Cortisol is a stress hormone from the adrenal glands, which regulates your body and helps you deal with stressful situations. Your brain triggers the release of this hormone through the sympathetic nervous system. This process is more coolly known as the “fight or flight” system. Although the short-term release of this hormone can protect you from danger, excessive secretion of this hormone can prove deadly.
This excessive secretion can have ripple effects as time goes by, including weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, insomnia, and even mood irregularities. Studies and research have pointed out that many health issues may stem from high cortisol levels. These include:
- Chronic disease: Am excessive secretion of cortisol over a certain period may increase your risk for certain diseases, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other grave medical conditions.
- Weight gain: Cortisol has also been known to increase appetite and help the body shift metabolism. This shift, in turn, then causes the body to store fat.
- Low energy/ insomnia: High cortisol levels can also interfere with your sleeping pattern and impact the quality of your sleep.
Ways to Reduce Cortisol Levels
- Get the right amount of sleep:
One effective way of reducing your cortisol level is prioritizing your sleep, as chronic sleep issues, such as insomnia, sleep apnea, etc., have been associated with high cortisol levels.
- Moderate exercise routines:
The type of exercise you do can either increase or decrease your cortisol levels. For instance, intense exercise can increase the cortisol level shortly afterward but decrease after a few hours. This short-term increase aids in coordinating the growth of the body to meet the challenge of the exercises.
Regular exercise has been indicated to improve the quality of sleep, as well as reduce stress levels. However, you must not exercise excessively, so the recommendation is that you work out for about 150-200 minutes every week.
- Learn to recognize stressful thoughts:
It has been shown that paying attention to stressful thoughts may help reduce the cortisol level in the body. Therefore, mindfulness-based stress reduction is a technique that involves a heightened self-awareness of provoking thoughts, accepting them without any form of judgment, and allowing yourself to process them.
Deep breathing is one of the effective techniques for reducing stress levels, and it can also be done anywhere and is similar to the mindfulness technique mentioned above. Controlled breathing helps stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the “rest and digest” system, and helps lower the cortisol level.
- Have fun and laugh
Another fun way to reduce stress is to have fun and laugh. Laughing releases endorphins and suppresses stress hormones such as cortisol. It has been linked with reduced stress and perceived pain, lower blood pressure, and a more robust immune system.
- Maintain healthy relationships:
Further, you need to be around healthy relationships with your friends and family, as friends and family are a great source of happiness.
- Take care of a pet
Also, you can decide to take care of a pet. One study showed that an interaction with a therapy dog reduced distress and cortisol during a minor medical procedure in children. Another study evidenced that 48 adults who had contact with a dog had lower stress levels than when they were getting support from a friend.
- Be your best self:
Finally, remove any feeling or thought of shame, guilt, or inadequacy, as they can lead to higher cortisol levels.
Conclusively, you can speak with a healthcare provider about how to adopt a healthier lifestyle that will reduce your stress levels and, eventually, cortisol levels.