Cortisol is a stress hormone released by your adrenal glands when your body feels threatened. Find out how to reduce cortisol levels naturally in this article.
Often known as the “stress hormone” because it’s released during stressful situations, cortisol helps your body deal with traumatic or adverse events. It tells your body to pump blood faster and to release glucose for energy. However, prolonged high levels of cortisol can do you more harm than good.
It’s not all bad though, because part of the cortisol function is to help you wake up. Cortisol levels are naturally higher when you wake up and they gradually decrease throughout the day until it’s time to fall asleep. It also helps to regulate your blood sugar levels and your blood pressure.
So, it is important to find out how to lower cortisol naturally so that your body doesn’t think it is constantly in a fight-or-flight situation. This guide will tell you 11 hacks that reduce cortisol and combat stress.
1. Figure out your stress triggers
Stress and cortisol are closely interlinked. A stressor is any stimuli that causes anxiety or stress. It can be something physical or psychological, like a threat to your safety or an unexpected change to your environment. It could also be pain, financial worries, relationship issues, or work-related problems.
2. Recognise stressful thinking
Thinking about worrying or traumatic times are a trigger for cortisol release. Research shows that people who write about stressful events often have increased cortisol levels. In fact, negative thinking has been shown to increase cortisol levels and lower oxytocin (a relaxing hormone and neurotransmitter that calms the nervous system).
Thinking about the past or negative emotional thoughts can increase stress hormone cortisol levels. Two thought processes in particular are linked with negative health consequences: rumination (deep thought about a particular topic) and worry.
3. Get a good night’s sleep
A good night’s sleep is key to reducing stress. Cortisol and sleep are closely linked with the quality and duration of your slumber. Plus, the timing of sleep is also a contributory factor, meaning night-shift workers who sleep during the day usually have increased levels of cortisol.
Exercise can both increase and decrease cortisol effects, depending on the duration and intensity. When you take part in physical activity, it places stress on the body, so cortisol levels usually increase in the short term as a result of intense exercise, but will drop down again at night.
5. Find a hobby
Learning to relax is really beneficial, especially if you want to lower your stress levels. Taking up a new hobby is one way to relax and learn a new skill. Hobbies may also include mindfulness activities, such as yoga, which has been associated with a significant drop in cortisol.
6. Have a laugh
It’s true, having a good belly laugh is good for the soul, but also for the mind. Don’t forget, cortisol is a type of stress hormone released by the body to help it deal with challenging and negative situations. Laughter, on the other hand, is a positive behaviour and is both useful and a healthy way to naturally overcome stress.
7. Get a pet
Having a pet is scientifically proven to lower cortisol levels. One study measured the presence of a dog compared to a friend in a stressful situation, and found that those in the dog group had lower cortisol levels compared to the friend group and a control group (with no social support).
8. Eat a healthy diet
Diet is an important factor in health, including lowering cortisol, but eating the wrong foods can trigger cortisol release, like sugar. Regularly consuming high levels of sugar can keep your cortisol levels elevated, which has also been associated with greater risk of heart disease in obese men.
9. Probiotics to lower cortisol
The human gut microbiome is home to trillions of bacterial cells which have major benefits for your health. They keep your gut barrier strong, combat inflammation, modulate the immune system, and even help regulate mental health. That’s why boosting the composition of your gut is important.
10. Forest bathing
Spending time in nature should never be underestimated because it has proven health benefits. In particular, the practice of forest bathing is effective at reducing cortisol and could be a short-term stress reliever.
The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.
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