Dr. Sara Gottfried: Manage Your Stress

“I’m not going to tell you to relax, because that’s not what I want you to do,” says Dr. Sara Gottfried.

Subscribe to the podcast!

“I’m not going to tell you to relax, because that’s not what I want you to do,” declares Dr. Sara Gottfried. In her talk on managing cortisol (and thereby stress levels), she emphasizes that her version of reducing stress, “is a much more advanced physiological state [than relaxation]. When you entrain your sympathetic nervous system (the half that deals with ‘fight or flight’) with your parasympathetic nervous system (the half that does ‘rest and digest’), you are better able to manage your stress. It’s about perception and being about to rise above the fray and look more objectively at your own stressors and how you dance with them.”

If you (like most people in our modern age) have a lot on your plate and know that your health is suffering as a result, this is the one Speakeasy talk you simply must tune in to, as Dr. Sara spells out in plain English what might be amiss in your hormonal system and gives you 7 concrete ways to “actively de-stress”. She shows us how to identify our cortisol levels, examine our relationship to stress, and describes the differences between men and women’s cortisol management.

Why is cortisol so crucial to your health? If your cortisol level is in its ideal “Goldilocks” position, your energy is consistent, your blood sugar is stable, your mood upbeat, and your sleep is restorative.

“My message isn’t that you need to reduce stress, but that you can manage your stress by managing your cortisol. It turns out it’s a totally tangible hormone to manage, and all hormonal problems lead back to cortisol. Fully 91 percent of my patients have had a problem with [uneven levels of] cortisol.”

One of the reasons we at Wanderlust are so enamored with this Harvard-educated physician (and yoga teacher) is that she is prone to sharing pearls of wisdom that have validity in both Eastern and Western modalities of healing. “I like to take science and integrate it with what your own body tells you.” So, before she would ever write you a prescription for an anti-depressant, she would sooner suggest that you try alternate nostril breathing, and further, she would encourage you to experience and examine what that does to your own body instead of dictating how how you ought to feel. She aims to put you in the driver’s seat of your own health by encouraging you to become a biohacker—leveraging science to improve your biology.

If all of this hasn’t convinced you to listen to Dr. Sara’s Speakeasy by now, then scan a very short list of the many kernels of wisdom Dr. Sara shares in this video, and then listen to the podcast to learn:

  • How alcohol actually robs you (and your health) of relaxation—the very thing you’re seeking with a glass of wine. Find out how many drinks you can have each week before your cortisol levels start to increase.
  • What telomeres are, and why they are one of the best ways to measure your biological age and not your chronological age.
  • Why men are better equipped to deal with what we consider modern-day stressors (the kind that activates our “fight or flight” responses). Hint: it has to do with women’s serotonin levels, and why women are more adept at a “tend and befriend” response to stressors.
  • How women with high perceived stress age ten times faster than women without it. The good news is that it’s not about the quantity of actual stress but your perception of the stress. Dr. Sara shares how to get a handle on how you view stressful situations and how to rise above the noise.