How to Balance Cortisol Levels Naturally is a common question among many people and if that includes you, you’re about to get your answer.
Cortisol is a hormone released from the adrenal glands to help your body deal with stress. It’s best known for its fight-or-flight response, where it prepares the body to react to a possible threat by either fighting or fleeing.
It facilitates an immediate release of glucose while inhibiting insulin from storing any more glucose. This provides a quick energy source to the major muscles, including the brain, to help conquer the attack.
While cortisol is essential for your body to stay protected and work normally, too much for too long may result in health consequences, including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, difficulty sleeping, and low energy levels. See How To Reverse Adrenal Fatigue.
Luckily, you can naturally and easily bring your cortisol levels back to normal with these tips:
1. Avoid excessive exercise
Exercise is incredible! It controls your weight, improves mood and energy, promotes better sleep, boosts the immune system, and combats health conditions like high blood pressure and heart disease. It also helps lower your stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. Read More 8 Life-Changing Benefits Of Exercise.
However, too much exercise may cause your cortisol hormone to stay high. This is because when you engage in exercises, such as endurance exercise or high-intensity exercise, your body releases cortisol in response to the physical stress exerted on the body. A lack of proper recovery but continued intense exercise causes your cortisol to stay high.
So avoiding too much intense exercise will allow the body to heal and repair, ready for your next exercise session. The best way to ensure full recovery is to have alternate workout days or only engage in intense workouts 3 times a week.
You may also want to exercise in the evening as that’s when your cortisol levels are low compared to mornings.
Either way, always listen to your body and allow it to rest and repair.
2. Get enough sleep
Chronic sleep-deprived conditions have been associated with increased levels of cortisol.
Insomnia, for example, is a sleep disorder that makes it hard to sleep or stay asleep, making you wake up early and not go back to sleep.
It often occurs due to chronic stress but may have other causes.
Insomnia interferes with your normal hormonal pattern, including keeping your cortisol levels low.
What if you sleep during the day and work at night? Does it matter? A study review on night shift workers who slept during the day showed higher cortisol levels, while those on rotating shifts exhibited increased risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and poor mental outcomes.
But since you may not have a choice between work and sleep, there are things you can do to help improve your cortisol. They may include: having a bedtime routine and going to bed at the same time every day, engaging in physical exercise at least 2-3 hours before bed, avoiding alcohol, keeping off coffee and caffeine-containing beverages, taking naps whenever possible, and sleeping in a dark and quiet room. Read More How To Sleep Better.
3. Include deep breathing exercises in your routine
Deep breathing can be a simple solution for stress relief. Inhale deeply through your nose and exhale completely, allowing all of the air to leave your lungs. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth (or vice versa), counting slowly to 10 while you do so. Do at least five minutes of deep breathing every day; more if possible, especially during times of stress.
Deep breathing is a foundational practice in many meditative techniques that can help lower overall cortisol levels. A research review published in General Dentistry found that people who practice deep breathing regularly have lower diastolic blood pressure and reduced feelings of stress than those who don’t.
Additionally, a study published in Behaviour Research and Therapy found that regular deep breathing significantly lowers heart rate and systolic blood pressure. If you find yourself experiencing high anxiety or feeling stressed out, take five minutes to do some deep breathing exercises.
4. Pay attention to stressful thoughts
To lower your cortisol levels, you must aim to reduce stress. This can be challenging to do sometimes, but paying attention and recognizing stressful thoughts, accepting them, and allowing yourself to process them without any judgment may help you deal with stress better.
Being mindful of your stressful thoughts can also help you make deliberate decisions on how to deal with them.
In one study, individuals that participated in a mindfulness-based program had a lower cortisol response.
More studies confirm that practicing mindfulness, such as regular meditation, may help lower cortisol and improve stress management.
5. Laugh more
A good hearty laugh increases your oxygen intake, stimulates your lungs and heart, and improves circulation. This regulates cortisol and causes your muscles to relax for up to 45 minutes.
