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Cortisol: Friend or Foe? The Second in a Series of Stress Management Strategies

From our content partners at Labrix Clinical Services.

Part 1 of this 2 part stress management series introduced the concept that successful treatment plans for adrenal support extend beyond herbal and supplement regimens to include the removal of occult sources of stress and incorporation of tangible stress management techniques. Because many identifiable sources of stress cannot always be removed or decreased, implementing stress management techniques as a means to control and reduce tension that may occur as a result of stress may be a more practical approach for many people. While some techniques may be appropriate to use during a stressful event, others may be used consistently outside of stressful events as a means to evade the physical and emotional responses they provoke. Stress management techniques come in many forms and include:


  • Meditation
  • Yoga, walking, swimming and other physical activity
  • Breathing exercises
  • Journaling
  • Organizing and pre-planning
  • Hobbies and social activity
  • Laughter and optimism
  • Sleep
  • Healthy eating habits

In addition to the above tools, learning to identify the physiologic effects of stress on the body may be the first step to stress management. A simple, time-honored method to initiate stress reduction is Progressive Muscle Relaxation, developed in the early 1920′s. Its creator, Edmund Jacobsen, observed that since muscle tension accompanies anxiety, one can reduce anxiety by learning how to relax muscular tension. Outlined in Michael Murray ND’s book: Stress, Anxiety and Insomnia: What the Drug Companies Won’t Tell You and Your Doctor Doesn’t Know, the following exercise is an example of Progressive Muscle Relaxation:

“The basic technique is to contract a muscle forcefully for a period of one to two seconds, and then give way to a feeling of relaxation in that muscle. Begin with contracting the muscles in the face and neck, then the upper arms and chest, followed by the lower arms and hands. The process is repeated progressively down the body, from the abdomen through the buttocks, thighs and calves to the feet. Repeat the process two or three times.”

This simple technique has been shown to lower the heart rate, reduce anxiety and perceived stress, decrease salivary cortisol, and increase levels of self-reported relaxation.

Besides identifying effects of stress and implementing consistent stress management techniques, perception and outlook surrounding stress may play an essential role in the effects of stress, as outlined in a recent study. The study looked at over 30,000 U.S. adults to determine the relationship between stress and death. The findings revealed that people who perceived their stress levels as high and believed that stress was harmful to their health had a 43% greater all counts mortality risk over those who perceived stress as non-harmful, even with reported high stress levels.

Talking to your patients about perception, outlook and which stress management techniques resonate with them may be essential in developing successful, individualized treatment plans for adrenal dysfunction.

If you’d like to dive deeper into clinical cases, conditions and treatment options associated with stress, anxiety and mood disorders, mark your calendar for January 24 and 25, 2015 for Labrix Advanced Workshop in Las Vegas. Click here to learn more about this advanced training and to register today.


Keller et al. Does the perception that stress affects health matter? The association with health and mortality. Health Psychol. Sep 2012; 31(5): 677-684.
Murray M, ND; Stress, Anxiety and Insomnia: What the Drug Companies Won’t Tell You and Your Doctor Doesn’t Know. Mind Publishing; First edition March 1, 2012
Varvogli, Liza and Darvir, Christina. Stress Management Techniques: Evidence Based Procedures that Reduce Stress and Promote Health. Health Science Journal. Vol. 5, Issue 2 (2011).
Pawlow L. A., Jones, G. E.The impact of abbreviated progressive muscle relaxation on salivary cortisol. Biological Psychology, 2002; 60 (1), 1-16.

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