Updated: Dec 5, 2022
Do you feel tired and stressed more often than not? Are you noticing that you’re gaining weight easily and struggling to lose it? These can be signs that your levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, are on the high side.
Chronic stress is a big culprit. Our bodies release stress hormones such as cortisol as part of the “fight or flight” response. This usually takes us far beyond the amount of cortisol that we actually need and can be potentially dangerous for health.
The good news is there is a lot you can do to keep your body’s cortisol levels under control.
● Try to keep your response to stressful situations under control. This is easier said than done but chronic stress is one of the biggest reasons why cortisol levels stay high. Meditation, mindfulness, deep breathing, getting out in nature and journaling have all been shown to help with stress management.
● Getting plenty of sleep is important too but this can be a catch 22 situation as you can find it hard to sleep when cortisol levels are high. You may also find that you feel tired in the day but wide awake at night. Learn how to improve you quality of sleep here .
● Eat plenty of whole foods with anti-inflammatory benefits. Chronic inflammation can be a factor for high cortisol levels so it makes sense to eat a diet that is low in processed foods and rich in nutritious, anti-inflammatory foods such as fruits and vegetables. Stay clear of high GI foods, trans fats and refined carbs (or try to keep them to a minimum, at least) and up your intake of fibre, lean protein, probiotics and healthy fats.
● Regular exercise can help to manage stress and balance hormones. For cortisol, it can bring things back into balance and can be effective at helping your body to deal with stress more efficiently. Try yoga, walking and swimming which have all shown to have positive effects on cortisol levels.
● Essential oils can also help to reduce stress and balance your hormones. Lavender, bergamot, frankincense and myrrh are just a few examples of essential oils that can be effective. Never ever ingest essential oils, this has been a big thing with certain companies and is a dangerous practice. Oil burners, massage with a carrier oil are alternatives to ingesting.
● Some herbs act as adaptogens, which means that they help your body to cope better with stress. They can go a step further than this and balance hormone levels naturally. Some can also be anti-inflammatory and balance blood sugar levels. A few examples of adaptogens are Ashwagandha (withania), licorice root, rehmannia, medicinal mushrooms, holy basil and rhodiola. It’s best to speak to a qualified medical herbalist before taking any herbal supplements, especially if you’re on any medication or have any preexisting health conditions.