Laughing also promotes the release of endorphins, the feel-good chemicals that relieve stress and diminish your perception of pain.
Laughing may also boost the immune system, lower blood pressure, stimulate your organs, and help with weight loss.
So take a break and engage in those things or with people that make you laugh.
6. Take up a hobby
Taking on the hobbies that you enjoy has been shown to promote feelings of wellbeing and reduced cortisol.
In one study, middle-aged veterans who took gardening as a hobby recorded decreased cortisol levels and improved quality of life more than other occupational therapy programs they undertook.
7. Maintain healthy relationships
Relationships can either build you or break you—especially those that you cannot easily get out or change, such as family or in marriage.
Stable, compassionate, and loving relationships have been shown to facilitate cortisol normalcy after an argument.
Also, support from a loved one before facing a stressful situation may help lower stress-induced markers like increased blood pressure and heart rate.
Research further shows that children from loving families have reduced cortisol levels compared to those that experience regular conflict.
8. Get a pet
One study found that being in contact with a dog during a stressful situation improved cortisol levels more than talking to a friend.
Another one found that interaction with therapy dogs reduced cortisol in children undergoing medical therapy compared to those without an interaction.
9. Eat a nutritious diet
Diet is essential for general health and wellbeing, including your hormonal balance. High sugar intake may increase your cortisol levels or inhibit its production during a stressful situation. This makes it difficult for your body to regulate cortisol and deal with stress accordingly.
Also, a diet rich in saturated fat, refined grains, and added sugar contributes to increased cortisol compared to whole minimally processed foods, including vegetables, fruits, grains, and polyunsaturated fats.
Other foods that promote healthy cortisol levels include Probiotics and prebiotics, healthy fats such as olive and avocado, legumes, and whole grains. How To Make Meal Plan?
You can also include adaptogenic herbs such as ashwagandha and maca to help you manage stress more effectively.
10. Take a walk in nature
There is something very calming about taking a walk in nature. Studies have shown that spending time outside can help reduce stress and lower levels of cortisol, as well as increase overall alertness.
You don’t even need to go far from home – just ten minutes in a park or near a body of water can help you relieve stress and feel more positive. If you live in an urban area, simply take a few minutes each day to look out your window at trees or other greenery.
For extra benefit, try walking barefoot on grass (this stimulates acupressure points) or listen to soothing music while you are outside. If you’re short on time, try making a trip outside part of your daily routine. When traveling by car, try leaving a few minutes early so you can stop and walk around. Even small changes like these can help you reduce stress and feel better.
11. Take up dancing
Dancing has a lot of benefits, like relieving stress and boosting energy. It also can improve blood flow and flexibility in muscles, which helps improve muscle tone. If you’re looking for an activity to help reduce tension in your body while you work toward a healthier mindset, it might be time to get moving on those dance floors.
Dancing boosts our moods by releasing endorphins. Endorphins are hormones that act as natural painkillers, so not only will you feel happier after busting a move, but you may also find yourself feeling less stressed throughout your day.
You don’t have to take classes or even leave your house—just turn up some tunes and start moving! This is one of my favorite activities because it doesn’t require any special equipment or clothing, and there are endless options for music (and dance moves). And there’s no need to worry about learning new steps or routines—just follow along with someone else who knows what they’re doing and go from there. And if dancing isn’t really your thing? Don’t worry; physical activity comes in many forms.
12. Consume foods that Balance Cortisol Levels
There are certain foods that can help to balance cortisol levels in the body. These include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, nuts, and seeds. Other good choices include whole grains, dark leafy greens, and tomatoes. Eating these foods regularly can help to keep cortisol levels in check.
In addition to eating the right foods, it is also important to avoid foods that can trigger a spike in cortisol levels. These include sugary foods, caffeine, and alcohol. If you find that you are sensitive to any of these substances, it is best to avoid them or limit your intake.
