Are you under a lot of stress?
Cortisol is best known as the stress hormone, and boy is that right. In our natural element, out in the raw land before civilization, cortisol is what helped us survive. Stress was brought on by issues of survival, and so our bodies developed this super hormone to give us enough energy to fight off the stressor.
In our modern world that we live today, stress looks a bit different. Now we find ourselves boiling in road rage, biting our tongues with rude people and hustling across town to pick up the kids from school. All of these things send our bodies into a stress response that releases cortisol to help us get through all the stress.
The problem here, though, is that our road rage and polite responses do nothing to burn off the extra energy that is racing through our veins. Even worse, our bodies shut down regular functions (like digestion, sleep, and sexual functioning) so that we can deal with the stress. Since we never burn off the extra energy, we also never resume normal body functioning. Instead, the cortisol festers in our bodies, causing inflammation and disease. This is particularly bad for people with
diabetes because inflammation is already running wild throughout the body!
So here are 5 simple ways to lower your cortisol levels, straighten out your inflammation, and get your body in a better state as soon as possible.
#1 Sleep Better
When it comes to sleep, I think Shakespeare says it best:
Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care, the death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath, balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course, chief nourisher in life’s feast. –William Shakespeare
He’s right, you know. Sleep resets our nervous system and reboots our hormones so that they can be balanced post-sleep. Cortisol is naturally higher in the mornings to keep you energized for the day, then naturally drops off at night for a sound sleep. When we are constantly stressed, our bodies go haywire with cortisol.
To help reset our cortisol levels the biggest, the most immediate move that we can take is to fix our sleep. As a general rule, follow the sunlight to schedule your sleep. Make yourself a sleep-able environment, meaning that you should have a nice temperature, no distractions, low light, and a comfortable bed.
#2 Eat Your Antioxidants
Antioxidants help fight free radicals. Guess what stress brings on? Yup, free radicals. Cortisol shuts down basic functioning, like I already mentioned, and one of those basic functions that it shuts down is the immune system. So when you’re out there in the toxic world and your high cortisol levels are muting everything strong about your body, you’re going to want extra antioxidants to help combat the toxins.
By keeping your toxins low, your body is better able to get cortisol under control, as well.
#3 Exercise Regularly
Just like sleep, regular exercise helps reset a lot of systems in the body. In addition to this resetting function, it also provides a perfect outlet for all of your cortisol and adrenaline to be expelled. After a nice long walk, a yoga session or even a WOD, you can expect to feel a whole lot more relaxed with a whole lot less cortisol floating around.
#4 Actually Relax
People recommend relaxing to combat stress, but I really mean it. Make your home into a spa and turn down the lights, light some candles, make yourself some tea and grab a good book/puzzle/coloring book. Letting your brain be used for something non-stressful is the best way to actually relax (as opposed to numbing your brain with television). Give it a try, it’s wonderful.
#5 Eat From The Earth
I know, I know you hear this all the time. The fact is that your body simply does better with food that it was designed to eat. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and grass-fed meats have a major anti-inflammatory effect on the body and can help combat the effects of cortisol.
Processed foods, in comparison, actually cause more stress to the body and thus more cortisol. This is because processed foods are treated like toxins by the body, so your body has to work doubly hard to get that gunk out!