Cortisol is a steroid hormone released by a body’s adrenal glands. It is commonly referred to as a stress hormone. Although cortisol is important for functioning in everyday life, it’s dangerous when cortisol levels remain high for too long.
To break down the process, cortisol secretion is performed by an adrenocorticotropic hormone, which is part of the HPA axis. This involves the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal gland. Together, they control the body’s reaction to stress — and also regulate digestion, the immune system, mood, emotions, sexuality, and energy storage.
High cortisol levels can cause high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, weight gain, sleep deprivation, insulin resistance, decreased energy, heart disease, and poor memory. High cortisol could also lead to Cushing’s disease, which occurs when a body makes too much cortisol on its own for an extended period of time.
There is also a chance of developing adrenal fatigue. This occurs when long-term exposure to stress leads to lower cortisol levels. Lower cortisol can cause body aches, loss of hair, low blood pressure, lightheadedness, and weight loss. That is why it’s so important to keep the hormone in balance. Otherwise, it could have severe consequences. To stay healthy, here are a few tips on how to lower cortisol the perfect amount:
1. Exercise every single day.
Moderate and low-intensity exercise is capable of lowering cortisol. Of course, exercising will have additional benefits as well. Taking regular walks or running on the treadmill will reduce the risk of developing heart disease, maintain the body’s blood sugar levels, prevent weight gain, and help skin health. However, high-intensity exercise can actually cause excess cortisol, which is why it’s important to exercise in moderation. Pushing the body too far is never beneficial.
2. Get a good night’s sleep.
Although insomnia can be a symptom of high cortisol, it can also cause high cortisol. That is why it’s important to set aside enough time to rest each night. Seven to nine hours is the recommended amount of time to sleep in order for a body to function at its best. However, it’s also important to get good quality sleep. In order to make it easier to fall asleep and reduce the chance of waking up in the middle of the night, limit exposure to sunlight and avoid technology for at least an hour before getting into bed. Naps are also an excellent way to get a boost of energy throughout the day while also preventing .
3. Learn relaxation techniques.
Anxiety and chronic stress are the main causes of a cortisol imbalance, so it is necessary to learn how to elicit a relaxation response to counteract the stress response. This is possible through deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, or Tai Chi. Aromatherapy, hydrotherapy, music therapy, and art therapy are also options. Even something as simple as booking a massage at a spa can be beneficial. Overall, anything that gives the body a chance to relax and unwind will help lower cortisol levels.
4. Maintain healthy relationships.
Most methods of lowering cortisol are not quick fixes. They require complete lifestyle changes. Although it might be difficult to initiate such extreme change, it’s important to walk away from toxic partners, relatives, friends, and coworkers who cause additional stress. One negative person is going to impact everyone surrounding them. They are going to cause unnecessary stress and elevate cortisol levels without even realizing they are the source of the problem.
5. Book an appointment with a therapist.
Elevated cortisol is commonly caused by anxiety. Although there are easy-to-learn breathing techniques and other coping mechanisms that can be used at home in order to temper the , therapy is the best way to learn more about mental health. Even patients who don’t suffer from anxiety can benefit from talking to a professional. In fact, therapy has been proven to lower cortisol levels by thirty percent.
6. Maintain a healthy diet.
Drinking plenty of water, eating fruits, and reducing sugar intake are all easy ways to reduce cortisol levels. Be careful to avoid white bread, cakes, pastries, candies, and sodas. Instead, eat bananas, pears, yogurt, and even dark chocolate. Nutrition is an important part of developing a healthy lifestyle. In addition to helping manage cortisol levels, eating healthy will also help a body develop clear skin, maintain its blood sugar levels, prevent weight gain, and delay the effects of aging.
7. Take daily supplements.
Fish oil contains omega 3 fatty acids, which can cause cortisol reduction. It also aids in weight loss, reduces inflammation, and supports healthy skin. However, it is dangerous for anyone with diabetes because to take fish oil because it can increase blood sugar. A great alternative is taking Ashwagandha. This is an Asian herbal supplement that is used to treat anxiety and reduce cortisol. It can also reduce blood sugar levels, increase muscle mass, and boost strength.
