Some of the Best Ways to Reduce the Stress Hormone Cortisol
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Parris Kidd
Stress is prevalent in our society.
A recent report from the American Psychological Association found that 84% of the people surveyed have been experiencing elevated levels of stress.
Additionally, almost half of them reported mood issues, as well as weight changes and problems with sleep – conditions that often accompany being emotionally overwhelmed.
Good Stress/Bad Stress
Usually, people think of stress as bad…but stress is both good and bad. A little bit of stress is actually good because it can motivate you to meet your goals. Low level stress also can help you with resilience, problem solving, and adapting to everyday challenges.
Stress becomes a problem when it’s intense, recurring, or remains unresolved over a sustained period. At that point, stress takes a toll and can become harmful to your health.
If left unchecked, excessive stress can lead to serious personal and social consequences, including:
- Family conflict
- Low self-esteem
- Withdrawal from social activities
- Alcohol and substance abuse
- Legal and criminal problems
- Anxiousness and other mental problems
Fight or Flight
The body’s “fight or flight” system is for dealing with threats – whether real or perceived. When we sense danger, our brain’s hypothalamus immediately sends an alert to our body. The brain then triggers the adrenal glands to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline.
Adrenaline increases your heart rate and blood pressure and provides a rush of energy to escape the danger. Another hormone involved in the fight or flight process is cortisol.
What Is the Stress Hormone Cortisol?
Cortisol is the body’s primary stress hormone. It acts like a biological alarm system, alerting your brain to potential danger. This natural alarm system communicates with the area of the brain that manages mood, motivation, and fear.
Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands – triangle-shaped organs that sit on top of the kidneys. The hypothalamus and pituitary gland help regulate the amount of cortisol in the blood. Cortisol receptors, found in the many of the body’s cells, use the hormone in many ways.
For instance, if your body is placed on high alert, cortisol can temporarily shut down various bodily systems not needed in a fight or flight situation. These systems include the digestive, immune and reproductive systems. It also releases glucose to help repair damaged tissue.
Once the danger is averted, cortisol levels gradually normalize and heartbeat, blood pressure, and other body systems should return to normal. However, if the body is subjected to consistent stress, its cortisol can remain at high levels.
This can disrupt your body’s processes and create many health problems, such as:
- Brain problems
- Heart problems
- Mood issues
- Memory or concentration problems
- Weight gain
- Digestive issues
- Troubles sleeping
Not only can excessive stress lead to physical health problems, it can also disrupt your mental health.
So, what can you do if you’re dealing with too much stress? Here are some healthy strategies for reducing stress in your daily routine…
5 Natural Ways to Reduce the Stress Hormone Cortisol
Whenever you feel worried, frustrated, angry, or tense, do a deep breathing exercise. Focusing on your breathing for a few minutes is one of the simplest and quickest ways to settle your anxious or stressful thoughts.
Breathe with your diaphragm rather than your chest. Try this exercise:
- Inhale 3 to 4 seconds
- Exhale 6 to 8 seconds
- Repeat this pattern 10 times
When you slow down and become more efficient with your breathing, you may find that your problems aren’t as dire as you thought they were and that you’re feeling less stressed.
Due to their natural ability to provide comfort, especially when you’re feeling stressed out, spending time with a dog can help your muscles relax, slow your breathing, and lower your heart rate. It also can help decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol..
Overall, dogs can help you feel calmer. This effect is evident in the way trained service dogs can bring positivity to people who suffer with mood issues.
Having a dog provides companionship, which is especially helpful for anyone who lives alone or is often isolated from others. Petting a dog can help alleviate feelings of loneliness by letting you know you aren’t alone.
Spending time with your pet can help promote calmness by increasing levels of oxytocin and decreasing production of the stress hormone cortisol. Owning a pet that needs to be walked means you’ll get outside for fresh air and sunshine, which can lower your blood pressure, reduce your stress, and perhaps even help you lose weight.
