Avoid Or Limit Alcohol And Drug Use
Too much alcohol or drug consumption is unhealthy in many ways. First, it can lead to a substance use disorder and require addiction treatment.
Second, excessive alcohol intake is known to stimulate cortisol production and can prematurely speed up the aging process in people, increasing the risk of high cortisol level symptoms.
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Pinpoint Your Comfort Food Triggers
Try writing down what you eat in an effort to get a better idea of when you stress eat. “Keeping a food journal for a week can help you pinpoint the times where you indulge in comfort foods or when you make sensible, healthier choices,” says Balk. “If dinner before a big test or meeting tends to be fried ‘comfort food,’ it’s worthwhile to stop the cycle and replace that emotion with a healthier choice or receive consolation another way.”
How To Lower Cortisol With Deep Breathing
When youre under stress, your chest gets tight and your breathing becomes fast and shallow.
These are automatic reactions that are part of the stress response.
Unfortunately, this unnatural breathing patterns has now become normal for most adults.
You can learn to minimize your physical reaction to stress by consciously breathing from your diaphragm.
A few minutes of diaphragmatic breathing will lower levels of cortisol and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system to induce a state of calm.
To breathe from your diaphragm, focus on keeping your chest still while expanding your stomach.
You can place one hand on your chest and one on your stomach to monitor your breaths.
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How Your Body Returns To Balance
Returning to balance also requires high cortisol levels .
From the point of view of energetic Chinese medicine, in times of mental stress and strain, the liver is heavily affected, due to blockage of energy that has accumulated and is not flowing properly in the body.
This energy blocking in the liver may cause the appearance of symptoms such as muscle tension in the neck, shoulders and upper back area, nervousness and mood swings, various digestive problems, headaches, and more.
How To Lower Cortisol And Relieve Adrenal Fatigue
In our experience, women with mild to moderate adrenal imbalance have several options that can help them feel significantly better while keeping symptoms from becoming more severe.
The key is taking the right steps to normalize cortisol levels and restore healthy adrenal function. You can take immediate action by asking yourself these simple questions:
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Natural Ways To Reduce The Stress Hormone Cortisol
Whenever you feel worried, frustrated, angry, or tense, do a deep breathing exercise. Focusing on your breathing for a few minutes is one of the simplest and quickest ways to settle your anxious or stressful thoughts.
Breathe with your diaphragm rather than your chest. Try this exercise:
- Inhale 3 to 4 seconds
- Exhale 6 to 8 seconds
- Repeat this pattern 10 times
When you slow down and become more efficient with your breathing, you may find that your problems arent as dire as you thought they were and that youre feeling less stressed.
Due to their natural ability to provide comfort, especially when youre feeling stressed out, spending time with a dog can help your muscles relax, slow your breathing, and lower your heart rate. It also can help decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol..
Overall, dogs can help you feel calmer. This effect is evident in the way trained service dogs can bring positivity to people who suffer with mood issues.
Having a dog provides companionship, which is especially helpful for anyone who lives alone or is often isolated from others. Petting a dog can help alleviate feelings of loneliness by letting you know you arent alone.
Scientific evidence shows that meditation can help calm anxiousness and stress and enhance brain function.
Nutrients and herbals can help support your bodys resistance to stress.
Scale Down The Stress Levels
Stress management is the other half of the equation when solving the question of how to lower cortisol naturally for optimal wellness. It can be as simple as spending time in nature or reading a book to lower stress.
For the most part, science recommends mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques like progressive muscle relaxation â tensing and relaxing specific muscle groups â and diaphragmatic breathing, which features deep breathing exercises.
You may also wish to try mind-body interventions like tai chi and qigong to promote relaxation and lessen tension. A 2018 systematic review also advocates for regular physical activity against stress. According to the review, staying fit means youâre more likely to reduce your cortisol and heart rate reactivity. You will also experience less anxiety, more calmness, and a better mood. Not to mention, exercising has the added bonus of encouraging weight loss, which, for the overweight, can aid with getting sufficient sleep. Just make sure you donât work out right before you sleep.
Other stress-reduction techniques you may wish to try:
No matter which stress reduction tactics you choose, itâs imperative that you prioritize them in the latter half of the day. Perhaps you can fit in a workout session before dinner and segue into your evening wind-down afterward. Because everyoneâs wind-down routine looks different, the “Evening routineâ habit in the RISE app lets you build it the way you want.
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Should You Get Your Cortisol Levels Tested
If youve been experiencing any symptoms of high cortisol, you may want to ask your doctor about a 4-point cortisol test to see if a cortisol imbalance could be at play. For the at-home test, you collect saliva first thing in the morning, before lunch, before dinner, and before bed.
The results show your cortisol levels throughout the day. A normal cortisol pattern starts high in the morning and slowly decreases throughout the day, reaching its lowest point at night, priming you for sleep. If your pattern looks different, it may signify a cortisol imbalance.
