How To Lower Cortisol When You’re Feeling Stressed And Anxious
Cortisol is our main stress hormone which is produced by the adrenal glands. Short-term bursts of cortisol is actually good for us, it helps to keep us focused and gives us a drive to get tasks done; however, prolonged stress can wreak havoc on our body.
Cortisol is a huge part of our body’s “fight or flight” response, which is activated in times of high stress—like running from a tiger. When this stress response is triggered, our bodies divert blood flow away from digestive organs to our arms and legs and to ensure we can breathe and move effectively to “save our life”. However, in modern times we are not usually running from a tiger. Stress can come from many different things such as lack of sleep, poor sleep quality, poor dietary choices, suppressed emotions, emotional stress, worry, anxiety, fear, obesity, unhealthy relationships, hormonal imbalances, chemicals in the environment (pollution, skin care products).
Chronic or prolonged stress keeps our body in the “fight or flight” mode, forces us to de-prioritize bodily functions like reproduction (e.g., fertility, regular menstruation, libido), digestion, and rest.
When cortisol is not balanced it can result in a number of health issues, such as, hormonal imbalances, irregular or no periods, infertility, low libido, weight gain, anxiety, depression, insomnia, blood sugar imbalances, gut issues, low energy. High levels of cortisol also affect thyroid health (which is important for metabolism, hormonal balance, energy production). Cortisol can also affect our appetite as it increases insulin release, which stimulates appetite, especially for carbohydrates or fatty foods, and can be a contributing factor to abdominal fat gain.
With what we have going on in the world at the moment, this is creating a lot of fear, worry, panic and anxiety for people. So today I want to share you with some ways we can lower this stress hormone because stress has a significant impact on our immune system and can actually suppress immune function.
Here are 4 ways to lower cortisol and support your body through challenging times.
Stop and breathe slowly – when stressed, worried, fearful, anxious, our breathing becomes shallower and higher in the chest. Consciously try to lengthen your breath by breathing deeper into the belly, letting your belly rise and fall. This helps you to slow down, become more present, and calms down the nervous system. Try breathing in for 3 counts, hold for 3 counts, then breathe out for 3 counts, do this 5-10 times.
Put your legs up against the wall. This is one of the best ways to lower cortisol, and it’s something I’ve been doing for years, I swear by it! I like to put my legs up the wall while listening to a guided meditation (some good are Insight Timer, Headspace, Calm) for 15 minutes. This also helps to calm down our nervous system, supports sleep if you do it before bed, relieves stagnant energy from sitting down all day, helps with digestion and circulation, relieves lower back pain.
Lower your caffeine intake – caffeine stimulates our stress response and signals our body to secrete stress hormones, adrenaline, and cortisol. Try limiting coffee to one or none daily.
Consider a daily mindfulness practice – try to add one mindfulness practice into your daily lifestyle to help recentre your body and mind, this could be a walk out in nature for 30 minutes, meditation, you could ground yourself by putting your feed on the sand or grass for 15-20 minutes, try journaling, write down 3 things you’re grateful for, practice yoga.
Don’t try to overwhelm yourself by doing it all, it’s best to start off small by adding in one thing daily with resonates with you and you know will make you feel good, it might even just be writing down 3 things you’re grateful for. Research has shown that people who feel gratitude are happier, report more satisfaction, and have less stress.
Hi I’m Natalie, a Registered Clinical Nutritionist, health influencer, blog writer & recipe creator. My own health complications prompted me to make positive diet & lifestyle changes, revitalize my health leading to a career change from the corporate world to nutritional medicine. I believe in a wholefoods approach to good health, focusing on simple strategies for modern, busy people.