Stress might seem like an inevitable part of your life. And while it’s true that many of the things that cause us stress are out of our control, there are simple steps we can take to lower cortisol – the hormone responsible for symptoms of stress such as increased heart rate and higher blood pressure.
If you want to reduce stress in your life, start with some of the things you can control. You might not be able to control all the things causing you stress (like other people, world events, or your job), but you can do some things to take care of your mind and body when stressful situations are happening around you.
- Breathe! Take a deep breath, you got this. That’s not just a cliché saying. Taking deep breaths actually does help your body regulate stress. Quick, shallow breathing sends stress signals to your brain as if there was a real emergency. Slow, deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system and tells your brain to lower your heart rate. It’s like giving your body the green light to relax. If you’d like, you can even check online for guided breathing exercises to help you feel less stressed.
- Eat nourishing and nutritious foods. Did you know that processed foods and added sugars can actually raise our cortisol levels and make us feel more stressed? On the other hand, whole foods and plant-forward meals can help our bodies regulate our stress hormones in a more balanced way. For example, fiber helps your body regulate gut bacteria which then goes on to help regulate hormones. Try snacking on fiber-rich whole foods like dates, apples, popcorn, or berries.
- Try supplements. Popping a capsule is no replacement for healthy, balanced meals, but there are some supplements (the key is in the word! They help supplement a healthy, nutritious diet!) that can help your body lower cortisol and feel less stressed. Magnesium, folic acid, and vitamin B12 are supplements that many people find helpful in reducing feelings of stress. We always recommend talking with your doctor before starting a new supplement routine.
- Get outside. If the weather permits, try taking your lunch outside. Or go for a walk during a work break. It’s amazing how nature can help us feel calmer. Getting out in nature also often sparks gratitude, which can help reduce stress and help us feel more present in the moment instead of worrying about the future.
- Make sure you’re getting your eight hours of sleep! Sleep is so important to our overall health, yet it’s often the part of our wellbeing we sacrifice first! Prioritizing your nightly rest can make your days feel less stressful and more balanced. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try sleep supplements as approved by your doctor or aromatherapy to help you wind down. Limiting caffeine intake, especially in the afternoon, can help you sleep more soundly. Which brings us to our next point.
- Consider cutting back on caffeine. Coffee and other caffeinated beverages are often important rituals during our day, and can bring us comfort. Try cutting back by one beverage a day. Or limit caffeine intake to only early mornings. Caffeine can raise cortisol levels and unfortunately, that cozy cup of coffee does not help regulate hormones. Check your supplements, smoothie powders, energy drinks, beverages, and teas for caffeine content you might not be aware of.
- Move your body in the ways you can! You don’t have to jump into a rigorous workout routine that you’re not ready for. Walking 30+ minutes a day can help your body regulate stress and lower cortisol levels. So can yoga and light exercise videos. Start somewhere!
- Try aromatherapy for stress. There are many essential oils known specifically for helping reduce stress. Aromatherapy is an easy tool to incorporate into your daily routine. You can set up your diffuser in your workspace (make sure the essential oils you’re using are safe for any babies or pets who might be nearby), you can diffuse oils while falling asleep or while doing a workout or yoga video at home. You can even take aromatherapy on the go with diffuser jewelry and keychains.