How to reduce cortisol level naturally: 17 Best ways to embrace serenity

How to reduce cortisol level

Dealing with the daily stresses of modern life is not easy.

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Unfortunately, chronic stress can lead to many health problems related to high cortisol levels that go hand in hand with stress.

For that reason, we all need to learn how to reduce cortisol levels naturally, find balance, and avoid some scary health problems.

Life can be quite a rollercoaster, filled with twists, turns, and challenges that often send our stress levels soaring calling for more and more cortisol as a result.

Our body’s natural response to stress is the release of cortisol, a hormone that prepares us for fight or flight to escape or fight for our lives.

This is a primal response to danger that served our predecessors well as they ran away from wooly mammoths, or other such scary wild animals, or engaged in battle with menacing tribes.

But in many cases today, our stress comes from our jobs, lack of sleep, family issues, illness, and many other modern lifestyle stressors.

And this stress is not quick and goes but lingers on for months or years causing chronic high cortisol.

What is cortisol?

Cortisol is a glucocorticoid hormone produced by your adrenal glands and is essential for the body’s natural stress response.

Cortisol is also important for many other functions in the body such as :

  • Stress response

  • Immune response

  • Metabolism

  • Blood pressure regulation

  • Controls your circadian rhythm

  • Anti-inflammatory response

  • Aids in memory formation

 how does cortisol work?

Cortisol, often referred to as the “stress hormone,” is a steroid hormone that is essential for our stress response as well as many other functions in the body.

Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands, which are small, triangular-shaped glands located on top of the kidneys.

When your nervous system senses danger or a stressor, a series of hormonal events happen.

A message is sent to the hypothalamus, your brain’s command center, and the hypothalamus produces a corticotropin-releasing hormone.

Corticotropin-releasing hormone is sent to the pituitary gland, and the pituitary gland then produces ACTH or adrenocorticotropin hormone.

ACTH travels to the adrenal glands and stimulates cortisol release.

And that is what is referred to as the HPA axis which is responsible for orchestrating the stress response. 

When cortisol is released it goes to work mobilizing the body’s energy stores, suppressing insulin so you have enough glucose for energy to run or fight.

Cortisol acts as a gas pedal that keeps the sympathetic nervous system revved up and on high alert, as long as a threat is perceived to be present.

While the stress response mechanism is essential for survival, prolonged elevation of cortisol can lead to various health issues, such as weight gain, decreased immune health, diabetes, high blood pressure, and many more.

The good news is that there are natural ways to help reduce cortisol levels find tranquility in your daily life and enjoy better health. 

So, let’s look into some stress-busting, cortisol-lowering tips!

Why is chronic high cortisol bad for you?

how to reduce cortisol levels

The problem with high cortisol is that when you are stressed, cortisol triggers a cascade of metabolic processes to avert the danger.

During this response time, important processes in the body such as immune health are suspended.

And all the energy and resources your body needs to function are directed to overcoming that danger at hand.

For example, high cortisol levels are associated with a weak immune system.

So chronic high cortisol can lead to health problems such as weight gain, diabetes, weakened immune system and susceptibility to infections, trouble sleeping, and mood disorders including anxiety and depression.

how to reduce cortisol naturally

 

What causes high cortisol?

Cortisol has a circadian rhythm that increases in the morning and starts to decrease in the evening and night.

This allows you to have more energy during the day and the low cortisol at night helps you to unwind and sleep through the night.

However, chronic stress can lead to cortisol levels staying high instead of rising and falling naturally. 

According to Mayo Clinic, other causes of high cortisol and causing syndrome include:

  • Use of steroid medications such as prednisone prednisolone or dexamethasone.
  •   Tumors in the adrenals or overgrowth of adrenal tissue or adrenal hyperplasia causing excess cortisol production
  • A tumor in the pituitary and excess production of ACTH.
  • Ectopic ACTH-producing tumors. Although rare, a tumor may grow in an organ that doesn’t normally produce ACTH.
  • These tumors can grow in the lungs, the pancreas, and thyroid, or the thymus, and are sometimes cancerous. 

What are the signs and symptoms of high cortisol?

How to reduce cortisol leves

Because chronic high cortisol interferes with proper body functions, signs of high cortisol may include:

  • Weight gain especially around the abdomen and upper back

  • High blood sugar and diabetes

  • Cardia disease

  • High blood pressure

  • Fatigue

  • Insomnia

  • excess hunger

  • Impaired immune system

  • Thin hair or hair falling out.

  • Cusings syndrome

Cushing syndrome is a sign of chronic high cortisol and is a serious condition that presents many of the above symptoms plus the following (source):

  • A rounded face (moon face)

  • Thing skin and easy bruising

  • Slow wound healing
  • Thin arms and legs

  • Pink and purple stretch marks

  • Fat pad or hump between the shoulders
  • Chronic infections

If you have symptoms of Cushing syndrome you need medical management so see your health provider. 

So given these serious health concerns from high cortisol it is important to lower your cortisol level and reduce stress in your life.

How to reduce cortisol levels naturally

how to reduce cortisol levels

1. Meditate and get your zen on

Meditation is a fantastic way to quiet the mind and soothe the soul.

Carving out just a few minutes each day to meditate can work wonders in reducing cortisol levels.

Find a comfortable spot, close your eyes, and focus on your breath.

Allow any thoughts to come and go, without judgment. Inhale peace, exhale stress – it’s that simple! Yes, you can do it.

2. Exercise

Breaking a sweat through exercise not only benefits our physical health but also our mental well-being.

Engaging in regular physical activity, whether it’s dancing, hiking, yoga, or cycling, releases endorphins, the feel-good hormones that counter cortisol’s effects.