Are You Eating In Tune With Your Natural Cortisol Curve
- When you eat your meals is just as important as what you eat to rebalance your adrenal glands. The goal is to achieve more stable energy levels throughout the day, which you can accomplish by eating three balanced meals with two snacks.
- What you eat does make a difference too! Try to reduce refined carbohydrates such as sugar, flour, potatoes, and white rice which cause stressful ups and downs in your blood sugar that can lead to adrenal imbalance. We know this can be difficult, so just do the best you can. The goal is progress, rather than perfection!
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Why High Cortisol Levels Are Harmful
Before you stress out about feeling stressed, it’s important to remember that cortisol spikes can sometimes be a good thing. “Having high cortisol levels is a necessary adaptive response,” says William Davis, M.D., cardiologist and author of Super Gut. “We want a high cortisol level to wake up in the morning and deal with acute stressful situations.”
However, he adds, “when you have repetitive or long-term chronic stress this can lead to physiologic consequences.”
One of the most prominent side effects of prolonged high cortisol levels is weight gain, explains Davis, specifically visceral fat. “This is the fat that encircles the organs, intestines, and liver, and is inflammatory fat,” he says. “Visceral fat leads to insulin resistance and contributes to diseases like high blood pressure, coronary disease, and type 2 diabetes.”
Cortisol can also weaken the activity of certain cells linked to the immune system, says Heather Moday, M.D., an immunologist, functional medicine practitioner, and author of The Immunotype Breakthrough. This lowers the production of antibodies and can weaken the body’s immune response over time.
Listen To Relaxing Music
During stressful times, listening to soft and soothing music can play a key role in reducing your stress hormone levels. In fact, music works as a natural stress buster and helps you calm down quickly.
A 2003 study by the New York Academy of Sciences found that cortisol levels decreased more rapidly in the saliva of subjects exposed to music than subjects recovering from stress in silence. The study suggests that relaxing music after a stressor can act by decreasing the post-stress response of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.
Music is even useful in reducing stress in patients before operations or surgeries. A study published in Frontiers in Psychology in 2011 found that listening to music reduces sedative requirements to reach light sedation under regional anesthesia.
A recent 2016 study published in Public Health found that attending a cultural event can have an impact on endocrine activity and in reducing cortisol levels.
Whenever you are under stress, listen to some music of your choice. If you are skilled at playing a musical instrument, play that instrument to combat stress in your life.
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Plan Meals On A Consistent Schedule
Healthy meal planning can help you stay consistent with your eating schedule and take the pressure out of choosing what to eat. Sometimes deciding what and when to eat can cause so much stress and lead to elevated cortisol. Think about how many times you waited too long to eat and ended up ordering takeout, stress eating, or overeating. Counteract that with regularly scheduled meals, which can also help you avoid stress eating by keeping your insulin and blood sugars stable.
How Does Cortisol Affect Health
The bodys adaptations of high levels of cortisol to increase blood glucose levels and catecholamines may be a highly effective short-term strategy for dealing with stress, but what happens when this hormone is chronically elevated? Although high cortisol temporarily decreases inflammation, exposure to the hormone long-term will have the opposite effect.In a sense, just as people can become insulin resistant from long-term exposure to high insulin levels, the same occurs with cortisol. Since cortisol fails to function as an anti-inflammatory in the presence of a stress stimulus, the result is a chronic state of inflammation in the body in the setting of the metabolic responses .The health consequences of this state have been linked to many conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, sleep disorders, and autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, there is some research that has led some to theorize that many idiopathic autoimmune conditions may be caused by chronic cortisol elevation .Most commonly, metabolic syndrome is a constellation of conditions fat accumulation) that is highly associated with cortisol elevation .
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How To Reduce Cortisol: Take The Next Step
Chronic stress leads to the continual release of the stress hormone cortisol.
And a chronically elevated cortisol level is very harmful to both your physical and mental health.
Fortunately, you can moderate cortisol production with healthy lifestyle adjustments.
Eating the right foods, getting a moderate amount of exercise, breathing properly, and employing stress reduction techniques like meditation and tapping can offset the damaging effects of cortisol and decrease its production.
Additionally, you can take cortisol-lowering supplements.
Its easy to get caught up in aspects of life that stress you out work, money, relationships, and health issues, to name a few.
Give yourself permission to have fun!
Engage in activities like hanging out with friends, playing with your pet, and enjoying art, music, and creative hobbies that feed your spirit and make you happy.
The Link Between Stress & Cortisol + How To Keep Both In Check
Think back to the last time you were stressed out about something: The racing thoughts, clammy hands, and nervous energy you likely felt were thanks in part to a little hormone called cortisol. While it’s normal for cortisol levels to rise and fall throughout the day, the hormone shouldn’t stay elevated for too long.
