The cortisol hormone is considered the stress hormone par excellence. This substance, produced in the adrenal glands, can be triggered in many ways and can also be reduced by more or less effective strategies.
Since stress and anxiety are very common problems in developed societies, many people wonder how to lower cortisol . Here are about 15 ways to keep this hormone at bay.
How to lower the cortisol?
Below we will look at several strategies, of all kinds, that have been shown to be effective, to a greater or lesser extent, in controlling cortisol levels.
1. Stop caffeine
It’s not a surprise to say that caffeine makes you nervous, but what might be a little more interesting is how it influences cortisol levels.
This substance, present in coffee, tea or even dark chocolate, makes cortisol levels rise abruptly and maintains them for hours . This means that you are nervous for longer and suddenly.
The most effective way to avoid this effect is simply to reduce the consumption of drinks with this substance or to stop caffeine completely. If you think you are suffering from a caffeine addiction, it is best to seek professional advice.
2. Good sleep hygiene
Going to sleep irregularly, without a set schedule, is terribly detrimental to our physical and mental health, and is also a factor in increasing cortisol levels.
Good sleep hygiene consists among other things of getting about eight hours of sleep a day (less in the elderly, who sleep less) and preferably going to bed between 10 and 12 o’clock at night, which helps to stabilise cortisol levels.
If we talk about how to reduce an anxiety related hormone, it is clear that relaxation techniques cannot be ignored. Relaxation can be done in many ways, either through yoga or simply by meditating.
No matter how you try to induce this relaxation, the important thing is that it serves to calm both mind and body and, consequently, to acquire a greater well-being.
For those who find it difficult to relax with this type of technique, they always have the option of listening to music, although be careful! not every genre is valid. It is advisable to listen to relaxing ambient sounds or classical music.
Exercise is always a very good option to enjoy great well-being. It is not surprising that in popular language there are sayings that insinuate a solid relationship between mental and physical health, the best known being ‘healthy mind in healthy body’.
Playing sports helps regulate cortisol levels, which translates into reduced anxiety. In addition, physical exercise causes the release of serotonin and dopamine in the brain , substances also related to emotional well-being.
The exercise does not need to be very intense. A half-hour walk a day is enough, although going to a gym or joining in directed activities such as boxing, body pumping or spinning are great ways to reduce the cortisol hormone.
5. Organizing your time
A disorganized lifestyle is the main cause of living under constant stress . That is why it is really necessary to try to bring order to our lives.
Organizing time, meeting deadlines and trying to have more or less well established schedules give our lives structure and therefore make uncertainty less frequent.
Cortisol, as the stress hormone that it is, appears in situations where we do not know how they will evolve. It is an evolutionary mechanism that serves to try to activate us in the face of a threat and find a short-term solution to it.
However, this mechanism is totally detrimental if it makes us live under stress all the time. That is why, as far as possible, if we can put an end to this time anarchy, we will not activate this mechanism and we will not suffer so much stress .
6. Finding out what we’re worried about
Everyone has their concerns, which they live with and, as far as they can, try to deal with. However, sometimes it is more comfortable for us not to do anything about it, even though it wears us down emotionally .
To improve our health, we can take two strategies. The first would be to try not to worry, especially if it’s something we can’t change. However, if it is possible to fight it, let’s find out exactly what it is and deal with it.
In this type of situation, it is always recommended to see a psychologist, who will help us to obtain effective strategies to cope with the situation in a healthy way.
7. Eating foods rich in phenylalanine
Phenylalanine is a substance found in many foods, even though its name is not so well known to most people.
Unless you have the very harmful condition of phenylketonuria, in which people who suffer from it cannot consume phenylalanine without being neurologically affected, the consumption of food with this substance is highly recommended.
Phenylalanine is an amino acid that helps secrete dopamine , in addition to contributing to the reduction of the desire to eat carbohydrates and sugars, substances that affect stress levels.
