Cortisol is a natural hormone produced by your body, so we shouldn’t try to completely eradicate it.
Its job is to focus your mind and stop your body’s routine functions from bothering you during high-stress situations. Normally, cortisol is necessary and important for a healthy lifestyle.
However, too much cortisol on a continued basis has terrible consequences for your body, which is where it gets its bad reputation.
Modern life is fast and stressful, and as a result, cortisol over-exposure can:
Thankfully there are multiple ways and means of controlling cortisol production to live a more balanced life. Let’s go over 10 ways to lower your cortisol levels.
This one might seem obvious, but sleep is so critical to our health, and many people struggle with it.
Getting quality sleep, meaning having a good sleep schedule and getting enough sleep, can help control cortisol.
People who work the night shift often experience increased cortisol because they sleep during the day. Others wake often or go to bed at varying times.
Another issue is we go to bed with a racing mind.
Here are some tips for getting a great night’s sleep:
Ask people what they do with their time off and you’ll get many similar responses: catch up on chores, run errands, shop, make repairs on the home or car, spend time with friends, watch TV, etc.
These things aren’t inherently bad, but they don’t give you a chance to truly relax. We’re always busy, with a To-Do list that never ends.
When you go from activity to activity or work to home without giving yourself quality downtime, your brain can release cortisol.
Meditation and mindfulness are two of the main ways to ensure that you spend your downtime actually relaxing.
Be silent, still, and process your thoughts in a calm environment – make it some real “me time.”
You can start with just a few minutes of focused breathing in the morning or another time during the day when you have time. It can be especially helpful and calming to do during a break at work.
Beginning small makes it easier, and then you can build up on the time you meditate.
When we hear the word “exercise,” most of us groan and imagine sweating in a gym for hours while not seeing results. It seems hard and intimidating but staying active doesn’t have to mean hours in the gym.
Try and find a way of moving around that you enjoy, like dancing, a brisk walk, or a favorite sport.
Don’t push yourself too hard! If your body is being pushed to the limit during a hard routine, this is stressful and raises your cortisol.
Instead try to find ways of keeping active that calm you down.
Cycling on a flat path around a lake with pretty scenery, for instance, is great exercise, enjoyable, and calming.
Harvard Health notes that, “Regular aerobic exercise will bring remarkable changes to your body, your metabolism, your heart, and your spirits. It has a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress.”
Digestive problems are never pleasant and can be both the cause and the result of stress.
IBS and indigestion are normally the result of dietary or lifestyle choices that can be addressed and managed.
These conditions are usually caused by “bad” bacteria taking over your gut and disrupting healthy digestion. The bacteria thrive off all the bad foods we eat, which is why sticking to that junk food is just going to exacerbate indigestion.
Poor diets tend to be sugary, acidic, fatty and starchy – good fuel for these disruptive bacteria, but bad news for healthy digestion.
This all results in a vicious cycle of higher cortisol levels, cravings, and a repeating process of discomfort and misery.
The most common way to combat these bacteria is with probiotics.
These can be acquired at most drug stores, and are usually taken once a day in the morning. They introduce healthy bacteria back into your system and aid in getting your body and its digestive processes back to normal.
You can help the healthy bacteria thrive and stabilize by doing away with junk-food and replacing it with fiber, vegetables, protein, good clean fats, etc.
Good foods include garlic, leeks, and whole grains. Also try fruits, eggs, fish, beef – foods that are low-glycemic and made up of healthy fats and proteins.
Changing your diet can have a huge impact on your overall gut health and slash your cortisol levels.
People usually associate Omega 3 with fish oils and improving brain function, but omega 3 can also help combat depression, cognitive diseases like dementia, and lower your cortisol levels.
Grass-fed beef and most fish are a great and tasty way of getting Omega 3.
Not everyone is aware that there’s good omega fats and bad—that’s because we get way too much of Omega 6 in the American diet.
Omega 6 fatty acids have the opposite effect of Omega 3s, and cause inflammation and higher cortisol levels.
They’re found in vegetable oils like sunflower and corn, as well as canola. Try alternatives like olive oil or 1-cal spray to cook that beef in.
Processed foods tend to have Omega 6 too, along with corn-fed beef. Eating more natural helps get more Omega 3s and improves your health, which helps with cortisol levels and how you deal with stress.
A study of 122 adults showed that dwelling on stressful events, particularly by writing about them, led to a rise in cortisol.
That’s not too surprising. This part might be: Writing about positive experiences, or just plans for the day, actually lowered these levels.
This goes to show that how we handle events in our lives—and the way we perceive them and churn them over in our minds—matters to our overall stress levels and cortisol levels.
A great way to ensure that stressful events don’t come to dominate your psyche is to learn to recognize them.
Once you can spot stressors, it becomes possible to build a set of strategies that you can call on to combat negative thoughts and stop anxiety from snowballing.
