scientific reason for that: summer is actually the most stressful season of the year and the changes are evident in your body.
Turning up the heat on your stress
You probably have heard of cortisol referred to as the “stress hormone.” That’s because it’s released into your bloodstream whenever you encounter stressful situations. It’s part of your “fight or flight” response.
And, although we tend to think of cortisol as a bad thing, we also need it to live — since it helps regulate your body’s levels of sugar, salt and fluids and even reduces inflammation.
But, too much of it and you’re body lives in a constant state of STRESS. This can cause problems like anxiety, weight gain, sleep problems, hormone imbalances and many others.
Researchers from Poznan University of Medical Sciences in Poland set out to discover what effect changes in the season and the weather have on these cortisol levels in your body and what it can do to your stress.
The team studied women on two separate days in the winter and again in the summer to measure their levels of cortisol.
Here’s what they found…
Despite the fact that summer is often considered a time of relaxation, the cortisol levels showed just the opposite…
Stress hormone levels were far higher in summer than in winter — meaning the women were under much more stress with all the health dangers that come with it, including everything from depression and memory problems to heart disease.
Lowering your cortisol naturally
Luckily, there are natural ways to lower your cortisol levels even with the rising temperatures.
#1 – Choose an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Poor food choices lead to higher cortisol levels. Foods that make inflammation and cortisol levels worse are:
- Processed foods
- Trans fats (these are from vegetable fats and used in things like margarine and snack foods)
Instead choose a diet with lean proteins, dairy (like yogurt and kefir), healthy fats (like avocados, coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil) and plenty of green veggies and fresh fruit.
#2 – Supplement for Stress
There are some wonderful adaptogenic herbs that help to combat stress and high cortisol levels.
#3 – Move More
A study by Harvard Medical School showed that one of the best ways to balance your hormones (including cortisol) was to stay active. Shoot for at least 30 minutes of low to moderate-intensity exercise daily.
Summer may be heating up but your stress hormones don’t have to. Use the three steps above to cool down your cortisol levels and your summer will be made in the shade.
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- Stress hormones spike as the temperature rises — American Physiological Society
- Chronic stress puts your health at risk — Mayo Clinic
- Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress—Protective Activity — Pharmaceuticals
- Supporting Adrenal Function with Adaptogenic Herbs — Journal of Restorative Medicine
- A Prospective, Randomized Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of Safety and Efficacy of a High-Concentration Full-Spectrum Extract of Ashwagandha Root in Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Adults — Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine
- Exercising to relax — Harvard University