If you suffer from insomnia, fatigue, temper disturbances, digestive distress, weight gain, and/or cussed stomach bloat due to an imbalance of your stress hormones, this post is a nice resource. We’re sharing everything you want to know about cortisol – why it’s important, how it works, what causes it to spike, signs of extreme cortisol, and our greatest tips and remedies to assist reduce cortisol ranges naturally so that you can look and really feel your best each day.
What Is Cortisol?
Often known because the ‘stress hormone’, cortisol is one of many steroid hormones made by our adrenal glands. Cortisol is best known for controlling our mood, motivation, and fear, however since most cells inside our our bodies have cortisol receptors, it has an impact on many different bodily functions as well. Cortisol helps reduce irritation inside the body, regulates our sleep/wake cycle, retains our metabolism in check, controls our blood sugar levels, manages how our our bodies use macronutrients, regulates our blood pressure, helps restore balance in our our bodies after we expertise stress, and more.
How Does Cortisol Work?
Before you begin trying different techniques to assist reduce cortisol levels, it’s important to take a second to perceive the function cortisol performs in your body.
When your physique perceives it’s under some sort of threat, your hypothalamus units off alarm bells, which prompts your adrenal glands to launch a surge of hormones, together with adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline is accountable for boosting your coronary heart rate and blood pressure, and giving you the energy you want to deal with the situation at hand. Cortisol will increase the quantity of glucose in your bloodstream and prompts the fight-or-flight response in your body. It suppresses your immune, digestive, and reproductive systems and slows growth processes so your physique can deal with the threat it’s facing.
Once the threat has passed, your hormone ranges return to normal, your coronary heart rate and blood pressure decrease, and your physique resumes its regular activities. But in case your physique is in a state of fixed stress, it stays on this fight-or-flight state. Your cortisol and stress hormones stay elevated for an prolonged interval of time, which can trigger various well being problems, together with anxiety and depression, complications and digestive troubles, sleep disturbances, coronary heart disease, cognitive impairment, and – you guessed it! – weight gain.
9 Signs of High Cortisol
As talked about above, cortisol performs an important role in serving to us deal with stressful situations, however it can become problematic in times of chronic stress. We live in a world the place we’re inspired to over-schedule ourselves as a lot as possible, and often put on our busy lifestyles as a badge of honor. What we fail to realize is that the longer our cortisol ranges stay elevated, the greater the impact it can have on our overall health.
If you believe you are affected by an imbalance in your stress hormones, right here are some warning indicators to look for:
- Sleep disturbances and fatigue
- Mood disturbances, such as anxiety, depression, and irritability
- Digestive distress, together with bloating, constipation, or diarrhea
- High blood pressure
- Low libido
- Changes in menstruation and/or ovulation
- Slower restoration from workouts
- Weight gain, particularly inside the face, chest, and abdomen
Very extreme cortisol ranges can result in a situation called Cushing’s Disease. Cushing’s Disease is uncommon and usually caused by an underlying issue (i.e. overuse of cortisol medication, a tumor inside the adrenal gland, etc.), however when you are experiencing indicators of extreme cortisol, it’s always best to check with your doctor to rule out different potential well being conditions.
9 Ways to Reduce Cortisol Naturally
1. PRIORITIZE SLEEP
Sleep deprivation, sleep disturbances, and sleeping on the incorrect time (i.e. throughout the day versus at night) can all contribute to elevated cortisol levels. Quality sleep is an important a half of your overall health, each bodily and mentally. In addition to inflicting extreme cortisol, ongoing sleep deprivation can result in points such as coronary heart disease, kidney disease, extreme blood sugar, anxiety, diabetes, stroke, weight gain, and elevated physique fat.
Of course, stress, anxiety, and hormones can all interfere with our sleep, as can becoming a brand new parent and dealing night shifts. So even when you’re dedicated to improving the size and extreme quality of your sleep, your physique and daily schedule may not cooperate. If this sounds like you, give a few of these tips a try:
- Stick to a Regular Sleep Schedule. A common sleep schedule is key to a good night’s sleep. If you have a tendency to always go to mattress at different times, this can actually mess up your sleep cycle. It’s best for your organic clock if you go to mattress and get up on the identical time every day, together with weekends. Some people like to sleep in later on the weekends, however doing that may make insomnia worse.
- Exercise During the Day. Exercise is a nice way to make your self really feel drained and assist you get to sleep quickly. Exercise boosts your serotonin ranges and can assist reduce cortisol to enhance the standard of your sleep. Moderate-intensity train appears to work best, whereas extreme and extreme train may result in a poorer sleep.
- Don’t Drink Caffeine inside the Afternoon. Drinking caffeine after 2 pm can seriously interfere with your sleep cycle. Although everybody reacts differently to the results of caffeine, it’s generally best to not drink it at least 6 hours earlier than you sleep, and a lot extra if you struggle with insomnia. Try to restrict espresso consumption to the morning if you can, or cut it out completely.
- Create a Bedtime Routine. Having the identical routine every night earlier than you go to sleep can assist calm your mind, relax your body, and situation your self to realize it’s time to go to sleep. This routine can be quarter-hour to an hour – no matter works best for you – however be fixed with it every night. Find a routine that works for you whether or not that features taking a heat bath, stretching, writing in a gratitude journal, reading, writing down your to-do list or goals, or something else that feels good.
- Practice Meditation Before Bed. Meditation can bring your thoughts and physique to total relaxation earlier than bed, and assist you get to sleep faster. Meditation helps enhance melatonin ranges and helps the mind to obtain a sleepy state. It will be simpler to go to sleep and you’ll get up feeling extra energized.
THIS POST has extra nice tips for these that struggle to go to sleep – and keep asleep!
