More and more people are stressed and the numbers seem to grow every year. Concerns over money and work are two of the reasons people give the most for their stress. Your body protects you from danger by creating cortisol, the stress hormone. This can help you stay focused and give you energy in an emergency and can help you meet challenges. Too much stress is bad for your health and can be caused by too much cortisol. If you seem to be stressed more often than not you can lower cortisol levels naturally.
Why Do You Want to Lower Cortisol?
When you have to study for a test or do a presentation stress helps you concentrate. There comes a point that you build up too much cortisol and the stress is no longer helpful and can cause health problems. Stress can also affect your mental health, your relationship, and your work. It has been linked to heart attacks, stroke, anxiety, and depression.
Your body doesn’t know the difference between good and bad threats. If you are stressed because of work, bills or school your body reacts the same as if you were in physical danger. It goes into that fight or flight state and it will stay in an elevated state of stress. This leads to chronic stress and disrupts nearly all your bodily systems and affect your brain function. Excess cortisol kills brain cells by giving them too much stimulation. It slows the production of the protein your brain uses to make new brain cells. Now you see why you want to lower cortisol levels so you can be healthy let’s look at how you can lower cortisol levels naturally.
Common Symptoms of Too Much Stress
One thing you may not know is that you get used to the elevated levels of stress. Slowly your body feels the effect but you don’t notice because it seems normal to you. How do you know if you have too much stress? Below are some signs of too much stress.
Mental and Emotional signs:
- Lack of concentration
- Loss of Memory
- Sense of Overwhelm
- Lack of sex drive
- Chest pain
- Aches and pains
- Chronic illness
- Eating more or less
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Withdrawing from others
- Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
- Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
- Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)
Lower Cortisol with Diet
The first place to start to lower cortisol is with your diet because cortisol causes food cravings. Many women have strong cravings for sweet foods and carbs. Eating the sweet foods makes our fat cells convert more cortisol and your mood gets worse. Belly fat has more enzymes that produce excess cortisol. The more stress you have the more cortisol your body produces and is why many women store belly fat.
What happens when women get stressed they turn to comfort foods that aren’t healthy. Snacking on sweets and carbs instead of eating a balanced meal or healthy snack. The first thing you should do is get rid of whole unprocessed foods and choose healthy replacements. Nutritious meals give you energy so you can be focused all day.
Healthy Foods to Lower Cortisol
Some healthy foods that are known to nourish the brain and reduce cortisol levels so you can get your stress under control:
- Dark chocolate-People turn to chocolate as they become stressed and depressed. This tasty treat is loaded with antioxidants and is known to make you feel better. Dark chocolate though is known to help lower blood pressure.
- Blueberries are a powerful antioxidant and have many health benefits like sharper cognition. Berries have vitamin C and are known to relieve stress, lower blood pressure, and lower cortisol levels.
- garlic has many powerful antioxidants that may help prevent some of the damage free radicals cause over time. It has been linked to being good for heart disease, and cancer.
- Green tea is known to help with weight loss and enhancing brain stimulation and mental focus.
- Chamomile tea is known for calming and relieving anxiety.
Lower Cortisol Levels with Physical Exercise
Exercise helps protects your brain from the effects of aging and improves your mental functions. It increases your energy and helps you reduce cortisol. Try to get twenty to thirty minutes a day of light activity like walking or bicycling.
Use Proven Stress Reduction Techniques
There are some stress reduction techniques that work to lower cortisol too so you might want to try some of them too.
Throughout the day people think a lot of thoughts and most of those are negative. Your thoughts are one of the biggest contributors to stress in your life. The power of positive thinking can lower cortisol. One of the body’s reactions to high-stress levels is that your breathing gets fast and shallow and your chest gets tight.
Practice taking deep breaths and you can learn to lower your physical reaction to stress and your cortisol levels. This will help you calm your mind and your body.
Getting outside is another known stress reliever. It doesn’t matter if you simply take a walk during your lunch break or a longer walk in the park after work. Spending time outside has been shown to lower cortisol, and blood pressure.
One of the best ways to lower cortisol is to take a nap because it improves your mood. When waking from a nap you feel more energized, creative and you are more productive.
Owning a Fitness Center and being a Zumba instructor I like listening to music and dancing. I find myself in a better mood and less stress when I am dancing.
Eating the right foods combined with physical exercise and stress lowering techniques can help lower your cortisol levels. Let me know some of the ways you use when you are stressed.
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By: Moraima Buonafede