In the last three articles we have talked about making changes to your diet, workouts, and supplement strategy to get your hormones to optimal levels, because if your hormones are at optimal levels you are ALMOST immune to disease.
In this article we are going to talk about stress management and cortisol. While we do need some cortisol, specially in the morning and before workouts, our society is on a cortisol binge. People live stressed out lives under deadlines and incredible amounts of physical, sensory, and chemical over-stimulation all while being sleep deprived. When cortisol runs rampant in your body then you will increase your bodyfat, increase your estrogen, decrease your Testosterone (Test) and decrease your Growth Hormone (GH).
You may have heard of the “fight or flight” response of the human system. This means that the body goes through a bunch of chemical cascades that prepare the body to fight a saber-toothed tiger or run for your life. In those type of circumstances you burn up all the chemicals that the body dumps, including huge amounts of adrenaline while shutting down bloodflow to certain organs and diverting it to the periphery and outside muscles so they can run or attack. The problem in today’s society is that people are triggering this same response while sitting down in front of their computers over much simpler issues, like “what do you mean the Powerpoint presentation is going to be late?!?”, and without burning all the stress hormones that your body has produced. Instead you stew in a metabolic, emotional, and chemical rage that was designed to be used up in a heap of burning fury to save your life. Most people end up sitting there having it consume their bodies as their blood pressure rises and thinking “you f*&#$%n mother*&^%$#r!!!” while seething in rage and discontent.
In the final analysis stress has much to do with your PERCEPTION of life. Your perception of reality determines how often you trigger this response over silly everyday occurrences. That is why in Chinese Medicine one of the main causes of disease is called the 7 emotions. The Chinese understand that prolonged and uncontrolled emotional disturbances are one of the biggest causes of disease and even more specific, that certain emotions affect certain organs directly. Stay mad for a long time and you will hurt the liver, live in fear and you will affect the kidneys, and by the way the kidney system is related to longevity in Chinese medicine. Extreme grief damages the lungs. Hence this is why EMOTIONAL CONTROL is so important to longevity.
The best analogy comes from one of the Gracie brothers. In a documentary called Choke they chronicle the training of one of the Gracie brothers as he is preparing for a championship fight. He mentioned that beginning fighters have a “strategy” that they want to implement on their opponent. Like in military combat, “no plan survives first contact with the enemy”, and when fighters see that their strategy is flawed they sometimes fault and flounder. As a champion what this Gracie has learned to do is to go to the “zero point” and just take whatever the opponent throws at him and use it to win. This is the best analogy for life and stress control because life is going to throw curve balls at us and we are best served by being at the “zero point”, adjusting our course and winning as opposed to having a “strategy” that we dogmatically adhere to and whenever life proves our strategy is “flawed,” having a cortisol feast that derails our hormones and peace of mind.
There are a couple of things you can do to increase your emotional control and keep cortisol in check while increasing your quality of life and allowing all the other things you are doing to get your Test and GH levels to optimal levels.
The first and easy target is to learn to meditate or do Qigong. These practices, specially when done in the morning before heading out to work, help to give you that “even keel” that allows you to avoid taking things so seriously while giving you the flexibility to roll with the punches.
Second I would recommend learning a martial art, because in martial arts you learn to deal with physical conflict. This notion of handling conflict is what life is all about. When you are at work and you keep this mindset and then instead of getting enraged over trivialities you can switch your approach and see it as an “attack” that you are going to “counter” and it becomes a game. You can then choose to ACT like you are mad as a bluff, which is different than actually losing emotional control, to score a “win.”
With all that said, the truly CRUCIAL and MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do to control stress in your life and have optimal hormone levels is to LIVE YOUR TRUE SELF AND HONOR WHO YOU REALLY ARE.
If you are living someone else’s life, meaning you are living your parent’s or society’s expectations of you instead of being your authentic self then you are going to be so miserable and in such a state of stagnation that it can undo all the nutrition, workouts, and supplements that you incorporate to optimize your hormones. Yes, this is that important! Let’s take a very lucrative profession that society tends to value, medical doctors. If you know any medical docs, then you probably know that for a lot of them they have very demanding work schedules, waking up at 5:00 a.m. and getting home at midnight and repeating this 5-7 days a week. If that person wants to be a doctor then GREAT, that person is being their authentic self and every sacrifice is worth it. If that person really wanted to be a painter, or a dancer, or professional gymnast, and has no interest in medicine other than the paycheck, then that person is miserable and living someone else’s life. His state of dreading to go to work on a DAILY basis and missing out on life will create such a toxic overload that it will accelerate aging and completely derail any chance at optimal hormone levels.
YOU MUST HONOR YOUR TRUE SELF IN THIS LIFE in order to have optimal hormone levels. It is that important, without it all the other steps will produce minimal effects that will be easily counteracted by your lifestyle.
Honoring your true self will require more COURAGE, HONESTY and EFFORT than anything else I have written about in these series. It is harder and more grueling than the toughest squat or deadlift workout you can think of, but the rewards are more than just optimal hormone levels, the biggest reward is that you get to live your LIFE!
If everyone in society was living their authentic self by the end of this week then society would literally right itself overnight! It is that important.