Cortisol is a stress hormone produced in the adrenal glands. The hormone affects how we sleep, wake up, and even learn. So, it has many important roles in the body. But it seems that many of us, with our hectic lives and not-so-good sleep schedules, produce more cortisol than we should and have chronically elevated levels. And that, can have detrimental effects on our health.
What Can High Cortisol Levels Lead to?
It can mean trouble falling asleep, frequent waking during the night, weight gain, high blood pressure, decreased sex drive, erectile dysfunction, depression, anxiety, irregular periods, digestion problems, brain fog, and an increased risk of heart attacks, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
If you suspect you have high cortisol levels or experience any of these symptoms, I recommend that you talk to your doctor or see a specialist for diagnosis and treatment.
How Can You Lower Your Cortisol Levels Quickly and Naturally?
Fortunately, there are natural ways to lower cortisol levels and promote overall well-being. Here are 14 expert-approved methods to help you lower cortisol naturally:
1. Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep is crucial for maintaining healthy cortisol levels. Sleep deprivation can lead to elevated cortisol levels, even with partial sleep loss. Studies have shown that even getting as little as 5.5 hours of sleep can result in increased cortisol levels the following evening, further contributing to insomnia and elevated cortisol levels. Aim to meet your sleep need every night to break this cycle.
2. Reduce Your Stress Levels
Chronic stress is a significant contributor to high cortisol levels, and lowering your stress levels can help your body balance its cortisol production. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, guided imagery, and diaphragmatic breathing are some effective ways to immediately and quickly lower your stress levels. Find the stress-reducing activities that works best for you and incorporate them into your daily routine.
3. Make Time for a Hobby
Have you noticed how few people have hobbies that don't revolve around Netflix or weed? But hobbies that don't involve digital devices are great for managing stress, social connection, physical fitness, and general wellbeing, all of which help to keep cortisol levels balanced. Consider activities like ping pong, knitting, decorating, and playing a musical instrument as a weekly activity.
4. Try Breathing Exercises
Deep breathing exercises are another effective way to lower cortisol levels and promote relaxation. Find a quiet and comfortable place, and practice deep breathing by taking slow, deep breaths in through your nose, and exhaling slowly through your mouth. Incorporating breathing exercises into your daily routine can help you manage stress and improve sleep quality.
5. Have a Relaxing Bedtime Routine
Having a relaxing bedtime routine can help lower cortisol levels and improve relaxation and sleep quality. It's a good time to practice a hobby such as reading or yoga as well. Something that helps me unwind and has become part of my bedtime routine is tidying up and putting things away. It's as if I start each new day with a clean house and a clean slate. If you're struggling with insomnia, a warm shower before bed can help you relax and signal to your body that it is time to sleep. I also like to light candles or turn on a lamp with a colored bulb, which I find so soothing... I literally feel the stress falling away when I turn the lights down one or two hours before bed, not just right before.
6. Do a Brain Dump
If a busy mind is keeping you from falling asleep, try doing a brain dump before bed. Take a few minutes to write down any worries, to-do lists, or thoughts that are racing through your mind. This simple activity can help calm your mind and provide a sense of mental clarity, making it easier to unwind and fall asleep.
7. Eat a Balanced Healthy Diet
Eating a balanced diet is part of any healthy lifestyle, and it's also essential for managing cortisol levels. We prescribe the anti-inflammatory diet because it's beneficial for so many conditions, with its emphasis on Omega-3 fats, fruits, and vegetables. been found to help lower cortisol levels. Additionally, certain foods like dark chocolate and green tea have been shown to help regulate cortisol levels.
8. Use Supplements
Some supplements may have the potential to lower cortisol levels. Probiotics, fish oil, ashwagandha, and CBD are among the supplements that have shown promise in reducing cortisol levels. However, it's important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplements to ensure they are safe and suitable for you.
9. Exercise (the Right Amount at the Right Times)
Regular physical activity is an effective strategy for lowering cortisol levels and promoting better sleep. However, it is important to find the right balance. High-intensity exercise can trigger a temporary increase in cortisol levels, so it is recommended to schedule rest days and incorporate easier workout sessions into your routine. Avoid intense exercise within an hour of bedtime to prevent sleep disruption and elevated cortisol levels.
10. Get in Sync with Your Circadian Rhythm
Our bodies have a 24-hour internal clock, known as the circadian rhythm, which regulates various physiological processes, including sleep-wake cycles, hormone production, and fluctuations in body temperature. Disruptions to this natural rhythm, such as working night shifts or having an irregular sleep schedule, can lead to increased cortisol levels. To manage cortisol levels, try to keep a regular sleep schedule and meal times, and expose yourself to morning light while avoiding evening light to reset your circadian rhythm.
11. Get a Pet
Interacting with a pet has been shown to lower cortisol levels and boost happiness. Spending just an hour with a dog can significantly reduce cortisol levels, especially in stressed-out individuals. However, it is important to note that allowing your pet to share your bed may lead to sleep problems and higher cortisol levels.
12. Get Out in Nature
Spending time in nature can have a relaxing effect on both the mind and body, leading to lower cortisol levels. Aim to spend 20-30 minutes in nature at least three times a week to reap the benefits. This can be as simple as taking a walk in a park or engaging in outdoor activities.
Lower Your Cortisol Levels Quickly and Naturally