Scientific evidence shows that meditation can help calm anxiousness and stress and enhance brain function.
A randomized controlled trial involving 93 subjects with mood issues was published in JAMA Internal Medicine. The researchers found that those in a stress-reduction program that incorporated meditation had a greater improvement in anxiousness and stress along with an increase in positive self-statements compared to those in a stress management group without meditation.
Another group of researchers, who conducted a study with 40 college students, found that after only 5 days of meditation the participants had significantly lower levels of cortisol.
Never underestimate the importance of being around the right people. The health habits of the people you spend time with may have a dramatic impact on your own health and habits. So, surround yourself with people who are happy, upbeat, and kind.
Building and maintaining healthy relationships may help you feel understood and cared for. When you care for others and feel cared for, your brain can release oxytocin, the “bonding” hormone, which can counteract some of the negative effects of stress.
Nutrients and herbals can help support your body’s resistance to stress.
Everyday Stress Relief
Everyday Stress Relief was specifically formulated to help replenish your brain and body’s nutrients that can be depleted by stress. This supplement includes herbal extracts clinically proven to have calming and anti-stress effects, helping you to feel less anxious without making you sleepy. It also helps with apprehension, tension, worry, and fatigue.
Here’s what you’ll find in this high-potency formula:
- Magnesium is a well-known calming mineral. It promotes a balanced and mentally focused demeanor.
- The amino acid taurine supports the adrenal glands and is crucial for coping with stress.
- The herb holy basil, revered both in Europe and the East, helps to improve adaptation to occasional anxiety and other problems related to stress.
- A phytochemical derived from green tea, l-theanine helps to reduce tension.
- Relora®, which is a unique mix of two herbs, may enhance healthy management of the stress hormone cortisol while easing tension, anger, negative mood, and confusion.
This safe, non-sedating, and non-habit-forming formula combines the multiple beneficial actions of these well-studied herbs and nutrients to help your brain and body cope with stress on multiple levels.
GABA Calming Support
GABA Calming Support is a unique combination of clinically proven ingredients that can help you cope with restlessness, irritability, and other challenges associated with occasional anxiety. It can help facilitate the production of calming brain waves, correct stress-causing nutritional deficiencies, and promote relaxation.
This soothing formula includes:
- GABA – is the body’s main calming neurotransmitter. By slowing the excessive firing of neurons, it supports the body’s natural mechanisms for quieting the mind and gradually falling asleep.
- L-Theanine – working mainly by way of GABA receptors on nerve cells, l-theanine is an amino acid that has calming and relaxing effects while preserving mental focus, and also improves sleep quality.
- Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) – a member of the mint family that has been used as a medicinal herb for over 2000 years, lemon balm helps relieve stress and anxiousness, likely by increasing GABA activity in the brain as well as the activity of acetylcholine, a major neurotransmitter that promotes mental focus.
- Magnesium – sometimes called the relaxation mineral, magnesium plays important roles in relaxing mind and body, calming racing thoughts, and promoting overall sleep quality. Research suggests that magnesium’s calming effects are enhanced by vitamin B6.
- Vitamin B6 – vitamin B6 is required by brain enzymes that produce the neurotransmitter serotonin, which promotes relaxation and positive mood. This supplement provides B6 as pyridoxine and pyridoxal-5-phosphate, its most readily utilized forms.
GABA Calming Support boosts GABA to help relax your brainwaves and pump the brakes on anxious and fearful thoughts. As a gentle, natural relaxation aid, it has helped countless people transition from an agitated awake state into a restful state that allows them to transition into sleep.
These are just a few of the many practical and natural techniques that can keep your body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol in check. Adopting these healthy tips can help reduce stress levels and increase your inner calm.
If you feel stressed and need a nutritional boost, give Everyday Stress Relief and GABA Calming Support a try today.
At BrainMD, we’re dedicated to providing the highest purity nutrients to improve your physical health and overall well-being. For more information about our full list of brain healthy supplements, please visit us at BrainMD.