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STRESS!!! Decreasing stress is crucial for your health.
Does doing your finances cause heart palpitations and cold sweats? What about the kids taking their absolute sweet time in the morning, every morning and somehow leaving within minutes of the bus coming, leaving total chaos in their wake. Ooo! I know what about when you just about to leave to go on holiday and you can’t find that cash you stashed in a special place especially for this day (true story).
Our natural “fight or flight” stress response can sometimes go a little awry. It’s supposed to help us escape injury or death in an emergency and then return to normal once the danger has passed. But now with life throwing up difficult situations at every turn – what should be a short-term way to get through just continues from one seemingly stressful situation to another and before you can say “Keep Calm” it becomes chronic.
The main stress hormone is called Cortisone. It’s released from your adrenal glands in response to stressful situations. It is naturally high in the mornings to give you that boost you need to get going and slowly fades during the day to enable sleep at night.
Continuous high levels of cortisol are associated with belly fat, poor sleep, brain fog, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and can even lower your immunity. Post 50 women are particularly vulnerable to this last one.
If you think you are experiencing too much stress read on.
I have a list of foods, nutrients and lifestyle recommendations to help you in decreasing stress and this hormone naturally!
Foods and nutrients to lower cortisol
Let’s start with the outright winner in the cortisol raising stakes… sugar. Reducing sugar in your diet, especially refined, can be a huge step toward better health for our minds and bodies.
High doses of caffeine also increase your cortisol levels. If coffee makes you feel anxious and jittery, then cut back and don’t drink it into the evening as it will disturb sleep which is a double whammy in the cortisol raising stakes.
Being dehydrated increases cortisol. Make sure you’re drinking enough water every day, about eight cups minimum.
Eat a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods.
Lower your cortisol levels with tea and dark chocolate, not the sugary milky kind!
Don’t forget your probiotics and prebiotics! There is so much new research about the gut-mind connection, and how taking care of your friendly gut microbes is key! See this How To Improve Your Gut Health Naturally In Midlife for more info on this. Make sure you’re eating probiotic-rich fermented foods and getting a healthy dose of prebiotic fibre.
All of the above do much more than reducing cortisol, they are integral to keeping healthy.
Lifestyle techniques to lower cortisol
Eating and drinking healthy are not our only defences against cortisol, there are things you can do with your time that can also work.
Reduce your stress with mindfulness. Many studies show that reducing stressful thoughts and worry reduces cortisol. Learn how to meditate. It can be as simple as concentrating on your breathing for 10 minutes while you walk. Every minute you spend concentrating on your breath is a minute the ‘monkey chatter’ in your head is quiet and therefore a minute you are totally present, stress takes a backseat and becomes much easier to handle.
Get enough exercise but don’t overdo it. While short intense bouts of exercise increase cortisol levels temporarily, it can reduce overall cortisol levels.
Exercise the brain. Do 10 minutes a day on brain-boosting activities like a crossword or an online brain trainer. Using your brain in these types of exercises can slow down the aging of your brain and body.
Get enough sleep!
I talk about this so much. Getting adequate sleep is up there with cutting out sugar. Sleep reduces cortisol levels and helps improve your overall health in amazing ways.
Relax and have fun. Things like deep breathing, massages, and listening to relaxing music all reduce cortisol.
I know we tend to closet ourselves up in our own wee world with no time for socializing but I am here to say be social and bust loneliness. Science has shown that there are health risks from social isolation and loneliness? It’s true! Maintaining good relationships and spending time with people you like and who support you is key.
Too much of the stress hormone cortisol can have several negative impacts on your health such as suppressed immunity, hypertension, high blood sugar, fat belly, and insulin resistance.
It is possible to reduce the levels of cortisol naturally.
In terms of foods and nutrients, have less sugar and caffeine. And have more water, fruit, tea, dark chocolate, probiotics, and prebiotics.
Lifestyle factors play a big role in the cortisol show. To lower yours, exercise not too rigorously, get enough sleep, relax, and have fun.
My favourite ways to stress bust is to sit somewhere on the waterfront with a glass of red and watch the world go by or spend time with my family having a lively discussion and a few laughs.
In the comments below, let me know your favourite ways to bust the stress hormone cortisol!
Last word: Put down your burden and rest. You can pick it back up when you feel stronger.