Here’s what doctors want you to know about the link between stress and cortisol, when it’s time to bring your cortisol levels down, and the best supplements, foods, and practices to help keep the hormone in check.*
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Heres How To Lower Cortisol Levels
At Parsley Health, we work with our members everyday on lowering cortisol levels and reducing chronic stress. Since everyones lifestyle is different, and the stressors in your life arent the same as the stressors in, say, your best friends life, its important to come up with an action plan that is personalized to you and your lifestyle. Typically, this starts with addressing the root cause of your stress and making changes to your diet, exercise, supplement routine with the support of your Parsley Health clinician and health coach. Once your cortisol levels are restored, the goal is to help you understand the stress response, learn how to manage stress, and develop a consistent mindfulness practice so you have the tools to prevent future spikes.
Here are some of our top tips for lowering cortisol levels naturally:
Natural Ways To Lower Cortisol Levels
There are several things that you can do to lower your stress levels, reduce the effects of stress on the body, and improve your overall health and well-being. Here are some common ways to help rebalance your cortisol and promote good health.
- Sleep â When you sleep, how much sleep you get, and the quality of your sleep all impact your cortisol levels. We recommend keeping a consistent sleep schedule, creating an environment for uninterrupted sleep , turning off electronics an hour before bedtime, and avoiding caffeine in the evening can help you get the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, which will help decrease your cortisol.
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High Cortisol Vs Lower Cortisol Levels
The amount of cortisol in the body generally peaks in the early morning and decreases as the day goes on. Abnormally high levels of cortisol in the body can be caused by some steroid medications or underlying health issues.
Chronic or toxic stress can also be a factor that causes unusually high levels of cortisol.
In a state of constant stress, cortisol levels remain elevated and lead to problems with anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances among other symptoms.
These types of problems are a major reason why many people turn to alcohol or drugs to self-medicate their symptoms, which can lead to substance use disorders and the need for treatment.
Learning how to reduce cortisol levels naturally is a much healthier response than turning to substances to deal with stress ad anxiety.
What Is Cortisol And How Does It Affect Stress
If youve never heard of cortisol, thats okay! Its a hormone that your body creates naturally.
Most people only associate cortisol with stress, but it actually plays quite a few roles.
Cortisol rises to wake you up and provide energy, and naturally lowers so that you can sleep and rest at night. So normally, cortisol doesnt really cause any problems.
When youre stressed for long periods of time, though, things can start to go wrong!
To maintain a stress response for a long period of time, your body keeps producing high amounts of cortisol. Those high cortisol levels cause lots of problems both physically and mentally, like heart disease, inflammation, anxiety, and weight gain.
Learning to lower cortisol levels is important so that you can avoid triggering adrenal fatigue syndrome.
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Try Ashwagandha Or Phosphatidylserine
Next, Id suggest starting with either the traditional Ayurvedic remedy ashwagandha or phosphatidylserine, depending on which symptoms of stress youre experiencing.
Ashwagandha excels at stress reduction and decreases cortisol significantly more than many other supplements.
Its a good choice if you have anxiety, insomnia, or depression caused by stress.
Phosphatidylserine is another proven cortisol reducer.
Its also an excellent brain supplement that improves memory and protects against mental decline, while enhancing physical performance.
Holistic Approach To Lower Cortisol
Our team of integrative specialists have the knowledge and experience to help you lower your cortisol naturally while rebalancing your adrenal hormones. Our comprehensive treatment plan includes guidance for eating a healthy diet and some lifestyle modifications to lower your stress levels. These will help to help restore your health and for sustainable weight loss.
- Focus on Preventive Care and Treatment of Chronic Illnesses.
- Root cause analysis and Personalized treatment.
- We help optimize your hormones, digestive health, autoimmune, metabolic health and inflammation.
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Cultivate Conflict Management Skills
The ability to successfully solve conflicts and navigate disagreements whether that be with a coworker, a partner, or a friend can help build healthy relationships.
“Stress management techniques and harmonious, low conflict relationships are important in preventing chronically elevated cortisol levels,” Lorenzo says.
You can practice conflict management skills by taking deep breaths when you’re feeling frustrated and listening before speaking.
The Natural Timeline Of Cortisol Production
Before we get into the fine print of how to lower cortisol levels, we first have to know where this stress hormone is manufactured in your body. In which case, look toward the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis . The HPA axis is a complex biological system encompassing the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal glands .
Cortisol follows its own circadian rhythm, scientifically known as the cortisol rhythm. When your cortisol rhythm is properly functioning, your bodyâs cortisol production timeline looks like this:
- In the early morning hours, your body temperature increases ever so slightly . This minute change is enough to ramp up your bodyâs levels of cortisol, activating the cortisol awakening response . For that same reason, cortisol is also colloquially known as the alertness-promoting hormone.
- After jolting you into wakefulness in the early morning, your bodyâs release of cortisol surges for 30-45 minutes before gradually quieting down as the day wears on.
- Cortisol concentration then reaches its low point around midnight. Two to three hours after youâve fallen asleep, your body resumes cortisol production until its peak in the early morning, when the cycle repeats itself.
In essence, a healthy cortisol rhythm surges in the early morning before ebbing once itâs past the late morning hours.
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