Why You Should Lower Cortisol (Stress) Levels + How to Do It Naturally
7 minute read
Just relaxing is easier said than done for most of us. In fact, you can probably ease some tension in your shoulders and neck right now by consciously making yourself aware of it and allowing your shoulder to drop.
The world keeps us continually surrounded by stressful triggers, such as traffic, deadlines, financial pressures, and more. With stress comes cortisol, a hormone that is dangerous for your health in large doses, so reducing this will need to be a top priority.
What Is Cortisol?
Cortisol is an adrenal hormone associated with stress, premature aging, and the accumulation of belly fat.
The hormone does have some value in that it controls your daily rhythm. Increased levels in the morning wake you up and their reduction at night helps you fall asleep.
Outside of sleeping, cortisol controls the rhythm of much of your body and influences:
♦ Digestion and fat regulation: As your metabolism changes, this can lead to excessive weight gain and obesity if not brought under control.
♦ Hunger levels
♦ Hair and skin health
♦ Mental focus: Excess cortisol in the brain has been shown to cause brain fogs and tiredness.
At the most basic level, cortisol levels are controlled by the bright light of dawn and the orange hues of sunset. Cooler weather in the evening also triggers a reduction in cortisol, as does a heavy dinner meal.
In simpler times, this was all we needed to regulate cortisol and body rhythms. Today’s world is vastly different and more chaotic, throwing this rhythm off in many ways.
Emotional stressors, medications that alter hormone production, insomnia, shift work, and late-night schedules, excess sugar consumption, and a host of pollutants all interfere with the natural cortisol rhythm.
On top of this, our reliance on technology (computers, tablets, and smartphones) has us looking at blue-light screens all day and night, which confuses the cortisol circadian rhythm.
It is important to identify a cortisol imbalance to avoid health complications and to make the changes necessary to get your natural rhythm back on track. Indications of a cortisol imbalance to watch for include:
♦ Desire to always sleep late
♦ Strong food cravings, especially carbohydrates and sugars
♦ Low sex drive
♦ Depression or anxiety
♦ Acne and other skin problems
♦ Frequent headaches
♦ Weight gain around the stomach
♦ Difficulty winding down at the end of the day to sleep
♦ Sluggish in the morning
How to Get Your Cortisol Balance Back
You may not be able to control the stress around you, but you can certainly control how you respond to it. Changing your routine to make sure you get up and go to sleep at the same time, eat on a regular schedule, and exercise are all beneficial to keeping your internal clock on track.
In addition to this, relaxation helps to keep cortisol levels low when needed. Unfortunately, most people claim to relax by putting off the dishes or those moments when the kids aren’t screaming and running through the house.
True relaxation goes much deeper than this and requires both mental and physical relief from stress. To experience the benefits of relaxation and reduced cortisol levels, you need to shut off from everything around you as often as possible.
Studies have found that getting the right amount of exercise can serve as a natural stress reliever. At the same time, exercise, so long as it is moderate and not too strenuous, can trigger the release of appropriate amounts of cortisol to promote activity during the day and sleep at night.
It also helps to identify stressful thinking, as this can trigger cortisol release just as quickly as a stressful event. Being able to focus your mind through meditation will help to avoid this, and to avoid excessive cortisol production.
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In addition to relaxation techniques, you can also use your diet and the light to control cortisol patterns. Your body releases cortisol to protect your body from crashes in blood sugar levels, so planning your food can help keep the balance.
Excess cortisol contributes to weight gain but when produced at the wrong times it can have the same undesirable result. Exposure to blue light in the evening tricks the body into thinking it is daytime and reduces melatonin production. The result is a lack of sleep.
To make sure this doesn’t happen, you need to control the light in your life by limiting blue light exposure and using salt lamps to reduce brightness.
Another factor you can control is the environmental toxins around you. We are regularly exposed to a large number of plastics and chemicals in everyday items like toothpaste, cleaners, and medicines.
When you are stressed, your liver and kidney do not function as efficiently, thus impacting toxin removal. Limiting your initial exposure as much as possible is essential to maintaining cortisol levels and your health.
♦ Use natural personal health care products
♦ Drink plenty of water to help flush toxins from your body
♦ Avoid pesticides and herbicides
♦ Do not use plastics to store food (you want to use glass containers instead)
♦ Use natural cleaning products
With cortisol controlling your daily rhythm, you can help by ensuring you get enough sleep. Restful sleep is also one of the best forms of relaxation for mind and body. Disrupted or incomplete sleep does not allow your body time to recover and replenish.
Without proper regeneration and adequate time for toxin removal, you will only further disrupt natural cycles which contribute to additional stress.
The Bottom Line
Cortisol is a natural hormone that plays a valuable role in your body. When it comes to this hormone, however, more is not necessarily a good thing. Excessive cortisol causes stress in the same way that stress increases cortisol levels...and round and round you go.
The end result is poor health. Get sleep, change your diet, and control your blue light and toxin exposure to keep cortisol levels and health in check.