Updated: Oct 3
Cortisol is a stress hormone. When our stress levels are high our cortisol level increases to help us process our stress, That’s a good thing. We need cortisol to manage our stress. But what if our stress is prolonged? Then our cortisol levels stay elevated for longer periods of time and that high or moderate level of cortisol in the body for an extended period can contribute to the following health problems:
· High blood pressure
· Type two diabetes
· Weight gin
· Lack of energy
· Difficulty sleeping
· Brain fog
· Impaired immune system
The best way to control our cortisol levels is to work with a qualified health professional to determine the cause of any of our health issues. Along with that, we can implement lifestyle habits that are helpful in reducing stress levels and lowering our cortisol levels.
LIFESTYLE HABITS THAT CAN HELP
1. Get The Right Amount of Sleep
Tips for a good night's sleep:
· Have a bedtime routine
· Go to bed and wake up at the same time
· Exercise earlier in the day
· Limit caffeine intake
· Avoid nicotine and alcohol
· Limit exposure to bright light at night
· Reduce your exposure to blue light at least one hour before sleep
· Go to bed in a quiet room
· If you are a shift worker, take naps to make up for sleep deprivation
· Avoid naps if you are not a shift worker as it may worsen your sleep
2. Exercise, But Not Too Much
Exercising regularly can help you better manage stress and promote good health, which may help cortisol levels but avoid overdoing it!! Too much exercise can also place too much stress on the body and increase cortisol levels. As we age it is also important to recognize that our metabolism slows down and one of the best forms of exercise for increasing your metabolism is High Intensity Interval training done in short segments. In fact, new research is showing that we only need about 45 minutes a week (accumulative) of this type of training along with 2-3 days of strength training to help keep cortisol levels in check.
3. Recognize Stressful Thinking
Paying attention to stressful thoughts may help you reduce them. Too often we stuff our thoughts and emotions away because we don’t want to have to deal with them. But if we don’t process them intentionally our body will automatically respond with increased levels of stress as seen in increased heart rates and faster breathing rates. This in turn increases cortisol production.
Awareness of our physical and mental state helps us become an observer of our stressful thoughts rather than becoming a victim of them. Studies show that the ability to describe and articulate our stress is linked to lower levels of cortisol.
So become more mindful in your daily routines to improve your stress management. Be present in the moment. Take time to be still and quiet. This reminds me of the words of wisdom found in Psalm 46:10, “Be Still and know that I am God.” Sometimes we just need to sit still with our thoughts and then rest in the knowledge that God has everything under control.
Other mindful practices that help lower stress levels include:
1. Prayer and Solitude
2. Meditating on Scripture: reading and reflecting on its meaning for your life
3. Mindful Eating: paying attention to cues that cause you to eat (hunger cues or emotional cues)
4. Mindful Walking: absorbing God’s beautiful creation and being aware of each step and sensation in the body as you move
How many times in stressful situations have I heard someone utter the words, “Just Breathe?” And it works to calm our senses! This is such an easy thing to implement in our lives. Deep breathing is a simple technique and can be used anywhere, anytime.
Controlled breathing helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, our “rest and digest” system. So just breathe. Slowly, deeply, intentionally, and attentively. I'm talking about deep breathing, which brings air all the way to the diaphragm, not shallow breathing that stops at the chest. For proper technique simply inhale deeply through the nostrils, expanding the belly as the diaphragm is engaged, and then exhale slowly through the mouth letting the belly deflate as the air is expelled from the lungs. (3) Repeat that rhythm 8-10 times until you sense your body starting to relax.
5. Have Fun
Laughter is the best medicine. It releases endorphins and suppresses stress hormones. It is linked to better mood, reduced stress and perceived pain, lower blood pressure, and a stronger immune system.
Developing hobbies can also promote feelings of well-being, which may lower cortisol. One study showed lower cortisol levels in those who regularly participated in hobbies that they really enjoyed. Other studies indicate that relaxing music can decrease cortisol.
So enjoy laughter, crank up the tunes, and make time for your favorite hobbies. Life is too short to be stressed to the max. Make some simple lifestyle changes today that will transform your life tomorrow!
Stay tuned for PART 2 5 more natural ways of reducing your cortisol levels.
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