Cortisol, or as it is widely known the “stress hormone”, is a hormone produced by the adrenaline gland and it influences our immune responses, blood sugar levels, metabolism, and blood pressure as the part of the natural defense mechanism that gives us the energy to either fight or flight in stressful situations.
In today’s hectic world, we are dealing more with emotional stress rather than physical dangers, and our body can’t tell the difference so it tells cortisol to do its job. Before we manage to relax and lower cortisol levels, we find ourselves in yet another stressful situation and cortisol kicks in again, thus the cycle continues.
Having constantly high cortisol levels can deprive us of sleep, lead to chronic fatigue, weight gain, impair our natural ability to fight against diseases, and cause various digestive problems. According to these statistics, 77% of Americans regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress. Luckily, there are simple techniques you can apply to reduce cortisol levels and feel better.
1. Listening to soothing music reduces cortisol levels by 66%
Music can evoke positive emotions and brighten our day, and you can use it as a part of your stress-relief therapy. According to one study, exploring effects of instrumental music during a surgery procedure has been proven that music really helps in reducing cortisol levels during such stressful situations.
So, whenever you feel like you are going to hit the roof and stress out, play some music that relaxes you. Make your I’m-not-going-to-stress-out playlist and unwind. Find which music has the most soothing effect on you, preferably instrumental music, such as classical music or sounds of nature.
2. It’s tea time! Reduce cortisol by 47% with a cup of black tea
Having a cup of tea is not just a chance to take a break and gossip with your friends. Researchers from the University College London conducted an experiment on 75 volunteers where one group was given 4 cups of black tea every day, while the other group was drinking a placebo over a period of six weeks. Both groups were exposed to stressful tasks, and while they recorded similar increase in cortisol levels, those who drank black tea had 47% lower cortisol levels 50 minutes after completing the tasks, while in the placebo group, cortisol dropped just 27%.
Pick your favorite time of the day when you can be on your own, and make yourself a cup of black tea and enjoy the silence. Make this your daily habit.
3. Find a friend you can laugh with and reduce cortisol by 39%
Having good friends is important, but they can do more than just offering you a shoulder to cry on when you have problems, they can improve your health as well. It has been proven that joyful laughter reduced cortisol levels, so find your laughing buddy and let go of the stress.
4. Massage the cortisol out by 31%
Who doesn’t like to treat themselves with a nice relaxing massage? Besides making you feel good, studies have shown that several weeks of massage therapy can reduce cortisol levels by 31%.
Pamper yourself with a massage after a particularly stressful day and enjoy its benefits.
5. Going to bed early or taking a nap reduces cortisol by 50%
The benefits of a good night’s sleep cannot be overstated – it goes a long way in improving the quality of your life. Moreover, it is vital to get enough hours of sleep – the study conducted by the Institute of Aerospace Medicine in Germany showed that the helicopter pilots who slept 6 instead of the recommended 8 hours, had an increase of 50-80% in cortisol levels.
Don’t stay up late browsing through funny YouTube clips and wake up tired and stressed out – organize your day so that you could get 8 hours of sleep. However, if for some reason you didn’t manage to get enough sleep, take a nap – it can bring your cortisol levels down as well.
6. Fight stress with food
Incorporating omega-3 fatty acids helps you regulate cortisol levels, so include fish such as wild salmon, sardines or anchovies in your diet. In addition to fish, foods such as spinach, citrus fruits, and dark chocolate can help you fight the negative influence of cortisol.