Learn To Recognize Stressful Thinking
Paying attention to stressful thoughts may help you reduce them.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction is a strategy that involves becoming more self-aware of stress-provoking thoughts, accepting them without judgment or resistance, and allowing yourself the ability to process them .
Training yourself to be aware of your thoughts, breathing, heart rate, and other signs of tension helps you recognize stress when it begins .
Recognizing stressful thoughts allows you to formulate a conscious and deliberate reaction to them. For example, a study involving 43 women in a mindfulness-based program showed the ability to describe and articulate stress was linked to a lower cortisol response (
Tending to your own happiness can help keep cortisol down. If youre feeling stressed, try listening to music or making yourself laugh.
What Happens During A Cortisol Test
A cortisol test often uses a sample of blood drawn at a lab. But the test may also be done on urine or saliva collected at home. Normally, cortisol levels vary during the day, so your provider may order more than one type of test to get more information about your cortisol levels.
For a blood test, a health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.
Blood samples are usually taken twice during the day–once in the morning when cortisol levels are at their highest, and again around 4 p.m., when levels are much lower.
For a cortisol urine test, your provider may ask you to collect all your urine during a 24-hour period. This is called a “24-hour urine sample test.” For this test, you’ll be given a special container and instructions for how to collect and store your urine sample. Your provider will tell you what time to start. The test usually includes the following steps:
In certain cases, a urine test for cortisol may be done on one sample of urine collected in the morning.
A cortisol saliva test is usually done at home with a kit to collect a saliva sample. Your provider will tell you what time to collect your sample. It’s often done at night before you go to bed when cortisol levels are normally lower.
Keep Cortisol Low At The Right Times
As youâve learned, timing is everything when regulating your cortisol rhythm. You want it high to jumpstart your day and low later on to welcome sleep more effortlessly.
If you already experience an out-of-whack cortisol rhythm, we feel you. Anyone caught in the vicious cycles of sleep loss, chronic stress, and circadian misalignment often feels at a loss about the starting point for reducing their cortisol levels. Before you resort to medical interventions, good sleep hygiene and stress management techniques are your best bet when deciding how to lower cortisol volume.
Thatâs where the RISE app can help. It features 16 science-based habits tied to your unique chronobiology to help you make wise sleep-related choices. This, in turn, keeps you circadianally aligned and your sleep debt low to ward off cortisol overload.
Need more proof that this is the only app you need to feel and function at your best? 80% of RISE users feel the benefits within five days in terms of improved productivity, performance, and well-being.
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Will I Need To Do Anything To Prepare For The Test
The preparations will depend on the type of test you are having. Be sure to follow all the instructions that your provider gives you.
Stress can raise your cortisol levels, so you may need to rest before your test. A blood test will require you to schedule two appointments at different times of the day. Before a saliva test, you may need to stop using certain medicines. Let your provider know about all medicines you use, including skin creams. But don’t stop using any medicines without talking with your provider first.
Maintain A Healthy Diet
A well-balanced, nutritious diet rich in foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and fish is a good way to keep healthy cortisol levels. That doesnt mean a cheat day isnt in order here and there, but too much sugar, for instance, can increase production of the stress hormone.
A healthy diet also includes drinking plenty of water, staying hydrated, and eating foods that increase serotonin to improve mood and mental health.
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High Cortisol Levels Vs Cushings Disease Vs Cushings Syndrome: Whats The Difference
When the pituitary or adrenal glands produce abnormally high levels of cortisol for a duration of time, a doctor may diagnose a serious, chronic disorder called Cushings disease.
Cushings disease is usually caused by tumors on the adrenal or pituitary glands and often causes symptoms like rapid weight gain, a swollen face, fatigue, and water retention/swelling around the abdomen and upper back. It impacts women between the ages of 25 to 40 most often, although people of any age and gender can develop this condition.
Diagnosable Cushings disease caused by an overactive adrenal gland is considered much rarer than just having generally high cortisol levels. In other words, you have a much greater chance of experiencing high cortisol at certain times due to increased stress in your life than you do of ever being diagnosed with Cushings disease. While people experience at least somewhat high levels of cortisol at one time or another during very stressful episodes , rates of Cushings disease diagnoses are still very low compared to other hormonal/endocrine conditions like thyroid disorders or diabetes, for example.
Low Cortisol Levels: Addisons Disease and Adrenal Fatigue
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Rewire Your Sleep Schedule
Sleeping in time with your bodys biorhythms and getting enough quality sleep can help you lower your cortisol levels naturally. Time, length, and quality of sleep have all been found to influence cortisol levels, so optimizing your sleep cycle from start to finish plays an important role in lowering cortisol levels. Ideally, getting to bed by 10 p.m. will help you avoid a late evening cortisol spike which could make it hard to get to sleep and sleep soundly. This also takes advantage of natural melatonin production, which starts around sunset to help you wind down.
Research in the Journal of Nursing Research found that shift workers who sleep during the day have higher daytime cortisol and get less sleep per day than people who sleep at night, so if your job allows, its best to adjust your sleep schedule accordingly. And if you have little control over when you get to sleep, do your best to create a good sleep routinelike avoiding caffeine and alcohol and limiting screen time before bedto optimize the sleep you do get.
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Some Of The Signs Of High Cortisol Levels Can Include:
- Tension headaches, chronic fatigue, and struggling to recover from physical activity
- Mood problems, such as irritability, depression, or anxiety
- Difficulty concentrating
- Digestive issues, including constipation, diarrhea, or bloating
- Weight gain, particularly in the abdomen, face, and chest
- Diminished libido
- High blood pressure
In rare cases, high cortisol can be related to underlying health issues like Cushings Disease. So, its important to see a physician if unusually high levels of cortisol are indicated from blood, urine, or saliva samples.
