How to Lower Cortisol Levels in 6 Easy Steps: Reduce Stress Naturally
8 minute read
Stress-causing cortisol can be catastrophically damaging to your health. Some of the negative effects of stress are obvious. It can lead to anxiety, it can harm your productivity at work or at home, and it can disrupt your sleeping patterns, just to name a few.
However, these are just the mental and cognitive effects of stress, and they’re only just the beginning. Plus, there is a whole host of physical symptoms that can be caused by stress. Clearly, it’s a good idea to reduce your stress as much as possible. But why is stress so harmful? Well, today we’ll explore this topic and give you a few ways you can lower your stress easily.
Why Is Stress Bad for You?
It all has to do with a hormone that your body releases during times of stress. This hormone is called cortisol, and it’s commonly referred to as “the stress hormone.” Cortisol has been linked to a wide range of negative health effects, so keeping this hormone down is extremely important if you want to remain in good health.
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Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce the amount of cortisol in your body, which can help keep these negative effects at bay. Here are a few tricks you can try if you’re feeling stressed, so that the “stress hormone” doesn’t hijack your health:
Spend Time Outside
If you spend most of your days cooped up inside, you might think you’re making things stress-free for yourself by avoiding the outside world. But spending even just a few minutes outside each day can really help lower your cortisol levels.
It’s true. Sunlight and being outdoors have been shown to be powerful stress-reduction techniques. Not to mention, getting enough sun will make sure you’re getting adequate vitamin D.
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This vitamin is essential for strong teeth and bones, in addition to skin health and other important health functions.
Getting exercise is obviously a huge benefit for your health. There are a lot of reasons why it’s good to engage in some physical activity, but one of the more underrated benefits may be the fact that exercising can help you reduce stress.
Practice Deep Breathing
Used by practitioners of meditation and other mindfulness techniques, taking a few deep breaths might be the simplest and easiest way to reduce stress levels. In fact, some research shows that even taking just two deep breaths is all it takes to start noticing immediate benefits.
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Try Essential Oils
Essential oils have been linked to a variety of positive health effects, and they come in many different flavors and scents. One of the best essential oils, if you’re looking to try one, is peppermint oil.
Besides smelling delicious, peppermint oil has been shown to help ease digestion, in addition to reducing stress.
Maintain Proper Nutrition
Certain foods are known to cause inflammation and increase your cortisol levels. It’s important to avoid these foods, particularly foods high in sugars and processed fats. Too much alcohol or caffeine can also boost cortisol levels to a harmful degree.
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Instead, make sure you’re eating foods that are high in fiber. It’s also a good idea to load up on foods that contain good fats, like omega-3 fatty acids. Some examples of these types of foods include avocados and fish.
Get Enough Good Sleep
Not getting enough quality sleep has also been linked to an increase in cortisol levels. The recommended amount of sleep is generally regarded as about 8 hours, but it can vary from person to person depending on a variety of factors, like age, weight, and metabolism.
The most important thing is that you’re getting enough REM sleep, which is the deep sleep that actually allows your body to restore and repair itself while you rest. If you don’t get enough of this type of sleep, it can impair a number of your body’s functions and send your cortisol level skyrocketing.
Stress and the Damage Done
While you are thinking about how to lower cortisol levels in your life, here is some motivation as to why this is so important. These are a few of the negative ways cortisol can impact your health:
Impaired Cognitive Function
One of the ways that cortisol can wreak havoc on your health is by affecting your cognitive abilities.
When cortisol is coursing through your body, it causes you to have a harder time focusing, even on tasks that may normally seem routine. You may have noticed yourself being less productive or less focused when you’re stressed, and that sensation is a direct result of cortisol.
Cortisol can impact your thyroid function, which is essential in maintaining a proper metabolism. When your metabolism isn’t functioning at full speed, it can make breaking down food more difficult.
This can lead to lower energy or fatigue, plus it can cause you to have a more difficult time losing weight. You may not have thought about stress as something that could affect your energy levels, but you’d be wrong.
In addition to the issues listed above, cortisol has also been shown to affect blood sugar levels and other cardiovascular functions. Maintaining healthy heart function is essential, especially as you get older, so taking steps to keep your cortisol levels down is a must for anyone concerned about cardiovascular issues.
The Bottom Line
You probably didn’t need an article to convince you that a lower stress lifestyle is better for your health.
But now you know some of the specific ways that stress, and its associated hormone cortisol, can affect your health. And you also know a few easy tips that should help you keep your stress low.
The next time you feel yourself getting stressed out, be aware that your cortisol is probably flaring up, and try to implement one of the techniques you’ve learned here today.