What Are Some Of Your Stress Relieving Routines
Do you have trouble relaxing? Are you having trouble sleeping? Do you feel like youre never calm or relaxed? There are a number of ways to help you reduce your stress, including some simple, cost-free ways you can implement. First, make sure you get enough sleep. A good nights sleep can help you feel calmer, more relaxed, and less stressed. Try not to stress yourself out before bedtime. Schedule sleep time in your day. Also try to avoid checking your phone or watching TV before bed. This can help you get a full nights sleep.
How To Lower Cortisol Naturally To Boost Your Well
So, how to lower cortisol levels naturally when you need to?
You may have heard that certain foods like dark chocolate and green tea decrease cortisol supply. The same can be said for an anti-inflammatory, healthy diet comprising unprocessed foods like whole grains and fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
That said, what you eat doesnât make up the entirety of your game plan on how to lower cortisol when you want it low . Instead, itâs very much about positive lifestyle changes in the form of healthy sleep hygiene and stress reduction techniques.
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.
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Unwind At The End Of The Day
Engaging in daily relaxation techniques can interrupt the stress response and allow your body to return to homeostasis. Techniques such as progressive relaxation, visualization, guided meditation, breathing exercises, and autogenic training can be used daily to reduce both acute and long-term stress .
Lower Cortisol Levels With Physical Exercise
Regular physical exercise is a well-known brain enhancer that improves mental health and cognitive functions while protecting the brain from the effects of aging.
Getting regular exercise will also enable you to relax more easily.
One of the ways it does this is by reducing cortisol.
You dont need to exercise strenuously to experience stress reduction.
In fact, exercising too much or too hard actually increases cortisol.
Running a marathon, for example, can initiate the stress response since your brain gets the message that you are fleeing from danger.
Twenty to thirty minutes of light aerobic activity like walking or biking is ideal for most people.
Mind-body exercises like yoga, tai chi, and qi gong are also excellent for stress relief.
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Get Enough Quality Sleep
One of the ways to prevent suffering from the symptoms of high cortisol is to get enough sleep.
The reason that not getting enough sleep impacts your health so much is that it affects the HPA axis and cortisol levels. Scientists have found that getting quality sleep is just as important as getting enough sleep to help maintain proper cortisol levels.
Excess cortisol levels are just one of the ways a lack of sleep affects your body. Find out what else happens to your health when you dont get enough sleep.
If you have trouble getting to sleep, find out which foods can help to get a better nights sleep.
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.
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The Dangers Of Excess Cortisol
Before we look at how to lower cortisol, lets take a look at why too much of it is so hazardous to your health and mental well-being.
When you face a potential threat or danger, your bodys stress response, often called the fight-or-flight response, is triggered.
First, the stress hormones norepinephrine and epinephrine are released in a quick burst.
They quickly dissipate after the stressful situation is over and dont hang around to do any damage.
That is followed by the release of cortisol.
” High levels of cortisol can kill brain cells by literally stimulating them to death.
When your life is one crisis after another, your body continuously pours out cortisol.
This leads to a chronically elevated cortisol level, and this has some serious health implications.
Dark chocolate, cocoa powder, and cacao nibs also act as prebiotics.
Lastly, be sure to drink plenty of water and other liquids.
Being dehydrated is a physical stressor that increases cortisol.
Start the Day Right
If you grab coffee and a donut for breakfast, youre setting yourself up for higher cortisol levels for the rest of the day.
Sugar triggers a boost of stress hormones that can last up to five hours.
And it can take anywhere from five to ten hours to metabolize half the caffeine you consume.
Regular caffeine consumption can more than double your blood cortisol level.
If you get your caffeine from coffee, soda, or energy drinks, you may want to switch to tea.
Get A Good Night’s Sleep
Every dietitian we spoke with mentioned the positive impact an adequate night’s sleep can have on one’s cortisol levels. Cortisol rises and falls based on our sleep cycles: it’s highest just after we wake up and lowest right before we hit the hay. So, it’s no surprise that sleep and cortisol levels are so heavily interconnected.
