Cortisol is making news once again. This time, it’s especially concerning for women. If you’ve ever wanted to manage stress and reduce cortisol naturally, this study on brain health is a great wake-up call.
According to an October 2018 study, researchers found that increased blood cortisol levels are correlated with impaired memory and lower brain volume in mid-life (1). What’s more, after studying 2231 human participants, they found the effects were more pronounced in women participants than men.
Cortisol is a hormone that’s released by the adrenal glands when the body faces stress. In modern times, this stress is often more mental than physical and usually has no outlet. For many, it’s chronic. It builds. And it does damage.
High blood cortisol levels are correlated with weight gain and impaired loss, increased blood pressure, negative impacts on mood, sleep and energy, and an increased incidence of diabetes and heart disease (2). And now, lower brain volume and memory issues.
What’s this mean to you?
Especially if you’re a woman, it’s imperative to find ways to reduce cortisol naturally and lower overall stress.
How? Here are 9 daily habits you can use, from the time you wake until bed, to lower yours today.
1. Make mornings easy. Cortisol is naturally highest in the mornings, so don’t add more with a hectic start to your day. Mornings are usually much smoother when you wake up just 5 minutes earlier, prep breakfast and lunches the night before, and keep a bag with everything you need when leaving the house next to the door.
2. Exercise and be active, early and outside if possible. Studies have found that activity outside improves health markers and reduces cortisol, tension, fatigue, and depression. A recent study concluded that men and women over 66 years who exercised outside reported higher levels of total activity per week than inside-exercisers (3).
3. Choose foods and drinks that may reduce cortisol naturally. Try fatty fish like salmon, dark chocolate (70% or higher cocoa), fruits and vegetables, or superfood fruit and vegetable powders. You can also drink cortisol-busting green tea and black tea to lower cortisol levels. Great for chilly winter days!
4. Clear your schedule. Want to know the magic word to lower cortisol naturally? It’s “no.” Instead of filling up your calendar with many obligations, say no more often. Then, decide on a few and engage with quality time. Less is more when it comes to your schedule and feeling busy and stressed.
5. Take charge of your attitude and reaction to any given stressful situation. Cortisol is your body’s reaction to stress. By controlling your reactions, you can impact your cortisol levels. Take a deep breath, respond with reigned-in emotions, or even leave the situation to cool off. It’s never been said better than Pastor Charles Swindoll:
“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life….I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.”
6. Find a way to laugh every day. Spend time with a friend and laugh. Listen to comedy on your drive home rather than stew in traffic. Play with kids. Read funny books rather than serious ones occasionally.
7. Speaking of friends, cultivate meaningful, positive in-person relationships. If you don’t think you have the time, consider this: According to a 2016 report, most social media users spend an hour per day on Facebook alone. What’s more, using social media correlates with worsening mood, while time spent with friends increases positive moods. Skip just half the social media, and take 30 minutes to meet with a friend instead.
8. Pray and practice gratitude. At the end of each day, take time to practice gratitude and pray. Put down the screens and write three to five specific things for which you are grateful. Pray with thanksgiving, releasing things you cannot control and the stressors you face.
9. Last but certainly not least, get good quality sleep, preferably 7-9 hours per night. It’s not always easy, but sleep is crucially important to brain health and stress levels. While lack of sleep can impair melatonin levels and cortisol, adequate sleep helps our brains rid themselves of toxins and heal.
What’s on your short list? What habits do you use to lower stress levels?
Don’t let chronic high stress and cortisol levels bring down your health, brain, or memory. Use these 9 strategies to reduce cortisol naturally today.