Among the foods with phenylalanine we can find rich sources of protein such as dairy products, eggs, red meat and fish, as well as some whole grains.
8. Keeping blood sugar levels stable
Sugar and refined carbohydrates act in the blood by triggering insulin levels, which can lead to medical problems such as diabetes and obesity.
The ideal is to reduce the consumption of these substances, incorporating proteins, complex carbohydrates and good fats such as olive oil, although without abusing them.
Diets rich in complex carbohydrates , i.e. the “good ones”, help to keep cortisol levels low.
9. Staying hydrated
Staying well hydrated ensures that cortisol levels are kept at bay. Dehydration causes the body to be stressed, leading to psychological and, above all, physiological stress , which increases cortisol levels.
It never hurts to have a bottle of water with you. Drinking the right amount of water will prevent you from being tired and moody, which will help you be more productive.
10. Eating foods rich in omega-3s
Omega-3 is a substance that activates the adrenal glands , which naturally regulate cortisol levels.
Omega-3 acids are abundant in certain foods such as vegetable oils, such as olive oil, soybean oil, flaxseed oil, and canola oil, as well as in all types of fish, such as tuna, and seafood.
11. Eating foods rich in vitamin C
Vitamin C is a substance that helps to secrete dopamine , which, as we have seen before, helps to reduce stress.
Some foods rich in vitamin C are cherries, strawberries, asparagus, tomatoes, blueberries, tangerines, potatoes, raspberries, cauliflower, melon, mango, kiwi, peas, pineapple.
12. Relating to others
Relating to others is a factor in protecting our mental and, although it may be surprising, physical health.
Social relationships, provided they are based on kindness and understanding , are a source of support and, moreover, involve changes at a hormonal level.
The affect, especially shown in the form of a hug, helps release oxytocin and, in turn, reduces the level of cortisol.
13. Getting rid of toxic relationships
Whether with a partner, friends or even family, sometimes we are unlucky enough to establish a toxic relationship, which is clearly a focus for stress and cortisol build-up.
Although it is clear that in every relationship there can be some misunderstanding, the ideal is that in these relationships we can show ourselves as we are , without being hidden behind masks or living in constant tension.
If you are in a relationship where conflict, bad language and abuse of any kind abound, you are in a toxic relationship. It is very clear that if you suffer physical and verbal abuse, you should seek the help of loved ones who can provide real support, as well as proceed to denounce the abuser.
However, if the toxic relationship in question is not a crime, what should be done, in the first instance, is to see if it is possible to change the relationship, trying to see what the problem is. If you see that there is no way to change what this relationship is like, then you should simply get rid of it.
The ashwagandha, whose scientific name is Withania somnifera , is a plant from the traditional Hindu medicine .
In recent years, the effectiveness of this plant on the control of cortisol levels has been studied, concluding that it is possibly effective in reducing these levels and, consequently, reducing stress.
Regardless of its actual effectiveness, so far it has been recommended not only to reduce stress and anxiety as a natural remedy, but also to lower the blood pressure associated with anxiety disorders.
Meditation, as we said before, is a quite useful strategy to reduce anxiety and, at a hormonal level, cortisol.
However, of all the meditation practices that exist, Mindfulness has proven to be one of the most effective. It can be deduced from this that, as a tool, it is useful for inducing changes at the hormonal level in the brain .
Although Mindfulness, by itself, is not a practice that can substitute the professional intervention of a psychologist, it can be useful in people who have excessive stress but do not reach pathological levels.
- Cebrián, J., & Guarga, J. (2012). Dictionary of medicinal plants. RBA Books.
- Martino, P. (2014). An analysis of the close relationships between stress and depression from a psychoneuroendocrinological perspective: the central role of cortisol. Cuadernos de Neuropsicología, 8(1), 60-75.
- Talbott, S. M. (2007). The cortisol connection: why stress makes you fat and ruins your health-and what you can do about it. Hunter House