“Due to cortisol levels being linked to circadian rhythm, making sure you are getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night will help keep cortisol levels normal,” explains White. “This can also help keep the fat off.” According to Wake Forest researchers, people who sleep five hours or less put on two and a half times more belly fat, while those who sleep more than eight hours pack on slightly less than that.
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Potential Cortisol Reducing Supplements
A range of compounds works to decrease cortisol levels in animals. However, there have been no trials of these substances. Only after these can we get sufficient data to prescribe these substances to humans for getting lower cortisol levels.
Most animal models mimic the exact processes that may occur in humans. Therefore, these compounds can be helpful to get lower cortisol levels. Numerous substances are present in this category, such as probiotics, lemon balm, and holy basil.
Try Bright Light Therapy
âBright light therapy is a treatment that exposes you to bright, full-spectrum light for thirty minutes to one hour. Light therapy helps lower cortisol levels by increasing amounts of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate your mood and promotes restful sleep. By taking advantage of the benefits of bright light therapy, you can help mute the effects of cortisol on your brain and body. This form of therapy can be a good option to explore if you live in a region that is marked by shorter days and reduced access to sunlight as well).
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Your Daily Rhythm Similar To A Circadian Rhythm Operates On A 24
Blood sugar levels and cortisol are naturally elevated to wake you up in the morning as the sun rises, and they naturally drop off in the evening as melatonin hormone is produced to put you to sleep.
Within this typical hormonal flow, the body is also equipped to experience isolated bouts of stress, at which point the body will excrete cortisol, adrenaline, and glucose as a response to help you get out of harms way. Ancestrally, stress was generally a case of life or death: having to fight off from an invasion, or escape the attack of a wild animal. Once the stressor was gone, the body would go back to baseline, and the stress hormones did their job: keeping you alert and energized for fight or flight.
Limit Your Coffee Consumption
Caffeine is a stimulant that can make you feel more alert, but at the same time, it can also increase cortisol levels and disrupt your sleep at night. One study showed a correlation between caffeine consumption and increased cortisol by 30% after just one hour. Regular caffeine consumption can subsequently double your cortisol levels. If you’re having trouble falling asleep at night, try avoiding coffee and other caffeinated drinks six hours before bedtime. For best results, limit your daily intake of coffee and other caffeinated drinks to one to two cups.
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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 An Adaptogenic Herb
Adaptogens are a group of fungi and plant-derived compounds that help the body adapt to stress and are known for their ability to reset the body and restore natural functioning. Re-establishing healthy, pre-stress cortisol levels is one of the many benefits of including these supplements in your diet. Ashwagandha, one of the most popular members of this group, has been shown to significantly reduce cortisol levels and calm anxiety. Ginseng and rhodiola are some of our other favorite adaptogens that may help balance your cortisol levels. Try adding these to your morning smoothie, coffee, tea, or even baked goods or discussing further with your Parsley Health clinician or health coach to receive recommendations on high quality brands and specific adaptogens that may work best for you.
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Natural Ways To Lower Cortisol
In many cases, the brain and adrenal glands can regulate cortisol on their own. When stress has gone away, the body will stop making cortisol and the levels will return to normal.
However, people with chronic stress, certain medical conditions, or who take certain medications can have cortisol levels that are higher than usual. They may want to try some techniques for lowering cortisol, such as:
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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Manage Your Stress Levels
Stress is an unfortunate reality in everyday life. Managing your stress, and, in turn, your cortisol levels, can help keep you healthy.
finding a good exercise routine
practicing relaxation techniques, like breathing exercises
finding your outlets, like journaling or painting
talking with a trusted source
There is no perfect or right way to manage stress. Find what works for you and practice it as needed.
High Cortisol Testing And Diagnoses
Your doctor can order a number of tests to determine if you have abnormally high cortisol levels. Both blood and urine testing help reveal a problem, but a 24-hour urine test is used more often than a cortisol blood test to diagnose Cushings disease or syndrome.