13. Include essential oils for stress and anxiety
There are a few different essential oils that can help to balance cortisol levels naturally. One of the most popular ones is lavender oil. Lavender oil has a calming effect on the body and can help to reduce stress and anxiety. It can also help to increase levels of serotonin, which is a hormone that helps to regulate mood.
Another essential oil that can be helpful for balancing cortisol levels is chamomile oil. Chamomile oil has similar effects to lavender oil and can also help to reduce stress and anxiety. It can also help to improve sleep quality and promote relaxation.
Ginseng is another option that can help to balance cortisol levels naturally. Ginseng is a plant that has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is thought to help the body adapt to stress and improve overall energy levels. Other good options include rosemary oil and bergamot oil.
You can use essential oils in a diffuser, or you can apply them directly to your skin. If you apply them to your skin, be sure to dilute them with a carrier oil such as jojoba oil, olive oil, or coconut oil.
You can also add some essential oils to your bathtub or take a relaxing aromatherapy bath. Adding a few drops of lavender oil or chamomile oil to your bathtub can help you unwind and relax.
If you’re feeling especially stressed, you can also try making a DIY stress relief roll-on. Combine lavender oil, chamomile oil, and bergamot oil with a carrier oil such as jojoba oil or grapeseed oil. Apply the mixture to your pulse points whenever you need some extra stress relief.
14. Quit smoking
If you’re looking for ways to balance your cortisol levels naturally, quitting smoking is a great place to start. Smoking cigarettes raises cortisol levels in the body, so kicking the habit can help to get your hormones back in balance. Not to mention, quitting smoking has all sorts of other health benefits, so it’s a win-win situation!
There are a few different ways you can go about quitting smoking. You can try going cold turkey, or you can gradually reduce your nicotine intake with the help of products like patches or gum. Whichever method you choose, be sure to get plenty of support from family and friends to help you through the process.
15. Practice gratitude
There are a number of ways you can practice gratitude, including writing down three things you’re grateful for each day or simply choosing to appreciate what you have. Doing so has been shown to help reduce stress and even decrease cortisol levels by up to 25 percent. It’s also a great way to foster happiness in general. People who regularly express gratitude tend to be happier than those who don’t.
16. Stay hydrated
Dehydration increases cortisol levels, while water consumption lowers them. Instead of reaching for a sugary snack when you’re feeling stressed out, remember that a few sips of water can reduce stress levels by up to 75 percent. Drinking more water may also help alleviate headaches, fatigue, irritability, and heartburn caused by high cortisol levels.
Keep a large glass filled with water on your desk at work so you always have it handy when you need it most. If you find yourself running late in the morning, fill a bottle with water and take it with you. You’ll be less likely to grab an unhealthy breakfast or coffee on-the-go if you already have water waiting for you in your car or bag.
Cortisol is a hormone that manages the body’s response to stressful or dangerous situations. But sometimes, our bodies produce too much cortisol, and this can have serious health consequences. When it spikes, we can feel exhausted, hyper-alert, or just not like ourselves. With that being said, there are a few things you can do to help balance your cortisol levels naturally.
First, it’s important to get enough sleep. Cortisol levels are highest in the morning and start to drop off as the day goes on. So, if you’re not getting enough sleep, your cortisol levels will be higher than they should be.
Second, you can try to reduce stress in your life. Stress can cause your body to produce more cortisol. So, if you can find ways to reduce stress, it can help bring your cortisol levels down.
Third, you can eat a healthy diet. Eating foods that are high in protein and fiber can help regulate cortisol levels. Avoiding processed foods and sugary drinks can also help.
Fourth, you can exercise regularly. Exercise can help reduce stress and promote healthy hormone levels.
Other simple practices to lower your cortisol include building healthy relationships, being mindful of your mental state, quitting smoking, engaging in fun activities like dancing, or taking up a hobby that you enjoy, staying hydrated, and eating a healthy diet.
With these tips, you can easily lower your cortisol and improve your overall health.
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