How often do you find yourself really stressed, exhausted and even fighting weight gain no matter what you eat or how often you workout? Find out how to Stop Stress and kick it to the curb!
Cortisol which is often called the “stress hormone” is one of the main hormones in our body that is released when we are under any amount of expectation or pressure that activates our Fight or Flight response. This happens more and more as we live in a world filled with high intense stimulation, lets face it TV is all about creating an emotional response. Building the climax and just when you think you can let it go you see “to be continued”. There are so many act now moments in our daily lives, and it isn’t just at work, even our phones are full of must see notifications. Now you might be thinking, why do I even have cortisol it sounds so bad, well it helps us fight off unwanted symptoms and saves us in an emergency when we need to act fast, we actually need it.
So how can we bring it into balance so that we can reap the benefits of it keeping us motivated, awake and ready to respond to the needs in our environment while protecting us from the danger of creating long term problems. Continual or chronic high cortisol production is tied to things like weight gain, anxiety, sleep disorders, hormonal imbalances and fertility problems, in addition to many other problems.
Now here’s the good news, there are several natural ways to balance your cortisol levels!
How to Stop Stress and Naturally Lower Cortisol Levels
1. Eat a diet based in plants and whole foods
What you eat is the most important decision we make for our health! Think of it as the gas in your car. Would you give your car bad gas and expect it to perform the same and premium? Of course not, yet we do this with our bodies everyday. Here are a few key things to know about food.
Un-managed or poorly managed blood sugar levels, especially having low blood sugar, hypoglycemia combined with high levels of inflammation can contribute to both high cortisol levels and other hormonal imbalances. Eating a balanced diet with low to no processed foods are high in antioxidants, essential nutrients and fiber. This gives our body the key ingredients to reducing our cravings and most importantly balanced hormones. This will also help with having a healthy body weight, setting us up for a great nights sleep and powering our energy through the day.
Some of the most significant dietary contributors to inflammation and high cortisol levels include:
- Eating a high-sugar diet (many packaged foods, refined grain products, sugary drinks and snacks)
- Not eating enough healthy fats or protein (this leads to hunger, weight gain and high blood sugar)
- Consuming high amounts of foods with refined and trans fats
- Not eating enough fiber, which makes it very hard for your body to balance blood sugar levels
- Drinking too much caffeine and alcohol
- Not getting enough micro nutrients and antioxidants
Eating a diet that is highly focused on plant based foods with healthy fats and proteins in every meal, and making sure you are getting enough fiber is the best choice for your body. ).
2. Reduce and Manage Stress
You can now find a link between Chronic stress and just about every health problem there is. In fact in recent studies 1 in 5 people are living with a stress related illness that is either now or soon will be chronic. Stress impacts our health by the signals it sends to the brain, heart, blood vessels, immune system, lungs, digestive system and sensory organs. It tells our body we are in that fight or flight state and tells our body to react accordingly. It can increase breathing, heart rate, tell our body to focus only on our vital organs creating long term wear and tear on them, add pain and muscle tension, tell your body it needs to eat when it doesn’t leading to overeating and create sleep-related problems.
Here are some natural stress relievers to help you counter act these affects and decrease the negative results:
Mindfulness and Meditation:
Many studies have shown that just 15 mins of mindfulness or meditation a day has shown to retrain the body and the brain to turn off the stress response. This promotes relaxation, helps to teach your body how to calm, improve brain and heart health and boost your immune system!
Spending time outside:
Have you noticed when you go to yoga you are always instructed to get “grounded”? Studies have shown that our connection to the earth through walking, running, playing on the beach, gardening and other outdoor activities do exactly that. Whether your are like me you feel a powerful connection with the mountains and nature. Or you prefer taking a walk in your neighborhood, you will find yourself taking more calming breaths, leaving your technology behind and relaxing.
See your massage Therapist, Acupuncturist or Chiropractor:
These treatments help naturally control stress and reduce symptoms like muscle or joint pain, headaches, fertility problems, troubling sleeping, and poor circulation.
Deep breathing exercises:
Our breath is a very powerful tool that we often forget. Breathing alone can activate our body’s own natural relaxation response. Try a quick breathing exercise:
- Take a moment to be curious about what your body does as you breathe in and out. Find a comfortable seated position, or lying on your back with your knees bent meeting each other feet firmly on the floor. Feel free to add a pillow or blanket as needed to be comfortable. Breathing normally start to become familiar with your breath. Notice what your body is doing, notice that without effort your breath will come in and out on it’s own.
- Did you notice what happened when you breathed in? Maybe your belly pushes out, that your chest moves out, your shoulders move back. Your body is making space in this moment, muscles are stretching space is opening between your ribs and creating a feeling of openness.
- Now what about when you breathed out? Your body comes in closer as you release your breath. Did you notice your shoulders moving back in towards the middle?
- We can do so much with our breath, when we need to let things go or float away from us focusing on your exhale can have a power effect. When we feel smothered and overwhelmed focusing on our breaths in.
3. Be active
An incredible way to lower cortisol is to increase another hormone, here is where endorphins come in. Exercise of any sort can help manage stress balance your hormones. Other benefits include improved digestion and other metabolic functions and promote healthy sleep patterns.
4. Use Essential Oils that promote relaxation
There are many essential oils that have been known to help lower cortisol, reduce inflammation, improve immunity, and help with sleep and digestive functions. Oils such as bergamot, frankincense, lavender and myrrh contain very potent active ingredients with cortisol lowering effects.
You can get started try simply inhaling the scent of the oil from the bottle. You can also diffusing them in your home. Or use them in the bath or with your body wash. When applying directly on the skin apply with a carrier oil like Fractionated Coconut Oil. See our blog about using oil on your feet for more information.
5. Protect your Sleep
Have you noticed that when you don’ t get enough sleep you are more irritable? The more out of balance our cortisol levels are the more our sleep is affected. Cortisol levels rise during the early morning hours and then drop very low at night before and during sleep. When we have a high cortisol level we can feel the opposite. The result is that we are wired and anxious at night and fatigued during the day. By using the methods above you can improve your cortisol balances which will allow for more sleep. Ideally we should aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night to bring our hormones back in balance.