The cortisol values listed below, which can be obtained from a blood test, serve as a reference range for whats considered normal. Cortisol levels above this normal range are considered high and can be risky or problematic.
But keep in mind that values differ depending on time of day, age and the type of cortisol test preformed. Saliva tests are now also recommended and appear to be as reliable as a blood sample. Additionally, an overnight dexamethasone suppression test may also be recommended, and it involves taking a dose of a corticosteroid medicine called dexamethasone to determine how blood cortisol is affected.
Because of this, your doctor will always need to evaluate your results in light of your specific symptoms and medical history.
- Normal cortisol ranges for adults and children in the morning are between five to 23 micrograms per deciliter or 138 to 635 nanomoles per liter
- Normal cortisol ranges for adults and children in the afternoon are between three to 16 mcg/dL or 83 to 441 nmol/L
- Normal cortisol for a newborn baby is between two to 11 mcg/dL or 55 to 304 nmol/L
Final Thoughts on Cortisol Levels
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The Best Supplements That Support Healthy Cortisol Levels
Going through a period of prolonged stress and suspect your cortisol levels could use some help or optimization? There are plenty of ways to begin to bring the hormone back to baseline. If you’re looking for a daily supplement to support a robust stress response, these three ingredients have all been shown to support healthy cortisol levels in clinical research:*
Listen To Music And Dance
Music is actually healing and can have a calming effect on the brain.
Numerous studies show that music can relax you, especially before a stressful event, by significantly lowering stress hormones. It can also reduce the spike in cortisol during the stressful situation .
Music can be even more relaxing when combined with non-strenuous dancing.
Regular dancing has also been shown to greatly decrease cortisol levels .
The book The Tapping Solution: A Revolutionary System for Stress-Free Living goes in more depth about the practice.
Lastly, deep breathing exercises can help you manage your stress hormone levels.
Diaphragmatic breathing consciously breathing from your diaphragm has been shown to encourage the bodys natural relaxation response and reduce cortisol .
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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!”
Other Supplements That Lower Cortisol
Not all supplements that reduce cortisol in humans are herbs.
This next group of supplements is a mixed bag that includes fats, a compound found only in tea, and a certain kind of fiber.
Fish oil is the most popular supplemental source of omega-3 essential fatty acids.
Fish oil supplements have positive effects on brain functions of all kinds mood, memory, cognition, and general mental well-being.
One of the ways it works is by blunting the stress response and effectively reducing cortisol levels.
This makes it beneficial for those with psychiatric disorders such as depression, borderline personality disorder, ADHD, and schizophrenia.
One omega-3 found in fish oil, DHA , is an essential structural component of brain cells.
People low in DHA have measurably smaller brains that age faster than normal.
Phosphatidylserine is a fat that naturally occurs in high concentrations in the brain and nervous system.
Phosphatidylserine is an outstanding brain supplement in its own right.
In fact, it is the only supplement to receive a qualified stamp of approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for cognitive decline and dementia.
Cortisol reduction may be one of the ways it achieves this.
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Exercise But Not Too Much
Depending on the intensity of exercise, it can increase or decrease cortisol.
Intense exercise increases cortisol shortly afterward but will decrease a few hours later. This short-term increase helps coordinate growth of the body to meet the challenge. Additionally, the size of the cortisol response lessens with routine training .
Regular exercise has been shown in numerous studies to help improve sleep quality, reduce stress, and improve overall health, which can help lower cortisol over time .
Interestingly, regular exercise has also been associated with greater resilience to acute stress and may lower negative health effects associated with stress, such as high cortisol .
That said, overdoing it can have the opposite effect. Therefore, aim for around 150200 minutes of mostly low- to moderate-intensity exercise each week and allow yourself time to rest between workouts.
Exercising regularly can help you better manage stress and promote good health, which may help lower cortisol levels. That said, avoid overdoing it and aim for around 150200 minutes of low- to moderate- intensity exercise each week.