Humans are remarkable – in a crisis, we’re often bestowed with increased energy to help us survive or save others. Indeed, stressful situations can sometimes bring out the best in us. That’s largely thanks to a hormone called cortisol, which improves certain bodily functions over the short term to grant us increased endurance and strength in response to stressful stimuli.
However, cortisol levels can easily become unbalanced and flood the body beyond what is maintainable or healthy. This can happen because of regular life events, bad daily habits, or negative thinking patterns. Lowering your cortisol levels is important for general health and so that you can cultivate a positive state of mind.
In this guide, we’ll break down five tips you can use to lower your body’s cortisol levels starting today.
What is Cortisol?
Cortisol is one of the most important hormones for your body. But like all hormones, too much of it can cause your bodily systems to get out of whack and cause any number of harmful side effects.
In a nutshell, cortisol is the primary stress hormone for your body and affects certain parts of your brain in order to control your motivation, fear, and even your mood. Cortisol is made by the adrenal glands, which are small organs located at the top of your kidneys.
In most cases, people get a boost of cortisol when they are in a crisis – it’s the hormone primarily responsible for the well-known “fight or flight” instinct. But cortisol either controls or affects lots of other things throughout your body, including:
- Your body’s inflammation levels
- How well your body utilizes fats, proteins, and carbohydrates for energy
- Your blood sugar level by boosting it when necessary
- Your blood pressure indirectly as it affects your heart rate
- Helps to control your sleeping cycle
- Improves energy levels to handle stress, plus (normally) lowers that stress back down to normal after a perceived crisis has passed
- Improved pain management, which is why, in some cases, people don’t experience pain in a crisis – their body helps them to ignore the pain until they are safe
Why is Lowering Cortisol Important?
Ultimately, we all need cortisol in our lives to handle daily stresses and to take action when an emergency occurs. However, environmental or behavioral stressors can cause your cortisol levels to spike and remain too high, which is why it’s important to lower your cortisol levels back down to regular amounts.
Otherwise, you might experience the following side effects:
- Increased weight gain. When your body makes more cortisol, your body also shifts its metabolic processes so that it stores more fat
- You become more tired since cortisol can interfere with your daily levels of other hormones, which causes long-term fatigue
- Less efficient brain function, as cortisol can interfere with your memory
- Long-term or chronic complications, including conditions like osteoporosis or type II diabetes
- Immune system weakening, which can make you more susceptible to illness
All in all, high cortisol levels should be regulated at the earliest opportunity. Fortunately, there are multiple ways you can lower your cortisol levels naturally.
Ways to Lower Cortisol Levels
Lots of people are able to lower their cortisol levels through changing their behavior or environmental triggers or by consuming natural supplements.
Let’s break down the top five tips for lowering cortisol levels that you can incorporate into your life today.
Take Regular Supplements to Ensure a Healthy Body Equipped to Combat Stress
Many folks experience higher cortisol levels since their bodies don’t get all of the vitamins and minerals they need for holistic bodily health. Taking a de-stress gummy and/or a whole-body supplement can help to respectively reduce pain and inflammation that can trigger additional cortisol release and take advantage of adaptogenic herbs to help your body better combat and manage the effects of stress.
Take our Complete Calm De-Stress Gummies, for example. These all natural anti-anxiety gummies feature key ingredients like Safr-Inside™, Panax Ginseng, Lion's Mane Extract, and Rhodiola Extract to naturally support emotional health, reduce anxiety, enhance memory and improve focus.
It’s not only important to get a good night’s rest for holistic bodily health – it’s also crucial if you want to lower your cortisol levels! That’s because the length, timing, and quality of your sleep can influence how much cortisol your body produces. As you get less sleep, your body becomes more stressed, so your adrenal glands produce more cortisol to compensate.
To get a good night’s rest:
- Be sure that you go to bed at the same time every night. This trains your body to expect sleep at a certain time, offsetting some of the risks of insomnia
- Avoid consuming caffeine too close to bed (anytime before noon is usually fine unless you are highly sensitive to caffeine)
- Try to avoid distractions before bed, and spend at least one hour away from an electronic screen before sleeping. That’s because most electronic screens produce a level of blue light that can trick your brain into thinking the sun is rising
Not only will you feel better if you get more sleep, but your cortisol levels will dip considerably.
You should also make it a goal to exercise regularly. Exercise is one of the best ways to burn through cortisol and other stress hormones in the body, making you feel more relaxed. As a bonus, you’ll be more fit overall and lower your risk of experiencing health conditions related to lack of exercise.
Note that exercising, according to some studies, briefly increases cortisol levels over the short term. The real benefit comes from lowering cortisol levels at night, when higher levels may impact your sleeping patterns.
Change Your Thinking Patterns
Many of us don’t live very physically stressful lives. But with our stressful work environments and family obligations, it’s all too easy to draw ourselves into stressful thinking patterns. Our minds ultimately rule over our bodies, so it’s important that you recognize and stop stressful thinking and focus on cultivating a peaceful mental state.
If you notice yourself worrying about things you can’t control, try to train yourself to think about other things. Avoid ruminating on past mistakes and panicking about things in your environment. A negative thinking pattern can easily lead to a cycle of stress that’s difficult to get out of.
Meditate or Practice Spirituality
Lastly, you can and should meditate, practice spirituality, or otherwise adopt some kind of mentally calming routine. Meditation and spirituality both help the human mind to relax and find peace and purpose in one’s daily life and routine. This, in turn, helps to avoid the negative thinking patterns mentioned earlier and can help you avoid building up internal stress over time.
Both options work well. Science clearly shows that spiritual people often have lower cortisol levels, even when they face high-stress life developments, such as an illness. But meditation can also serve a similar function if you aren’t religious or don’t know anyone in a spiritual group at the moment.
All in all, it’s important to learn to lower your cortisol levels as early as you can, especially since increased cortisol levels happen to anyone due to bad habits or stressful daily routines. Keeping lower cortisol levels will go a long way toward improving your body’s overall health and keeping you focused on your goals.
Besides, no one likes to be stressed out all the time. Follow the above tips and be sure to take regular supplements to ensure that your body is always at peak condition and ready to face the day’s challenges with optimism and energy.
Meet our Experts
This article has been reviewed by members of our Scientific Advisory Board.
Dr. Jay Cowin, Nutrition Expert
Founder of Functional U, a Nutrition, Performance & Optimal Health practice.