Cortisol is a stress hormone released by the adrenal glands that helps your body deal with stressful situations. However, when cortisol levels are too high for too long, this hormone can hurt you more than it helps. High levels may cause weight gain, high blood pressure, disrupt sleep, negatively impact mood, reduce your energy levels, contribute to diabetes, osteoporosis, tiredness, impaired brain function, infections, and rarely very high cortisol levels can lead to Cushing’s syndrome. However, there are many lifestyle, diet, and relaxation tips to lower cortisol levels.
Get the right amount of sleep
Keep a consistent sleep schedule, avoid caffeine in the evening, avoid sleep interruptions and get seven to eight hours of sleep daily to keep cortisol in a normal rhythm.If you are a night shift or rotating shift worker, you don’t have complete control over your sleep schedule, but there are some things you can do to optimize sleep like exercising, limiting exposure to bright light at night, limiting distractions before bed, and taking naps.
Intense exercise increases cortisol in the short term due to stress on the body, but still decreases it the following night.This short-term increase helps coordinate growth of the body to meet the challenge. Additionally, the size of the cortisol response lessens with habitual training. In contrast to “maximum effort” exercise, mild or moderate exercise at 40–60% of maximum effort does not increase cortisol in the short term, and still leads to lower levels at night.
Recognize stressful thinking
Training yourself to be aware of your thoughts, breathing, heart rate and other signs of tension helps you recognize stress when it begins. By focusing on awareness of your mental and physical state, you can become an objective observer of your stressful thoughts, instead of a victim of them. “Stress mindfulness” emphasizes self-awareness of stressful thoughts and signs of body tension.
Learn to relax
Many relaxation techniques are proven to lower cortisol. Examples include deep breathing, yoga and tai chi, music, and massage.
Tending to your own happiness will help keep cortisol down. Taking up a hobby, spending time outdoors and laughing can help.
Maintain healthy relationships
Friends and family are the source of great happiness in life, as well as great stress. Spend time with those you love and learn to forgive and manage conflict for better emotional and physical health.
Take care of a pet
Relationships with animal companions can also reduce cortisol. Pets also benefit from positive relationships with their humans.
Be kind to yourself
Feelings of shame, guilt or inadequacy can lead to negative thinking and elevated cortisol.Resolving guilt improves life satisfaction and cortisol levels. This may involve changing habits, forgiving others or learning to forgive yourself.
Tend to your spirituality
If you consider yourself spiritual, developing your faith and participating in prayer can help control cortisol. Whether you’re spiritual or not, performing acts of kindness can also improve your cortisol levels.
Nutrition can influence cortisol for better or for worse. Cortisol-reducing foods include dark chocolate, black and green tea,fruits, probiotics and prebiotics like soluble fibre. Avoiding excess sugar consumption may also help keep your levels down. Avoiding dehydration,that increases cortisol, by hydrating with water.
Take certain supplements
Fish oil supplements and an Asian herbal medicine called Ashwagandha have both been shown to help reduce cortisol levels.Fish oil is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are thought to reduce cortisol. Ashwagandha contains high levels of chemicals called glycosides and aglycones, which are thought to have medicinal effects.