6 Ways to Reduce Cortisol

I believe that stress is one of the biggest causes of health problems we have in the western world, particularly for women.   When women joined the workforce, they didn’t give up taking care of the home and the kids. So now they have three jobs.   Plus the added pressure of keeping up with all the social engagements, volunteer work and the kids activity schedule. The standard answer to “how are you” is almost always “crazy busy!”

What does stress do to the body?

Stress has a huge impact on our health. When we encounter a perceived stressor, the adrenal glands release adrenaline and cortisol. We all know the effects of adrenaline. But what does cortisol do? It causes tissue cells to release glucose (sugar) into the blood, which fuels the brain for clearer thinking and decision making. We want that when we are in a fight or flight situation. But cortisol also suppresses functions that would be considered non-essential when facing that stressor. These include the digestive system, the immune system, and reproduction. When we have constant pressure, these functions are supressed constantly.  It’s no wonder we have an epidemic of digestive issues, infertility and immune-related disease!

There are so many things we can do to reduce perceived pressure and improve our body’s response to stress.

 

Here are 6 ways that you can reduce cortisol naturally:cortisol

  1. Breathe deeply into the diaphragm – the average adult takes between 12 and 20 breaths per minute. I would argue that many of us are on the upper end of that range. We have forgotten how to breathe deeply and diaphragmatically. Deep breathing immediately reduces cortisol in the blood. When you sit comfortably and count to 4 as you take in a deep breath into the belly (push the belly right out – no judgment!), then release it as you count to 4. Do this 4 times. Anywhere, anytime – when you go to bed at night, in the car, in the bathroom, on a break, in a meeting. As often as you can.
  2. Meditate – this is as simple as sitting quietly with closed eyes for 5 minutes and using the deep breathing technique you learned above. Focus on your breathing and if other thoughts come into your mind, don’t worry. As soon as you notice your mind wandering, just bring it back to focus on the breath.
  3. Do yoga – incorporating breathing and meditation into one practice along with flexibility, strength, and balance is an all-in-one method for reducing cortisol. Be sure to find a practice that makes you feel calm. I like Hatha and Moksha in particular.
  4. Get into nature – if I was to ask you to imagine yourself in a happy place, I can almost guarantee it will have something to do with nature. It will involve either a beach or the mountains or the backyard garden in the early morning quiet. Nature calms us and reduces cortisol. Get outside into nature.Cortisol
  5. Try aromatherapy – scents can be calming. Certain essential oils are known to evoke a sense of calm. Lavender, ylang ylang, and bergamot are among them. Pour a drop on your palm and hold it up to your nose to inhale. Instant relaxation.
  6. Laugh – I think this one is self-explanatory but know that there is scientific evidence for the effects of laughter on reducing stress. Get out with some friends, dance, play! Even watching funny videos helps. My favourites right now are Jimmy Fallon replays of lip sync battles and impressions.
  7. Hug someone – physical touch reduces cortisol. Hug your husband, your family, your friends. I guarantee you’ll feel better.

I challenge you to pick just one of these tips and do it today. Do it for a week and you’ll feel better. Add another one next week and you’ll feel even better. Even better, walk with someone arm in arm, in nature, laughing the whole time.

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