2. REDUCE YOUR CAFFEINE INTAKE
Since caffeine will increase each cortisol and blood pressure, eradicating caffeine out of your diet is a nice pure way to reduce cortisol secretion. Some people opt to surrender their caffeine repair chilly turkey, however I learned the hard way that caffeine withdrawal can result in a lot of uncomfortable signs together with headache, fatigue, reduced energy, difficulties with concentration, temper disturbances, irritability, and tremors. A a lot higher technique is to chop down in your caffeine consumption gradually. I like to slowly begin swapping out a portion of my espresso with decaf so I nonetheless really feel like I’m getting my morning fix!
3. AVOID ALCOHOL
While we’re on the subject of beverages, one other nice tip for these that want to reduce cortisol is to restrict your alcohol consumption. While it may really feel like a glass of wine after a stressful day ought to have a positive impact in keeping your cortisol down, that’s actually not the case. Since alcohol is a depressant, it can have a negative impact in your temper as soon as the preliminary results put on off. Couple that with the stress you’re already feeling and the truth that alcohol interferes with our ability to get a good night of sleep, and it’s no shock that alcohol can actually make you really feel worse rather than better.
4. INCREASE YOUR CARDIOVASCULAR EXERCISE
While cardio is known to assist you burn fats and calories, it can additionally assist you handle emotions of stress, anxiety, and depression, and enhance the standard of your sleep. With that said, an extreme quantity of cardio can backfire on you. Overtraining causes a rise in cortisol, which can have a negative impact in your mood, sleep, and waistline. Instead of doubling up in your cardio workouts, stick to mild and moderate exercises like walking, jogging, cycling, and swimming.
5. WATCH YOUR SUGAR INTAKE
While indulging in a candy deal with can assist reduce cortisol when you’re feeling stressed, eating meals extreme in sugar on the common can keep your cortisol ranges elevated. Try to save desserts for particular occasions, and when you do have a craving for one factor sweet, stick with extra wholesome choices like darkish chocolate (70%+ cocoa is best), plain yogurt with berries, or a rice cake topped with almond butter, sliced banana, and coconut flakes.
6. CLEAN UP YOUR DIET
In addition to monitoring your sugar intake, consuming a balanced diet is key if you wish to reduce cortisol secretion. Make sure you’re staying hydrated, drink black and/or inexperienced tea, and cargo on up cortisol-lowering meals like darkish chocolate, bananas, pears, and probiotic foods.
7. FIND ACTIVITIES THAT HELP YOU RELAX
If you want to reduce cortisol levels, discovering actions that assist you relax is so important. Deep breathing, meditation, and yoga are all nice relaxation techniques, however when that’s not your thing, there are different methods you can assist reduce stress naturally. Here space some ideas to consider:
- Coloring. Adult coloring books gained popularity a few years ago, and for good reason. Coloring relaxes the mind and is a nice stress-reducing exercise you can use to assist keep your ideas inside the current moment. It’s extraordinarily portable, making it a good option for lunch breaks, whereas traveling, when ready in doctor’s offices, etc., and there are tons of nice coloring apps you can use with your smartphone or tablet.
- Jigsaw puzzles. If coloring isn’t your factor however you just like the idea of getting an exercise you can enjoy both independently or with your loved ones on the finish of the day to unwind, jigsaw puzzles are a nice idea to consider (this ‘Things I Ate as a Kid’ puzzle is a nice one!). My mother and sister were always engaged on a puzzle when I was rising up, and as soon as the puzzle mat was invented, it made it easy to retailer throughout the day.
- Journaling. For these that enjoy writing, journaling is one other nice way to relax. Writing in a journal provides a nice outlet, helps promote a way of calm, provides perspective, and can assist identify triggers and patterns in addition to current solutions. It additionally forces you to focus solely on the subject you are writing about, which is a nice way to stay centered and inside the moment. We’ve written a whole post about journaling for emotional well-being, together with our favourite guided journals and journal prompts, which you can learn HERE.
- Relax inside the tub. Whenever I ask my friends what their favourite self-care rituals are, the most common reply I get is a hot bubble bath with candles after a difficult day. If you’re looking for methods to relax and reduce your stress that are easy to suit into your schedule, that is a nice way to try!
8. DO SOME PERSONAL HOUSEKEEPING
If you want to know how to reduce cortisol, keeping stress at bay is key. And whereas diet, exercise, sleep, and discovering methods to relax and unwind will definitely decrease your stress and anxiety, it’s important to do a little little bit of inner reflection as well. Are you happy? Do you really feel comfortable and assured in your body? Does your profession fulfill you? Are you harbouring guilt and disgrace over one factor you want to let go of? What is the standard of your relationships with shut household members and friends? Be honest with your self as you ponder these questions, and if you identify a number of areas of your life that trigger you emotions of stress, anxiety, and negativity, decide to creating some changes and put a plan in place. Get again right into a wholesome consuming and train regime, apply for that promotion at work, discover a therapist to assist you let go of previous mistakes, and have these tough conversations with household and friends to assist clear the air.
9. ENJOY YOUR LIFE
My final tip for these in search of pure methods to reduce cortisol is simple: laugh a lot and have fun. Laughter truly is the best medicine, particularly when you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed. It’s good for your well being and improves your immune system and mood. Laughing additionally relieves your stress response, reduces tension by relaxing your muscles, and releases endorphins. Hang out with individuals who make you laugh, watch a humorous TV current or movie, listen to a humorous podcast, watch humorous clips on YouTube…you get the idea!
I hope these tricks to reduce cortisol naturally assist you balance your stress hormones so that you can enhance the standard of your sleep, reduce digestive distress, decrease your blood pressure, and get rid of cussed stomach fats and weight gain so that you can look and really feel your best!
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