Cortisol is a stress hormone in the human body that is released by the adrenal glands and helps the body manage stressful situations. The brain initiates the release of cortisol to mitigate stressors. Cortisol regulates sleep, controls blood pressure, decreases inflammation, and handles the way that the body uses nutrients.
When cortisol levels are elevated for an extended period, it can be harmful to the human body. Excessive levels can cause significant health problems such as high blood pressure, weight gain, and mood fluctuations. Thus, maintaining appropriate levels of cortisol is important to avoid these adverse conditions and health problems.
Here are 8 simple ways to lower your cortisol levels:
1. Lower Stress
Perhaps this is merely stating the obvious, but lowering stress can help a person lower cortisol levels in the body. Identifying triggers and physical signs of stress, such as muscle tension, rapid breathing, or increased heart rate can help a person identify when stress begins. Once stress is identified, a person can learn how to either mitigate or manage stress as it arises. Incorporating effective stress management techniques can help a person to improve their ability to handle everyday stressors.
2. Maintain a Healthy Diet
A nutritious, balanced diet can help a person lower cortisol levels. A healthy diet and special vigilance to sugar intake can help stabilize cortisol. Dark chocolate, bananas, tea, and probiotics are some foods that can help keep cortisol levels stable.
3. Prioritize Healthy Sleep Habits
Sleep can have a major impact on cortisol levels. The timing, duration, and quality of sleep are all influential to the amount of cortisol that remains in the body. Sleep deprivation, insomnia, or a bad night’s sleep can trigger increased levels of cortisol and disruption to hormonal patterns. It’s therefore important to maximize the amount and quality of sleep to keep cortisol levels low.
4. Drink Water
Staying hydrated is another way to decrease cortisol levels. Dehydration can negatively impact cortisol levels in the bloodstream. Drinking water continually throughout the day is a healthy practice in general, but can also ward off dehydration.
5. Practice Relaxation Techniques
Interventions that promote relaxation can help a person to manage stress. Effective stress management lowers stress levels, resulting in lower cortisol levels. Relaxation techniques such as relaxing music, meditation, or mindfulness can support relaxation. Deep breathing, massage therapy, and yoga are other relaxation techniques that are proven to reduce cortisol levels.
6. Having a Positive Attitude
Having a positive outlook and a happy mood are associated with lower cortisol levels, as people commonly do not experience stress when they are thinking positively. Having fun, laughing, and being generally satisfied with life can help a person control cortisol levels. Engaging in hobbies and spending time outdoors are also helpful in keeping cortisol down.
Physical activity and exercise have a positive impact on an individual’s mood and overall health. However, engaging in the appropriate amount of exercise is important, as exercise that is too intensive can trigger an increase in cortisol due to increased amounts of stress on the body.
8. Avoiding Caffeine
Limiting caffeine, especially in the late evening, is another way to lower cortisol levels. Limiting soda, coffee, tea, and chocolate can help a person to achieve a higher sleep quality, which is extremely important to cortisol levels.
These simple ways to reduce cortisol can be immediately implemented and used anywhere. Thankfully, these techniques are not complicated and can be started right away. Being mindful of old habits and being committed to incorporating new daily routines can greatly help a person take control of their cortisol levels.
- Ranabir, S., & Reetu, K. (2011). Stress and hormones. Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, 15(1), 18. https://doi.org/10.4103/2230-8210.77573
- McEwen B. S. (2008). Central effects of stress hormones in health and disease: Understanding the protective and damaging effects of stress and stress mediators. European journal of pharmacology, 583(2-3), 174–185. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejphar.2007.11.071
- Leproult, R., Copinschi, G., Buxton, O., & Van Cauter, E. (1997). Sleep loss results in an elevation of cortisol levels the next evening. Sleep, 20(10), 865–870.
- Harvard Health. (2008, May 1). Optimism and your health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/optimism-and-your-health