Yesterday I wrote about the importance of sleep, and how our primary sleep hormone, melatonin, directly influences our immune system. Melatonin production at night helps boost our immune cells to seek out and destroy pathogens as we sleep. If you remember, the release of melatonin is dictated by our circadian rhythm.
But there is also another important hormone that is dictated by this daily rhythm, cortisol. Cortisol is released in response to the morning sun to help fuel our brain and body in preparation for the day’s work ahead. However, cortisol also temporarily dampens the immune system by interfering with the action of T-cells (an immune cell) and decreasing the production of white blood cells that also help fight off infection. Additionally, cortisol is also released in response to stress. Stressful situations throughout the day can create surges of cortisol that override the circadian rhythm, resulting in further suppression of immune function. This why prolonged stress weakens the immune system, puts us at greater risk for illness and damages our health.
Life is synonymous with stress. We all face stressful times…like what we are living through right now. However, it is not the stress itself, but how we respond to the stress that’s important. We have a choice; we can let stress overtake our lives and promote a continual flood of cortisol into our system, or we can find ways to manage it. Developing stress resilience or finding ways to cope with stressful situations is the key to managing stress and preventing cortisol surges.
We can take a 4 “R” approach when dealing with stress.
4 R’s for Stress Resilience
1. Reflect on the people and things in your life that you are grateful for. Taking a few minutes each day for this exercise will help you lower stress, improve your health, better handle adversity and feel happier.
2. Rejuvenate through self-care, exercise, and sleep. We are better able to handle stress when we are feeling physically and emotionally healthy. Spending time to pamper yourself and getting enough sleep and daily exercise will help rejuvenate you inside and out.
3. Restore with breathing, meditation, and/or prayer. Spending a few minutes meditating, performing breath work or praying can restore calm and inner peace.
4. Reconnect with nature. Spending time in nature helps to relieve stress and lighten our mood. Even if it is only sitting quietly outside on your deck taking in the fresh air and sunshine or soaking in the sights from a sunny window, reconnecting with nature has a way of nourishing our soul.
Good stress management skills will help to normalize the daily rhythm of cortisol and keep your immune system functioning at an optimal level.
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is a Physical Therapist,
Nutrition Consultant and
Doctor of Integrative Medicine.
She has been treating women with osteoporosis for over 30 years and is dedicated to helping people achieve
lasting good health and vitality.
Want to learn more about how you can improve your bone health? Contact me for a free 15 minute phone consult to learn more about the BONES Method™ and how it can help you achieve strong, healthy bones for life!