Mindfulness and meditation are popular and proven ways of beginning this process.
Self-awareness and calming strategies mitigate against stressful thoughts and reduce stress and cortisol.
Multiple studies have proven this link, with one surveying 43 women following a mindfulness routine, showing the process of identifying and expressing stress directly correlated with a decrease in stress levels.
A similar study looked at 128 women who were suffering from breast cancer, and showed a clear reduction in stress among those participating in mindfulness sessions compared with those who adopted no such strategy.
In everyday life, we can identify stressors and try to see them as neither good or bad. Look for lessons or one positive outcome from something that doesn’t seem like a “good thing.”
Changing your reaction reduces stress and cortisol.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a “creative” person, studies show that indulging in a relaxing and creative activity like painting for 45 minutes reduces cortisol levels.
You don’t have to create a masterpiece. It can be something expressive that you like. Adult coloring books are a new, fun trend that helps people relax and feel energized through being creative.
Experiment, create, try something new – that’s the aim of the game.
Ever wanted to try wood working? Writing? A new instrument? Has your son or daughter been nagging you to help them with a science project or building a model airplane?
These are all ways of reducing stress and cortisol, as well as opportunities for enriching experiences and achievements.
Numerous studies have proven that petting dogs and cats, as well as other types of animals, releases endorphins and oxytocin while reducing stress hormone levels.
Researchers have found that just twenty minutes of petting a dog is a much greater way to reduce stress than a similar period of just peace and quiet.
Getting your own dog, if you have the capability and facilities to look after one properly, is a great excuse to go for plenty of walks in nature, too – another proven reducer of cortisol.
But if owning a pet would be stressful for you or not possible, you can also play with a friend’s dog, cat, or other pet to reduce your cortisol levels.
There are many stress-relieving supplements available that use herbs and other natural ingredients. A few popular ones include:
Ashwagandha is an Asian herbal supplement that reduces levels of cortisol.
It’s a root from India that contains chemicals that have been said to reduce swelling and lower blood pressure, as well as boost the immune system and lower cortisol.
One study proved this in a double-blind test, showing significantly reduced cortisol and heart-rate, two of the main factors in stress.
L-Theanine is an amino acid found in green tea. L-Theanine can act as a shield against cortisol’s more harmful effects, and can help fight against memory loss and cognitive performance drops.
Phosphaditylserine (PS) is a common supplement for sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease, mainly because of its ability to slow memory loss and improve cognitive function.
Its benefits also extend to reducing cortisol levels, as well as tiredness, and symptoms of ADHD.
Numerous trials have been performed on Phosphaditylserine, and its effect on Alzheimer’s patients has been officially recognized by the FDA. This is a great one to take to reduce cortisol and stress.
Gingko Biloba Leaf Extract is another common supplement for sufferers of dementia.
Gingko leaf originates in Chinese medicine, and has long been proven to reduce blood pressure, and more importantly, levels of cortisol.
The leaf extract effectively suppresses your body’s ability to flood your system with cortisol, providing a key limit to its negative effects
Choline Bitartrate is found in common daily foods like eggs, dairy, and meat. It even occurs naturally in small doses in the human body. However, most people are somewhat deficient in it.
It’s long been considered a good way of improving memory, concentration, as well as reducing cortisol and associated stress and anxiety.
One study found that people with lower levels of choline had a higher chance of developing higher cortisol after events such as surgery.
Similar studies found that choline is able to reduce “oxidative stress” in asthma sufferers.
When taking supplements to help with stress, it’s still important to check for possible reactions with other drugs you’re taking, and watch for side effects. Even healthy, natural herbs can have limits to how much you should ingest.
Antioxidants are a great way to combat the physical symptoms of stress in your body, which in turn helps lower your cortisol levels.
You can get antioxidants from brightly colored fruits and berries such as blueberries, raspberries, grapes, cranberries, or Acai berries, an increasingly popular berry that has particularly high levels of both antochyanins and Vitamin C.
Studies have shown taking Vitamin C can decrease anxiety and improve your overall mood, and taking them after exercising is a great way to rapidly reduce cortisol.
Research shows that vitamin C, glutathione, and CoQ10 significantly reduce the amount of cortisol in your body, as well as relieving other factors related to stress.
Look for organic, colorful fruits and vegetables for more antioxidants.
Cortisol is just one of the hormones affecting your health. Learn more HERE
“5 Ways to lower cortisol levels and reduce stress.” Observer.com
Lowering cortisol and CVD risk in postmenopausal women: a pilot study using the Transcendental Meditation program. Walton KG et al. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2004 Dec;1032:211–5.
Anticipatory sensitization to repeated stressors: the role of initial cortisol reactivity and meditation/emotion skills training. Pubmed.gov.