When you’re met with what you perceive to be a threat, whether that be an important presentation in work or your neighbor’s barking dog, your brain prompts your adrenal glands to release a surge of hormones; this is your body’s fight or flight response.
One of the hormones released is cortisol. Also commonly referred to as the ‘stress hormone’, cortisol is known for the role it plays in our stress response, causing increased heart rate and blood pressure. Once the stressful situation has passed, your hormone levels will typically go back to normal. However, if you find yourself constantly under stress, this stress response will stay switched on which can have an effect on a number of aspects of your physical and mental health.
There are so many tips and tricks available that can help you manage your stress levels and in turn, potentially reduce cortisol levels, some of the most tried and tested ways include:
- Good quality sleep
- Spend time with loved ones
- Eat a balanced diet
- Have some ‘me’ time
Related article: Five Signs of Stress: How Stress Affects The Body
How do you lower cortisol levels?
The way you deal with stressful situations can be affected by a number of different factors from genetics to life experiences. What’s important to remember is that although you may not be able to take complete control of every event, there are steps you can take to help reduce and manage stress and lower your cortisol levels.
It will probably come as no surprise to most that exercise has a plethora of benefits for our overall health and well-being, including stress relief. Studies have shown that regular exercise can improve your mood and help you relax with one recent study showing that being active can lower cortisol levels in people with depression . You don’t have to be a seasoned athlete either, a light stroll or a relaxing Yoga class can do the trick!
Good quality sleep
There are two important links to know between cortisol levels and stress. If you are undergoing prolonged or chronic stress, which typically results in elevated cortisol levels, it can be difficult to get a full night’s sleep. On the other hand, if you have a generally poor sleep schedule and simply aren’t getting the correct amount of hours each night, this can increase cortisol production. With this in mind, always try to prioritize getting good quality sleep each night.
If you find yourself struggling to get some shut-eye, it’s important to reach out and speak to your doctor.
Spend time with loved ones
Although socializing might be the last thing on your mind when undergoing periods of stress, it’s actually one of the most beneficial steps you can take for your health and wellness! That’s right, studies show that adults with strong social connections have a reduced risk of a number of health problems so try to schedule some time with the ones you love.
Eat a balanced diet
If you thought you heard the last of the food pyramid in your high school health class, you were mistaken. Following a balanced diet, similar to the one shown in the infamous food pyramid, can help ensure your body is getting all the nutrients it needs. There aren’t any particular foods out there proven to help lower cortisol levels (although some suggest dark chocolate or green tea), still, a healthy diet can help manage stress-related symptoms such as a weakened immune system or high blood pressure.
Have some ‘me’ time
Yes, spending time and making memories with the ones closest to you is important, but so is spending time with yourself! Pencil in some time to read that book that may be gathering dust on your bedside table or try out something new such as deep breathing or an exercise class. Whatever it is you choose to do, putting time aside to help yourself unwind can help reduce stress levels and lower cortisol levels.
Related article: Is Your Stress Hormone Working on Overdrive?
Is there medication to lower cortisol levels?
If you are experiencing high cortisol levels over a period of time, it’s important to speak with your doctor as this may be a sign of Cushing’s syndrome, also known as hypercortisolism. Signs and symptoms of this include weight gain, easy bruising, or weak muscles.
Treatment of Cushing’s syndrome depends on the underlying cause of the increased cortisol levels but it can include cortisol-reducing medications.
Related article: What Does High Cortisol Feel Like? Common Signs and Symptoms
If you are curious about your cortisol levels, you can find out more through a simple test. This can be done with your doctor or from home with LetsGetChecked.
LetsGetChecked’s at-home Cortisol Test can measure adrenal performance or stress with online results available within 2-5 days and access to our medical experts every step of the way.
You should consider taking the test if:
- You constantly feel run down
- You are body-building competitively
- You are presenting with symptoms of Cushing syndrome
- You have Cushing syndrome
- You are presenting with symptoms of Addison's disease
- You have Addison's disease
- You take or have been taking testosterone
Related article: How do you Check Cortisol Levels From Home?