Knowing how to naturally lower cortisol levels is extremely useful for improving overall wellbeing and living a happier life.
Cortitrax: The Best Supplement To Lower Cortisol Levels
Science may have found the optimal blend of all-natural supplements for reducing cortisol that rejuvenates your body and mind, helps you get deep sleep, and sheds pounds in as little as a few weeks!
CortiTrax provides fast-acting stress support and helps optimize healthy levels of cortisol in the blood for lower stress, improved memory, weight management, and sleep/energy support. And unlike most supplements out there, it already has the naturally optimized blend in each capsule and NO artificial ingredients.
It wont make you a supermodel, zen master, or energizer bunny overnight, but when combined with diet, exercise, and better stress-management habits, it could give your body the extra power it needs to finally achieve your goals. Each capsule is packed with:
Other ingredients include:
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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.
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.
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Clean Up Your Sleep Act
We all know how important sleep is, and yet its one of the first things to be neglected when life gets busy or to become impacted when were feeling stressed.
Proper sleep has been shown to reduce cortisol levels, but what is proper sleep?
First things first, you need to get the proper amount of sleep. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society, the optimal amount of sleep for adults aged 18 to 60 is between seven and nine hours.
Another important part of sleep is hygiene. Sleep is an integral aspect of keeping cortisol levels down. Its not just about sleeping enough, but about fixing your sleep habits and maintaining them, said nutritionist Lovneet Batra.
Experts agree that there are some important habits to be cultivated to get a good night’s sleep:
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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.
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How To Lower Cortisol Levels Its More Than Reducing Stress
Contrary to popular misconception, learning how to lower cortisol levels isnât solely about naturopathic remedies. For example, supplements like ashwagandha, prebiotics, probiotics, and magnesium are revered for their cortisol-regulating properties. While these substances may or may not work, your goal shouldnât be to keep your cortisol load low all the time.
The thing is, your body requires high cortisol concentrations at the right times and low cortisol levels at other times . This keeps yourself in circadian alignment such that you feel and function at your best.
Ahead, we explain how a healthy cortisol rhythm works so you have a better idea of when and how to lower your cortisol levels when you need to. Itâs all about making this hormone work for you instead of against you.
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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Can You Manage Cortisol Levels On Your Own
The good news is that if your doctor informs you that your cortisol levels arent at an ideal level, you can take steps to get your numbers where they could be. According to Dr. Singh, some simple ways to promote optimal cortisol levels include:
- Follow a regular sleep routine every night to increase your chances of getting enough deep sleep.
- Do cardiovascular and strength training exercise on a regular basis.
- Bring stress down with a practice such as daily mindfulness meditation and/or deep breathing exercises.
- Reduce caffeine intake as much as possible.
- Maintain an active social life filled with healthy hobbies and relationships.
The bottom line: Talk to your doctor if you think your cortisol levels are off so that you can get an accurate diagnosis and management plan.
Avoid Or Limit Alcohol Intake When You’re Stressed
Because alcohol often puts people at ease and makes them feel relaxed, you might think that it has the ability to lower cortisol levels. In fact, the exact opposite is true. A study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that men who had just one drink a week saw a three percent rise in their cortisol levels, and those levels can be even higher if you’re under a tremendous amount of pressure.
“We see people using alcohol to help relax however, alcohol is a depressant. While yes, in the moment you may feel ‘better,’ alcohol causes several issues that appear later on,” says Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD, who serves on the advisory board for Smart Healthy Living.
“Also, alcohol can also depress your mood. Couple a depressed mood with stress and you may find yourself in a terrible rut,” she adds. “Alcohol can also disrupt deep sleep, so not only will you be hungover after a night of drinking, but you may also feel sick and lack a good night’s sleep!”
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Signs Of Low Cortisol
How To Lower Your Cortisol Levels
If your cortisol levels are high, how you lower them will depend on the underlying cause. If its because of issues with your pituitary gland, adrenal glands, or medication youre taking, youll need to work with your GP or health professional to lower them. If its because of chronic stress, there are lots of lifestyle changes you can make to lower your stress levels:
- enjoy yourself do something you love every day, like dancing or listening to music, to improve your mood
- practice mindfulness for example, daily meditation or yoga
- connect with your friends, family, and even your pet a strong social support system is important for your mental health
- make sleep a priority do your best to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night
- break a sweat aim for at least 75 vigorous minutes of activity or 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week
- eat a healthy diet aim for a lot of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and oily fish
- breathing exercises for example, deep nose breathing or counting breaths
- try a supplement omega-3, vitamin B-complex, magnesium, L-theanine, lemon balm, valerian root, and ashwagandha are linked to lower cortisol levels
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How The Modern World Sends Your Stress Response Haywire
Your bodys natural stress response is normally self-regulating. The alarm system is triggered, you respond to the threat, and once it passes, you slowly come down and return to equilibrium. But if your brain constantly perceives threats, that system is on 24/7. Instead of being chill and only stressed when your life depends on it, youre now in a state of chronic stress from media, work, your diet, and personal relationships, meaning youre always on alert and looking for a reason to fight or run.
In the modern world, there is no time to chill and come back down. Youre constantly under pressure to do more at work, you worry about feeding your family, youre inundated with fake news , and youre affected by factors you cant control .
That means stress is ALWAYS PRESENT no matter what you do. When youre always in fight-or-flight mode, you start overreacting to even the tiniest triggers like moderate traffic, an offhand comment from your partner, or a flooded email inbox.
This can start to negatively affect everything from your job to your marriage. It can even change the very fiber of your being.
Do you have trouble sleeping? Chronic exposure to cortisol may have changed the fundamental rhythms controlling your sleep, preventing you from getting the regenerative sleep you need to balance your mood, stay energetic, and fight off aging.
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