Stress and low testosterone

If you suspected that this stressed modern life takes a toll on your testosterone, you are right.

Stress and testosterone have a relationship and it’s not good. If you are chronically stressed and anxious, your testosterone will take a big dive.

So, if you want to increase your testosterone naturally, you must become a master of relaxation. Easier said than done, I know it.

It’s all in the hormones

Hormones are complicated, powerful, intertwined things, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s say there is a main stress hormone called cortisol.

This cortisol has a close relationship with testosterone. When you were prancing by the savannah thousands of years ago and a lion appeared, cortisol and testosterone rose together to get you ready to fight or flight (let’s be honest here, to flight).

After you successfully fended off that lion (i.e. you ran for your life, climbed to a tree and waited in your now dirty loincloth) you kept going on with your day and hormone levels became normal again.

The old times were simpler and more dangerous, but simpler. There were some momentary very nasty stressors and then you relaxed fully because thousands of years ago there were no mortgages, no taxes and we rarely worried about the future because many times future was not an option.

If you take a look at your cat or dog, and their ability to be present all the time, fully fighting when the moment comes (fully running if it’s a cat) or fully relaxing when there is no danger on the horizon, know that we were the same until evolution and intelligence erased lions from our main list of problems, changing them with bosses, traffic jams, ridiculous wages and soul crushing jobs.

That is, the sources of stress changed and the very nature of that stress changed too. Nowadays you are seated in the bathroom and you don’t fear lions peeking through the window, but you are constantly thinking about how to meet ends this month.

High, rare moments of high stress changed to chronically elevated stress, maybe not too elevated, but elevated all the time.

So cortisol, in this modern times of overcrowded cities with very little nature, is more than we would like. And here is the key: cortisol and testosterone are like family, it’s ok if we spend a little bit of time together, but they can’t stand each other for so long, so, what happens? Testosterone says: “it’s ok, I’ll leave”.

Testosterone and cortisol are antagonistic hormones, if one is chronically elevated, the other will be low.

As stated in the testosterone book, we can think of hormones like the product of a factory with limited resources. If our body needs cortisol all the time to cope with our idiot boss and those other idiot drivers, we need to take away resources from somewhere. That somewhere is testosterone.

Testosterone and cortisol levels tend to be inversely correlated. If your testosterone is high, chances are cortisol is low, you feel powerful, relaxed, secure.

And the opposite happens if cortisol rises all the time because a thousand of little stressors are doing their part during the day. Your body thinks you are in an unsecured context, and it’s dedicated to coping with that.

It’s important to note that, as always, cortisol is not necessarily the bad guy in this movie. Cortisol is a natural mechanism to save our asses, it’s just that it was not meant to be pumped all the time and that we have evolved very little (evolution is way slower than our technological advance). And although there are no more lions roaming the streets of your city, the mechanism of thousands of years ago keeps working in the same way than in the old times.

Too much noise, too much people honking, deadlines and bad news on tv. Our cortisol can not fully rest and our testosterone pays the price.

So yes, in order to increase naturally your testosterone, you must control your stress and learn to relax, an art that, I think, we have lost in time.

The thing with relaxation

The thing is that if I tell you to relax you will do everything but relaxing.

How many times do you think the words “calm down” have worked in history? Because I’m willing to bet zero.

So what can we do? We can practice relaxation every day.

There are a lot of methods os relaxation and I think that everybody must find those who fit best. Not everybody is made for sitting silent meditation, for example. I personally relax walking every day. Ideally, I try to do it in the wild, but many times I’m in the city, so I search for narrow streets without cars and the most beautiful parks that I can find.

I practice sports too. Sports are linked to relaxation, endorphins, and well-being (mental and physical) so sports are a big yes in all fronts if you want to increase your testosterone.

As you can see, I don’t get trapped in the classical notions of relaxing by lying on the sofa, meditating or practicing yoga, but if that’s what works for you, by all means, do it.

Other activities that promote relaxation are: reading, catching up with friends (very important, loneliness and isolation are very big stressors), going out, having hobbies…

The goal

The goal is not being a zen monk in the middle of a traffic jam. That’s impossible and there always will be idiotic bosses that will shoot our cortisol, that’s unavoidable and fighting that is useless.

The goal here is to rise our baseline, to become a more relaxed person through the deliberate practice of more relaxing activities.

My baseline is pretty bad on this, I know it, I’m an anxious person, but when I deliberate practice relaxation, doing more of what unwinds me, I just become more relaxed through the day. It can’t be helped, do more of what relaxes you and you will be a relaxed person.

And that’s the goal, not being the Dalai Lama in front of stressors (an impossible task, by the way).

I don’t stress myself forcing me to relax (a paradox, but you know what I mean, when you try to relax, you don’t achieve it and you get more anxious because of that). I just simply stack more and more activities that I enjoy, so, naturally, I relax more, my body and my brain have no other option that relaxing because of those activities.

And my body has no other option than pumping more testosterone.