So, put on your favorite workout gear, crank up the tunes, and let your worries melt away! Or just head outside and take a walk for 30 minutes.

Remember though, you need moderate exercise as strenuous exercise will be interpreted by your body as stress.

 

3. Laugh Your Heart Out

They say laughter is the best medicine, and it’s true!

Whether it’s watching a hilarious sitcom, spending time with funny friends, or even indulging in some light-hearted stand-up comedy, laughter helps lower cortisol levels.

So, go ahead and laugh your way to a happier, healthier you!

Here are other benefits of laughter and why you really should laugh more.

 

4. Cuddle Up with your pet

There’s a reason why pets are often referred to as “fur therapy.” Spending time with our furry friends can have a calming effect on our minds.

The love and companionship they provide can reduce stress and cortisol levels.

So, grab a fluffy blanket, curl up with your pet, and let the snuggles work their magic!

5. Eat healthy nutritious food

Ways to reduce cortisol levels

Believe it or not, what we eat can impact our stress levels.

Eating the wrong foods taxes your body and is a stressor to the body.

So eating healthy is one simple way to lower stress levels.

A balanced diet rich in whole foods, fruits, and vegetables can help regulate cortisol levels.

Avoid excessive caffeine and opt for calming herbal teas like chamomile or lavender.

And don’t forget the dark chocolate – in moderation, it can be a delightful stress-buster!

 

6. Sleep Like a Baby

Ah, the sweet embrace of slumber! Adequate sleep is essential for keeping cortisol levels in check.

Make your bedroom a tranquil sanctuary, free from distractions, and try to stick to a consistent sleep schedule.

A well-rested mind and body can tackle stress more effectively.

Learn more about sleep quality and your health and how to optimize your sleep.

 

Spending time in nature has a remarkable ability to soothe our spirits.

Whether it’s a stroll through the park, a hike in the woods, or simply sitting by a lake, being outdoors can reduce cortisol levels and promote inner calm.

So, step outside and let Mother Nature work her magic on your stress!

Being in nature is healing and a natural way to reduce stress levels

 

8. Embrace Mindful Breathing 

We often underestimate the power of our breath.

Deep, mindful breathing techniques can trigger the body’s relaxation response, lowering cortisol levels.

Try the 4-7-8 technique: inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds.

It’s like a mini-vacation for your mind!

 

9. Engage in a fun hobby

how to reduce cortisol levels 6

Hobbies are natural stress busters. A hobby can be so soothing and relaxing.

So stop being on the go all the stop and stop occasionally and do something you love for the fun of it.

If you need a few ideas for a new hobby to help you relax, here is a list of 14 hobbies for anxiety and stress relief that will help you lower stress in a fun way.

10. Be aware of anxious thoughts and learn how to calm your mind

Recognizing anxious thoughts and knowing that thinking alone won’t help is important in lowering stress levels and therefore your cortisol.

Overthinking just leads to stress. So learn mindfulness to quiet your mind.

Saying affirmations can also help. Have a few affirmations to easily calm anxiety and stress.

These calming affirmations for anxiety can help. Or choose from these bedtime affirmations to keep your mind calm so you can get quality sleep.

11. Minimize the use of social media and screens

Spending too much on screens and especially on social media is associated with stress and increased cortisol.

Research shows that excessive use of smartphones is associated with fear of missing out which is also linked to anxiety and depression, and increased stress. 

12. Practice journaling

Another simple and effective way to reduce stress and lower cortisol levels is to practice journaling.

Journaling helps you unload your thoughts so you are not illuminating and engaging in unproductive negative thoughts. 

13. Practice gratitude

Practicing gratitude has so many benefits for mental health and a great way to relieve stress.

Counting your blessings helps you avoid worry and negative thoughts, therefore lowering stress. Learn to practice daily gratitude and this will help lower cortisol levels. 

14. Have routines

A daily routine helps you plan your day so that you are not having to rush or panic.

A night routine allows you time to unwind from your day and allows enough time to get to bed on time.

A night routine helps you prepare for the next day, and that also helps reduce the stress of rushed morning preparation.

And a morning routine helps you have a smooth seamless morning whether you work from home or go to an office so you are not running around stressed.

Try this simple and effective morning routine for anxiety

 

15. Have Boundaries

If you need to learn how to reduce cortisol levels naturally, you must set firm boundaries to protect your mental health.

People, even those you love can deplete you in all ways, emotional, physical, and financial. So stand firm on your boundaries to avoid stress and anxiety. 

 

16. Socialize with friends and family

how to reduce cortisol levels 7

Take time to be with those you love.

Sometimes we need to be the people who we care about and those who care about us and just spend time enjoying each other’s company.

We are social beings.

Spending so much time alone can also make you feel stressed.

But being with others increases your feel-good chemicals which lowers cortisol. 

 

17. Practice self-care

Self-care is one of the most important ways to reduce stress levels. All the tip given above is a form of self-care.

But there are so many other things you can do to practice self-care and feel tranquil and peaceful so you can reduce stress levels.

You may listen to music, dance, read, cook or bake, enjoy a spa day, early bedtime, enjoy a long bath and so much more.

Self-care is anything healthy and good that you do purely for yourself.

So indulge yourself in those things as often as you want to keep your stress level down which will of course reduce cortisol as well. 

 

Final words on how to reduce cortisol levels naturally

While stress is an inevitable part of life, we don’t have to let it take over our lives.

Embracing these natural and simple ways to reduce cortisol levels can lead us to a more tranquil and balanced existence.

Remember, it’s not about eliminating stress but learning to manage it effectively and allowing ourselves to savor life’s beautiful moments.

So, let’s start cultivating a life of serenity, one step at a time!

 

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