The adrenal glands release cortisol, the “stress hormone,” in response to stressful situations. Cortisol helps your body handle these situations as your brain triggers the “fight or flight” system.
While the short-term release of this hormone can help you run from danger, when cortisol levels are high for an extended period, it can do more harm than good. High cortisol levels can lead to health issues such as high blood pressure, insomnia, heart disease, weight gain, mood irregularities, and low energy levels.
Different activities can help you lower your cortisol levels, such as sufficient sleep, exercise, a change in diet, and more. Here are the best ways to manage cortisol levels.
Reduce Your Caffeine Intake
People with chronic stress can experience adrenal fatigue, which happens when cortisol levels are off balance, making them extremely tired, so they rely on caffeine to get through everyday life. This reliance becomes a vicious cycle: caffeine wears off, and exhaustion hits again. Instead of doing any good, caffeine increases cortisol levels and throws off hormone balance.
Jogging relieves stress and reduces cortisol levels by stimulating the production of endorphins, the feel-good chemicals, in the brain. Endorphins are natural painkillers that make you feel happy, so when you run (or exercise, for that matter) and experience the ‘runner’s high,’ it means you’ve hit your stride and your body has released endorphins, which were created after a euphoric state following an intense exercise.
Getting your thoughts and feelings down on paper can be a helpful way to release stress. Writing down stressful thoughts helps you purge and release them, so you’re not continuously repeating them in your head.
Spend Time In Nature
Numerous scientific studies have proven that spending at least 20 minutes in nature helps reduce stress levels in the body. Daily walks in nature are a game changer for most people with high cortisol levels. Try to go outdoors and see the change for yourself. Morning walks help align the cardiac rhythm and promote better sleep.
Get Your Cuddles
Intimacy and connection with a loved one or pet have been proven to be highly effective at lowering stress in the body. Physical touch releases oxytocin, which decreases cortisol levels and acts as a natural mood booster.
Proper sleep is like gold for your overall health, especially for your hormones. Sleeping time is when your body repairs the damage done during the day while removing toxins from your organs. Sleep regulates cortisol, insulin, inflammation, and the adrenal glands. The most effective way to get quality sleep is by adopting relaxing activities like baths, drinking tea, taking supplements, reading, and limiting exposure to sleep inhibitors like electronics, alcohol, junk food, or anything that induces anxiety.
Breathing Exercises and Meditation
Incorporating relaxing activities like breathing exercises, meditation, and mindfulness helps us tap into our parasympathetic nervous system. It helps us reduce cortisol levels and promotes overall balance in our body.
The beauty of our influential minds is that we can shift our experience from anxious to accepting by reframing the situation. When you are in a stressful situation, ask yourself questions like “What is it doing FOR me instead of TO me?” which acknowledges that you are going through a real but temporary experience.
Vitamins, Herbs & Supplements
Adding adaptogens and herbs such as holy basil and ashwagandha to your routine can help reduce cortisol levels and combat stress while incorporating supplements like B vitamins, magnesium, and Omgas, which work to replenish nutrients that calm your nervous system, reduce inflammation, and nourish your adrenals. Check with your doctor before beginning any new herbs or supplements, especially if you are pregnant or have a chronic disease.
Laugh Easily and Often
Laughing out loud promotes endorphins, which decreases cortisol levels. Laughing is also linked to stress reduction, a better mood, lower blood pressure, less perceived pain, and a robust immune system. Interestingly enough, real or fake laughter can lower stress levels.
A nutrient-dense diet is the best way to balance blood sugar levels because it optimizes gut and liver function, which minimizes stress on your body. Ensure you’re consuming enough protein, fiber, and fat regularly; this ensures your body taps into its parasympathetic nervous system, which means it will utilize and absorb the nutrients adequately. Minimize your consumption of foods that can cause stress and inflammation, such as sugary or processed foods, alcohol, caffeine, fatty oils, and processed meats.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Proper hydration is essential in every aspect of health and vitality. All our organs, especially our brain, depend on hydration to function optimally. Dehydration can weaken your adrenals and affect your body’s ability to eliminate excess hormones and harmful toxins. While it’s essential to drink enough water, it is also vital to minimize the consumption of dehydrating substances such as alcohol and caffeine, as they can deplete the body’s micronutrients, which reduce stress and inflammation.
This originally appeared on Planet Natural.
Melissa Pino is a biologist, master gardener, and regular contributor for Planet Natural. Melissa's work focuses on promoting environmentally-friendly practices, helping people create healthy gardens and finding ways to achieve overall health and wellness.