In this post, I’d like to give some ideas to women who cannot sit still, has tons of energy, always multitask, want to get million things done, but might burn out from time to time. See the left side of the chart.
I belong to the Go-go-go type. I cannot sit on my bum, I always do several things simultaneously, I need to exercise to burn my energy and I get anxious if I cannot take action on something right now.
Slide-show version of this article: Stress management for high cortisol women
Detailed description of the high-energy types
- Early riser
- Weight-gain around abdomen
- Likes to exercise
- Tension in neck and shoulders, headaches
- Fast speaker
- Trouble sleeping
- Acne-prone skin
- Nervous stomach
But being high-energy is good, right? I mean I get a lot of work done, I’m fit, and this society promotes images of people who are always on the go-go-go.
What is wrong with being hyper?
The problem is, if we are constantly in this revved up, flight-or-fight state, our body cannot relax and rebuild itself.
Our immune system, our digestive system cannot work properly, as they are shot off by the stress-response: the high level of cortisol and the over-driven sympathetic nervous system.
This is not supposed to be a permanent lifestyle.
If we are not doing anything to balance things out and relax, we can have serious health issues:
- Frequent infections, colds, UTI, etc.
- Panic and anxiety disorders
- Chronic sleep problems
- Alcohol and other addiction problems
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
The good news is, there’s a lot we can do to prevent these problems. Unlike the low-cortisol types, whose conditions are partially result of stressful events in the past, and some of the damage seem to be irreversible, we actually have a chance to deal with the stress real time. Right now.
The goal is to help our body to recover, rebuild and heal by:
- getting out of the fight-or-flight mode,
- chilling the sympathetic nervous system,
- letting parasympathetic nervous system work,
- lowering the cortisol levels to a healthy range.
And this is all done by managing our stress.
Tips to deal with your stress
I start with this one because it seems to be the hardest for this type. The very reason why we are prone to these health issues and burning out is that we have trouble relaxing. We have that urge to finish our to-do list, to keep working, to keep thinking, solve that problem…
And relaxing or meditation looks so boring!
But we need it anyway.
There are some immediate benefits of relaxation:
- improved sleep,
- lowered blood pressure,
- reduced anxiety, etc.
Plus, you can prevent developing high blood pressure and cardiac issues down the road.
So as you are reading this, do a favor to yourself fifteen years from now, and take my relaxation tips seriously. 🙂
Tip 1: Meditation for hypers
Are you ready to sit in lotus position for an hour every day?
No? Well, me neither, but luckily, we don’t have to. There are easier ways to get started.
Three deep breath mediation is something I use when I notice that my thoughts are running like crazy or when I feel stressed out or overwhelmed.
How to do it: Stop. Tell yourself: I need a break. Then take one deep belly breath with your full attention on your breathing. Then one more deep breath. Then one more.
It is amazing how well this works. Trust me.
Walking meditation is great because we don’t have to sit still. I recommend to do it first when you have 15-20 minutes but with practice it can be done while you are walking to the office from the car.
How to do it: Walk slowly. Align your steps with the rhythm of your breathing. Breath in, one step. Breath out, one step. Pay attention to your walking, breathing, and the environment as if you have never seen it before. If you start thinking about work or problems, just say ‘thinking’ and bring your attention back to your steps.
Again, very effective way to relax.
Guided meditation videos are also great if you are not sure where to start but you would like to sleep better for example.
Tip 2: Mindfulness
Mindfulness is very helpful if you are like me, always busy worrying, thinking, stressing myself out with my own thoughts.
The actual life in this very second usually way more relaxing than thoughts about problems in the past or in the future. That’s the point of mindfulness.
How to do it: Focus on what you are doing. Washing dishes, eating, drinking. Focus on your surroundings. When thoughts pop up, let them go and bring your attention back to your activity.
Since I’m doing this, my anxiety level is manageable, I’m more comfortable and I don’t get that rushed feeling so often.
Tip 3: Journaling
Tip 4: Use ABCDE method to keep not helpful thoughts and feelings under control
I don’t know about you, but for me, sometimes my interpretation about events, my angry or frustrated thoughts give me more trouble than life itself. One well-known way to deal with this is the ABCDE method from behavioral therapy. The link goes to a short video to explain you how to use this quick and effective way and stop yourself from making mountains out of molehills.
For this type, sleep can be a problem because the high level of cortisol prevents peaceful sleep. But we need sleep to relax our stress systems and lower our cortisol level. Do whatever you need to do to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. If you have trouble sleeping 3-4 times a week for a month, you should get help. (I resisted getting help for a while, because I thought my doctor will give me sleeping pills. But no. He recommended tryptophan, an amino-acid, safe and non-addictive, and my sleep improved significantly. I’m not saying that this amino-acid will help you, I’m just saying that don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor.)
- Get 7-8 hours of sleep per night
- Avoid work, screens and stressful discussions within an hour of bedtime
- Schedule intense exercise early in the day
- If you have problems sleeping, get help from your doctor
Exercise is very important for this type. It supports your health in many ways:
- Keeps belly fat under control
- Helps to prevent diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity
- Produces serotinin, dopamin, endorphins, etc.
- Burns all the excess ‘charge’ that comes from the fight-or-flight response
- Helps to sleep better
- Reduces anxiety
The recommendation is to try to do some exercise almost every day, even if it is just a walk on some busy day. And try to get a good sweat, moderate-intense cardio, few times a week. Include strength training once a week. For health reasons and because your body will look good. 🙂
If you just had a crash and burnout…
then take some rest. Don’t exercise for a few days, other than a walk in the evening or some relaxing stretches. Once you have recovered, you can work out as described above.
Nutrition for hypers
We are hyper by default. No need to exaggerate it even more. Drink green or white tea instead. Avoid any stimulants after lunch if you have sleep issues.
Eat low-glycemic foods
The goal is to minimize our elevated risk for abdominal fat, diabetes and heart disease. Eat foods with low glycemic index. Don’t eat stuff like cereal, white bread, white rice, potato, pastry, sugar in your drinks; eat more vegetables than sugary fruits.
Buy some important supplements
Boost your immune system with vitamin C, D and zinc. Get tryptophan and tyrosine amino-acids from your doctor or from high-protein foods. They keep our nervous systems from overworking and burning out.
It is fattening, addictive and disturbs your sleep. Try to have less than five drinks a week.
Have a good breakfast
Eat a good, nutritious breakfast with protein and whole grains and veggies, and smaller meals later on the day.
This is the second part of my series about stress management for women. In the first one, I focused on tips for women with low cortisol levels, who struggle with fatigue, lack of energy and low motivation.
Takeaway for women who have chronic high cortisol levels
In order to:
- Get out of fight-or-flight mode,
- Lower your cortisol level,
- Calm your sympathetic nervous system,
you need to:
- Exercise regularly,
- Use relaxation techniques daily,
- Eat well,
- Get 7-8 hours sleep per night.