Cortisol is a stress hormone in the human body. Cortisol is released by the adrenal glands and helps the body to manage stressful situations. The brain initiates the release of cortisol in order to mitigate stressors. Cortisal 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 of time, it can be harmful to the human body. Excessive cortisol 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 to 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 to 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 every day stressors.
2)Healthy Diet: A nutritious, balanced diet can help a person to 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)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 is important for individuals to maximize the amount and quality of their sleep in order 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 blood stream. Drinking water continually throughout the day is a healthy practice in general, but can also ward off dehydration.
5)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 corisol levels.
6)Being Positive: 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 to control cortisol levels. Engaging in hobbies and spending time outdoors are also helpful in keeping cortisol down.
7)Exercising: 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 actually trigger an increase in cortisol due to increased amounts of stress on the body.
8)Avoiding Caffeine: Avoiding caffeine 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 to take control of their cortisol levels.
Tracy is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is a clinical supervisor for the Community YMCA, Counseling & Social Services branch. Tracy has over 12 years of experience working in many settings including partial care hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, community agencies, group practice, and school-based programs. Tracy works with clients of all ages, but especially enjoys working with the adolescents. Tracy facilitates groups using art therapy, sand play and psychodrama.