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10 Ways to Reduce Stress & Balance the Fight/Flight Hormone, Cortisol!

Cortisol controls many functions in our body including blood sugar levels, metabolism, inflammation, immunity, memory, and blood pressure. Many experts refer to it as our internal fight or flight response. When we’re faced with a crisis, cortisol is our first responder to keep us safe, alert, and in control.
However, chronic stress can cause cortisol levels to become too high and, if stress levels remain high for too long, we begin to see negative effects like weight gain, sleep issues, and increased risk for diabetes and high blood pressure. Stress can also lead us to detrimental behaviors like drinking too much alcohol or overeating, which can result in gut issues, waistline expansion, and other chronic challenges.
So is there a pill for that? Big pharma may claim so, but, not really. However, by leveraging your body’s own instinct and intuition, you can naturally lower Cortisol levels through mindfulness and lifestyle modifications: 
  1. Eat a healthy balanced diet that includes more fruits and vegetables, spices, even some dark chocolate. Less is more, choose wisely. Our food is our fuel.
  2. Take a walk, hike, spend time outdoors, meditate, practice yoga, and deep breathing. The calmness of nature and mindful physical activity can have a big impact on our stress levels.
  3. Reflect upon your career or work environment. A change of scenery could be just what you need to overcome the unneeded stress in your life. Thinking about a career move can be stressful, so maybe it’s just a talk with your supervisor about your role or workload. Communication can drive big break throughs, so express your thoughts and concerns to stimulate constructive communication. 
  4. Resume hobbies you once loved whether it’s singing, dancing, playing board games, gardening, drawing, tackling a crossword puzzle, or even watching a comedy special, find an activity to ease your mind and bring you some simple joy.
  5. Did you know caring for a pet increases oxytocin, endorphins, and other healing hormones? Take your dog for a walk or play with your cat. If you can't have a pet full time, hang out with friends with animals, volunteer at a shelter, or offer to walk your neighbors’ dogs around the neighborhood.
  6. Consider your relationships - whether family, romantic, platonic - they all bring both happiness and stress. We absorb so much energy from those around us so it’s important that we surround ourselves with positive, supportive, and non-toxic individuals and reciprocate that support and positivity in return.
  7. Herbs like ashwagandha, astragalus root, mushrooms, holy basil, licorice root, rhodiola, and ginseng have also been known to reduce stress naturally. Nutrients to consider include B vitamins, melatonin, vitamin C, and magnesium. Always talk with your physician or trusted healthcare provider before beginning any new therapies or treatments.
  8. Limit the libations and consider caffeine. Did you know that just 200 mg of caffeine can increase your cortisol by 30% in one hour? Caffeine affects more than your cortisol level, it also affects your adrenaline, adenosine, and dopamine levels. Swap your cup o’ joe for a green tea or a caffeine-modulating mushroom-infused coffee instead. 
  9. Get some sleep! High cortisol makes it hard to stay asleep. Avoid caffeine, put down your cell phone, and try lavender or valerian oil to ensure you can get to sleep and stay rested. 
  10. Practice random acts of kindness or give back to the community. Acts of gratitude and philanthropy put life into perspective and have the ability to reduce stress in a meaningful and worthwhile way. 

Is cortisol bad? No! But it gets a bad reputation. It’s blamed for so much, yet it's a balancing act. We don't eliminate cortisol; we manage it by balancing it with healthy living and making smart choices.

For more information on mitigating / managing stress or to speak with one of our knowledgeable health professionals on how stress is affecting your health or life, feel free to call or e-mail at 609-512-1468 or