2022 was arguably one of the hardest years of my life, and as a result my stress levels were through the roof. On top of financial + legal challenges and a relationship ending, I have a business with a full client load that I'm committed to, so I couldn't just decide to sleep my problems away to bring down my stress levels(as much as I wanted to!).
In the beginning of all of sh!t hitting the fan, my body was screaming at me with all the symptoms of high stress(I'll talk about what some of these symptoms are a little further down so you can identify them for yourself too), but there was also no immediate way to change my physical circumstances that were causing me so much stress. This is when I decided to do some research, and learn how to nourish my body through this period of high stress, and not surprisingly, I started to see my high cortisol symptoms disappearing one by one. All of this with the stress still very much present in my life!
When I started seeing these results in myself, I started introducing some of the concepts and foods to my clients, and they started seeing the same results too! Some of them were in school and working at the same time, some of them had 2 jobs and kids to take care of at home, and some of them were new mammas. Regardless of the physical stress in their lives, they were all seeing results with my nutrition protocol!
What Clients Are Saying About Working With Me:
"I enjoyed every moment of working with Marjan! She shares information in a clear, applicable way that allows for real change"! -Jenny, 8 Week Program
"I am so grateful to Maran for creating this protocol. It has opened my eyes to several small changes I can make in my everyday life and expanded my knowledge of how the body works as a whole. I can happily say that after following this protocol, I am finally migraine-free!" - Aida, Self-Paced Migraine Guide.
"Working with Marjan in her 1:1 program was such a good experience! She really teaches you how to listen to your body cues, and empowers you to take control of your own health!" - Celine, 8 Week Program
Let's Get Into It! What Is Cortisol And Why Do So Many Of Us(Especially Women)Have High Levels?
Basically, cortisol is one of our stress hormones. So obviously it gets released during times of stress. But what most of us don't know, is that the body views stress at the same level, regardless of how big or small the stress is. It's like a bear is about to attack us every single time. If someone cuts you off in traffic, the body releases cortisol to deal with that stress. And if you feel stressed because of your current financial circumstances, the body releases cortisol for that too. For women of menstruating age, if we're not moving and eating in line with the phases of our cycle, that can cause stress hormones to be released too. It's all the same for the body, and this is one of the reasons why so many of us have high levels of cortisol in our bodies in this modern go go go world. But remember, I'm going to teach you how to nourish your body in a way that helps to manage the stress better, and gets rid of the symptoms of high cortisol your body is presenting.
What Are Some Ways Your Body Might Be Telling You That You Have High Cortisol Levels?
Everyone is different with the ways their bodies process stress and communicate that they're stressed, but these symptoms are some of the ones I look for with clients in my practice:
stubborn weight gain(the type where you've tried everything and no amount of healthy eating changes it for you).
constantly feeling bloated and "puffy" no matter what you eat.
digestive issues often: acid reflux, stomach aches, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, etc
mood swings or feeling anxious often
frequent headaches, pressure in your head, or severe migraines(especially if they come on with your period).
chronic low energy, or crashes in energy levels throughout the day.
difficulty falling asleep, or waking up really early in the mornings(3:00am or 5:00am) and not being able to fall back asleep.
if you're a woman of menstruating age, irregular or unpredictable periods, shorter cycles, severe cramping with your period.
Not too long ago, when I had most of these symptoms myself, I started focusing on these 3 areas with my nutrition and exercise, and the cool thing is that I started seeing shifts in my energy levels in only 1 week, and regular cycles, better sleep and no more migraines or bloating in just over a month! So the changes can happen pretty fast if you can stay consistent with these!
Before We Get Into It...
I want you to remember that "high cortisol levels" and the symptoms that come with it are a communication from your body that things are moving too fast. So along with these nutrition and cycle synching tips, it really helps to find ways to s l o w things down in your life. If you can start slowing down your mornings a bit, or finding a time in the day, even for 10-15 minutes to sit quietly with some herbal tea, or write in your journal, these can all go a long way in helping to bring down cortisol too.
1. I STARTED EATING FOR STABLE BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS: No, this does not mean I cut out all the sugar and carbs in my life! It actually means that I started adding more proteins, healthy fats and fibre from leafy greens and fruits to my plate, in addition to carbohydrates, to keep my blood sugar levels more stable. *if you want the full science of how adding these nutrients helps to stabilize blood sugar levels for the long term, shop my Blood Sugar Guide ebook packed with tons of recipes too! Basically, every time your blood sugar levels are spiking and crashing(sometimes without you even knowing it!), it's also spiking cortisol, our stress hormone. But if we keep blood sugar levels on a nice even wave all day(which we can do by adding the above nutrients), it doesn't cause our cortisol to spike so many times in a day, which ultimately reduces our over cortisol. 2. I NOTICED I WASN'T EATING ENOUGH MEALS IN A DAY, SO I STARTED EATING MORE! I know this sounds wild in the day and age we live in today where there is so much talk about "eating less" to be healthy, especially if you're experiencing the weight gain that comes with high cortisol levels. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but our bodies actually require MORE nutrition when our hormones are imbalanced(in this case cortisol), because hormones actually require a certain proportion of proteins and fat to be produced in the first place. So when cortisol is being produced constantly(because you're in a high stress period of life), it's going to require you to eat MORE to keep up with the production.
The other thing is that our bodies become stressed when they require something to function and we're not giving it to them. Our bodies require a certain amount of fuel(ie. food) every day to be able to work efficiently, and if you're a woman with a cycle, you might require even more food at certain phases. When our bodies aren't getting the right amount of "fuel", that can also create a spike in cortisol because the body is in a state of internal stress. 3.*THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE! I STARTED EATING AND WORKING OUT IN LINE WITH MY CYCLE! I feel like this is the newest craze, to track our cycles and to know which phase we're in. But the part I wasn't doing(and most of my clients who struggle with high cortisol levels too) was aligning my nutrition and my workouts to the phases of my cycle. Our feminine cycles have periods of high energy, low energy and rest phases. When we workout or do things that force ourselves against the grain with these phases, it once again creates a spike in cortisol levels because it's stressful for our bodies. Same goes for our nutrition. Each phase of the cycle requires a different caloric intake, as well as proper blood sugar balance. When we're eating less than what we should be at a certain phase, this also creates a spike in cortisol.
"Our feminine cycle requires different proportions of nutrition at each phase. When we don't learn to give our bodies the right amount of food it needs, it puts our nervous system into "fight or flight" mode, and a state of high cortisol levels" -The Feeding Your Feminine Guide(for sale in my shop)
Your body is like a barrel when it comes to stress. There's lots of things that get added to that barrel every single day: work deadlines, financial stress, family, kids, relationships, traffic, etc. But the barrel is also getting filled with internal stresses you're maybe not even aware of: blood sugar imbalance, nutrient deficiencies, not eating enough for what your body needs daily, not eating in line with your cycle, and not working out in line with your cycle. Unfortunately, some of the stresses can't be removed or taken care of immediately, so they stay in the barrel. But the internal stresses caused by the way we eat and the way we workout can be fixed(pretty quickly too!), so we can remove them from the barrel so it doesn't overflow causing all the annoying symptoms of high cortisol levels.
If you want individualized support with learning how to lower your cortisol levels and get rid of the symptoms that come with it, 1:1 sessions with me are available(virtual). Click the "work with me" section on this site to check out the options to book.