8. Avoid drinking coffee.
Coffee has been proven to increase cortisol levels. After someone consumes a cup, they will create the same amount of cortisol that they would have when undergoing extreme stress. The caffeine actually recreates stress conditions in the body. Caffeine also makes it difficult to fall asleep at night, and sleep deprivation will lead to elevated cortisol.
9. Drink a cup of tea.
While coffee can lead to an elevated cortisol level, tea has the opposite effect. Although it has caffeine in it, it also contains polyphenols and catechins, which are packed with antioxidants. Half a cup of green tea per day is an easy (and enjoyable) way to lower the stress hormone. It will also reduce the risk of heart disease, improve blood flow, and lower cholesterol.
10. Adopt a pet.
It’s been proven that interacting with animals can lower a person’s stress level and blood pressure level. Adopting a pet can also reduce loneliness, provide social support, and boost moods. It doesn’t matter whether the pet is a dog, a cat, a rabbit, or a turtle. Regardless of what type of animal it may be, owning a pet can successfully help someone keep their stress hormone levels down.
11. Take cortisol blockers.
Cortisol blockers are supplements that are designed to help the body function during times of stress. This drug is typically used to treat Cushing’s syndrome or adrenal gland problems. Although cortisol blockers can lower cortisol production, they are also marketed as a weight loss pill. However, they should not be used for dieting. They should only be used to lower cortisol.
12. Spend time outdoors.
Nature pills are a low-cost way to lower cortisol levels. Taking a walk down the block or sitting outside in the grass is a natural, free, stress-relieving activity that can cause reduced cortisol levels. Instead of remaining inside of the house and staring at electronics all day long, spend at least twenty minutes outside in nature per day. Enjoy the sunlight. Listen to the birds. Stay present. Not only is spending time outdoors good for anxiety and stress, but it can also boost energy and increase creativity.
13. Write in a journal.
The simple act of letting off steam will lead to reduced cortisol. Journaling is an effective way to relieve stress without interacting with others. It provides an outlet for expressing hurt and frustrated feelings. However, getting emotions out in the open with a therapist or a trusted friend is also an option. Either way, it’s dangerous to keep emotions bottled up inside. It’s better to release stress through journaling, poetry, or any other hobby that sparks joy.
14. Avoid stressful situations.
Medication isn’t necessarily the best way to cope with a hormonal imbalance. Lifestyle changes can be even more successful when it comes to lowering cortisol. Although there are always going to be stressful moments throughout life, it’s important to avoid any unnecessary stressors. Choose to be picky instead of settling for a toxic environment. Visualization can also help create a better, healthier future.
15. Avoid alcohol.
Although there are many people who drink alcohol in order to relax, it actually has the opposite effect. Consuming alcohol causes high cortisol levels. It can also disrupt sleep, damage the liver, damage the kidneys, slur speech, and cause a depressed mood. Overall, alcohol should be avoided when cortisol levels are already high because it will only make the issue worse.
16. Have fun.
The best form of stress reduction is to have fun. After all, the stress hormone cortisol is a response to the body and mind feeling overwhelmed. That is why it’s important to take regular mental health breaks. Take off from work instead of burning out. Schedule a vacation. Set aside time to dedicate to mental health. Remember, the body and the mind are tied together. When one is suffering, the other is going to follow suit.
17. Visit a doctor.
When it’s impossible to reduce the body’s cortisol level naturally, it’s a good idea to take a cortisol test to check for Cushing’s syndrome. Salivary cortisol tests are available at most drug stores. However, a doctor will have the best medical advice. They can take two blood tests, one in the morning and one in the evening, in order to see how the cortisol levels fluctuate. Then they can suggest the best way to move forward.
- Eur J Endocrinol. 2016 Jul; 175(1): 85–93 — https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5065076/
- Eur J Endocrinol. 2017 Jan; 176(4): 405–411 —https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5425936/