Cortisol is known as the stress hormone and when this is elevated over longer than optimal periods, it can lead to emotional, psychological, and physical harm. So, how can we reduce cortisol to improve our health?
Are you able to spontaneously sit and ‘be’ – and feel relaxed? Are you struggling with stress, fatigue, sleep difficulties, irritable bowel, heartburn and irritability? Then you may be suffering chronic elevated cortisol. (Read this recent post about anxiety and cortisol.)
Cortisol isn’t always a villain.
Cortisol isn’t always a villain. It’s also a necessary component of the ‘fight-flight’ response that can ‘save’ us from danger – as well as prepare us for a life-challenge. But overload the body and cortisol will play a significant part in reducing the effectiveness of the immune system, elevate blood pressure – which over time can lead to heart disease – interfere with effective digestion, and our mental and cognitive performance, affecting relationships, memory recall, and workplace performance.
In today’s super-fast world, we are constantly calling on our body to perform in ways it was not intended for. The more we practice to accommodate the constant barrage of information and demands, the better we will get at being chronically overladen with hormones designed for short-term deployment in emergency or urgent situations.
So, how can we reduce the cortisol?
Optimise your diet with: (Research others in order to invest in what works for you.)
- dark chocolate (Here’s the science!)
- olive oil
- green tea (see below)
- camomile tea
Remove or reduce these two popular substances known to increase cortisol – sugar and caffeine:
- Sugars create cortisol and adrenaline ‘spikes’ that can last hours – and which ironically creates fatigue!
- To manage caffeine, green tea, which contains about one-quarter the caffeine of coffee, also uniquely contains at least two relaxing compounds. According to Dr Shawn Talbott, author of The Cortisol Connection Diet, l-theanine is a cortisol-controlling amino acid that counteracts the cortisol-increasing tendency of caffeine.
While healthy in the right context, overly frenetic exercise can increase cortisol. This is understood if you can recall playing a competitive sport in the late evening – and just an hour or two later realising you aren’t going to sleep anytime soon! Better to take regular walks, swims, or yoga classes for example, if you want to reduce that cortisol.
Breathwork, Mindfulness and Meditation
As I mentioned earlier in this post, the constant state of being e-Connected and in demand means we set the body up for ‘flight-fight’, but then do neither!
To better manage what we sense and then create, we can future-proof our base levels of neurotransmitters; the hormones that leave us feeling ‘wired’ by learning how to unravel and unwind; to return regularly to the optimal state of homeostasis – or balance and harmony. But to do this we must dis-connect and dis-engage!
Homeostasis – or #balance and harmony. To do this, we must dis-connect and dis-engage!
If I practice beginning each day in a more relaxed, less judgemental fashion, then I stand more of a chance of enjoying a better day. And then, when the vicissitudes of life come knocking I have more resilience to cope – but I need to cope less because I can gain healthier observational perspectives which in turn means I have ‘real-time’ clarity; this is good because then I release less unnecessary hormones. Phew!
Do search this site for more on breathwork, mindfulness, and meditation, or let me know if you would like a personal response. In short, to enjoy a potentially longer, happier and more contented life we need to tune in to our body and mind with the same levels of attendance we employ being online! Take time to ‘be’, even if only for five minutes here and there; the busier you are, the more you need those short power-breaks!
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Bob Brotchie is a counsellor, mindset consultant and creator of "Conscious Living by Design"™. He writes for Anglia Counselling, is featured on various other websites and introduces us to many guest writers all covering topics related to mental health and wellbeing.
Bob provides bespoke counselling services to individuals and couples in the privacy and comfort of a truly welcoming environment at his Anglia Counselling company office, located near Newmarket in Suffolk, England. Bob also provides professional online counselling, for local, national, and international clients. The therapeutic models offered are bespoke to the client’s needs, especially those in receipt of 'childhood emotional neglect' (CEN), whilst integrating a mindful approach to psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) principles. For clients experiencing trauma and/or phobia, Bob offers EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing).