In my previous article called High Cortisol Levels, I explained adrenaline and cortisol along with providing some of the reasons they may result in an imbalance. I ended with a few suggestions that may reduce, or normalize your cortisol levels. This article will cover more ideas and suggestions that may help correct an imbalance. I have listed various do’s and don’ts that may help you achieve healthy cortisol wave patterns and levels throughout your day, as well as an overall healthier life.
There are positives and negatives with elevated cortisol. What distinguishes whether it is a positive increase or decrease is based on the time of day, the duration that it remains elevated and if the fluctuations are within normal range or causing your system harm. I will scratch the surface and explain cortisol briefly. In the article, High Cortisol Levels, I explained this in greater depth. If you would like to understand the complex nature of cortisol please refer to this article for a more detailed description.
Cortisol is a stress hormone. During times of stress, irregular sleep, and even chronic pain cortisol is released into your system. If a person suffers from chronic stress, or insomnia their cortisol levels may remain elevated for longer than it should. The increase in duration and amount may create an imbalance in your cortisol levels. This may slow down or even stop any attempt regarding weight loss. The imbalance of cortisol and drastic fluctuations may also cause weight gain.
Cortisol levels are usually highest from 6-8 am, and reach the lowest point at midnight. However, people who have chronic stress may have lower levels in the morning and higher levels in the evening. This may cause additional frustration with insomnia. Cortisol is a stimulating hormone. When your cortisol is elevated there is an increase in fat and carbohydrate metabolism for fast energy. If you have elevated levels in the evening you may toss and turn in bed and you may feel tired but the elevated cortisol and the increased stimuli will keep you from getting a good night’s sleep.
There are several ways you can try to reduce your cortisol levels. I have listed various ways below. Some are simple and some may call for more effort and motivation. If you feel overwhelmed by just the thought of some, but you know they may help, try looking at the commitment as “one day at a time”. Commit to trying it at least once. After you have successfully executed it once then commit to a second attempt. Don’t think of it as “I have to do this forever” or even for the next week. Just look at it as today or tomorrow. The changes are supposed to produce a feeling of calmness and relaxation. Looking at it as a permanent or lifetime commitment may cause more stress. And if you skip a day or two you may feel as if you have failed and give up altogether. Also the guilt or sense of failure that you feel would be a negative feeling. It is important to eliminate anything that causes you negativity in any way.
Here are some ways to reduce your cortisol levels:
- Take up yoga, meditate, go for long relaxing walks, and have regular massages.
- Eating whole foods that are not processed can decrease your levels.
- Limiting your alcohol consumption, as well as caffeine consumption.
- Establishing a nightly routine, and make sure you get at least 7-8 hours of sleep.
- Supplementing with vitamin C has been shown to reduce elevated cortisol amounts.
- Eating a low fat, high fiber diet.
- Exercising daily.
- Keeping your blood sugar levels stable.
- Avoid refined sugars, and processed carbohydrates.
- Staying well hydrated.
- Look into and research anti-stress supplements. Some of them include: B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, chromium, zinc, alpha lipoic acid, grape seed extract, CoQ10.
- Keep a light heart and a sense of humor.
- Invest in some relaxation tapes.
- Try to get away when your schedule permits.
- Try having a small snack of protein and a good healthy fat. A handful of nuts or cottage cheese are great options. A light snack before bed can promote sleep.
- Try natural sleep aids.
- During the day, eat foods that are low on the glycemic index.
- Add Omega-3 fatty acids to your diet.
- Take up some relaxing outdoor exercise. Walking on the beach and light hikes are great.
- Some herbs and natural remedies that may reduce cortisol which include magnolia bark, epimedium, theanine, Banaba leaf, green tea, beta-sitosterols, and vanadium.
- Take up a hobby.
- Include adaptogens into your supplement regimen like maca.
- Consume protein at each meal.
- Supplement with glutamine.
- Avoid all stimulants. This means coffee, energy drinks and everything else.
- Look into adding Phosphatidylserine (PS). PS is a cortisol blocker that drives nutrients into your cells and removes toxins. It also may be useful in preventing short-term memory loss, age related dementia and Alzheimer’s diseases.
- If you need extra support, look for a group that deals with people who have high stress or a support group that fits your situation.
- If you have any stressful relationships make sure to end them and refrain from gossip.
- If it is possible carpool or reduce your morning commute.
- Do not overtrain and keep your workouts to under 1 hour.
- Keep a fitness journal. Document any feelings of anxiety or stress you may be feeling. Taking as little as 10 minutes a day can help you alleviate stress that you may otherwise suppress until it becomes too much.
- Look into taking a stress management class.
Of course these are ideas that may work for some, and may not for others. Aside from making physical changes, it is important to acknowledge if you are a high stress individual. All of these ideas can work only if you have an open mind and really want to eliminate the stress from your life.
Sometimes high stress individuals feel content in a panicky, high stress state. We would like to lose the excess body fat and get better sleep but to learn how to relax and take a deep breath is such a foreign concept we can’t imagine taking the time to learn a new concept like relaxing. But let me leave you with this. If learning how to relax and taking time for yourself would save your life, I would imagine you would invest the time and agree it was worth it.