How To Lower Stress Naturally

How do we lower stress naturally? Cortisol is the stress hormone and a vital component of our health. Without which we could not survive. It helps to control our blood sugar levels and regulates our metabolism. It assists us with memory function. Cortisol even has a controlling effect on salt and water balance which regulates our blood pressure.  

Our cortisol levels fluctuate in sync with our sleep cycle. Levels are highest before we rise helping us to get out of bed in the morning. Throughout the day it begins to decline until it reaches the lowest levels in the evening. We get tired and sleepy and hopefully are able to drift off into a deep relaxing sleep.  

The functions of cortisol

It functions to increase blood sugar, to suppress the immune system, and to aid in the metabolism of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. It also decreases bone formation. Cortisol is actually one hormone that increases as we get older.  

It has a huge impact on our daily lives and cortisol has the power to create havoc in our bodies if it is not in balance. High levels of stress seem to be the norm in our busy lives and everyone is familiar with that fight or flight rush of adrenalin. Perhaps we should pay more attention to the body’s other stress hormone, cortisol.  When cortisol is chronically high it can affect everything from sleep to mental health, digestion, weight, our skin, ageing of our brain and even fertility.  

Because this hormone regulates our salt water balance, when cortisol is elevated our skin’s ability to retain water is compromised. This leads to dehydrated skin that is dry, flaky and dull. And a chronically dehydrated skin leads to fine lines and wrinkles. High cortisol also causes a break down in elastin and collagen causing premature ageing of the skin. 

As a protective measure against this dehydration, high levels of cortisol cause the sebum glands to produce extra oil that is deposited on the skin. Excess oil can clog the pores and cause inflammation leading to Acne. 

Chronically elevated levels of cortisol can be bad news for reactive skin. This is closely related to skin problems and eczema, psoriasis, acne and rosacea. 

How do I balance cortisol?

There are proven ways to balance and reduce high cortisol levels, some very simple and easy to incorporate into our lives. 

Our mobile phones are one of the reasons that cortisol levels are higher now than they have been in previous generations.  

Aim to keep that cortisol low before bed time and give yourself the best chance of a deep and restful sleep, try putting your phone in another room to charge at night rather than at your bedside. Bright screens before we sleep affect not only cortisol levels but also disrupt melatonin production both of which affect your sleep quality and stress levels. 

As cortisol is naturally highest in the morning having a phone free hour in the morning can allow our cortisol to slowly and naturally increase, rather than spiking as we start scrolling. Another good reason to have it charging in the next room. 

What can I do to lower stress?

  1. Have a break from technology at lunch time. Get away from that demanding ping of your inbox for at least 15 minutes in the middle of the day. 
  2. Get a daily dose of nature, even staring at a tree has a cortisol lowering effect. Going for a short walk in a garden or tree lined path is a good way to spend that 20 minutes away from your inbox at lunch time.  
  3. Our daily commute is a common stress trigger and cortisol surges during this time. Instead of calling into work and allowing yourself to get stressed use this time to relax by listening to an audible book or your favourite relaxing music. The journey will take the same amount of time as it would have, but you will arrive relaxed and best equipped to cope with the demands facing you. 
  4. Schedule stress reduction time in the evening. Ten minutes of gentle Yoga stretches or a calming Epsom salts bath will lower your cortisol levels and improve your sleep quality.  
  5. Take up a hobby.
  6. Remember to laugh. 
  7. Ditch that fad diet. Severe calorie restriction is a huge stressor which can spike your cortisol levels. This is particularly true of low-fat diets. Increased cortisol levels will raise blood sugar and result in higher insulin levels. Insulin’s primary function is to store fat which is unhelpful when trying to lose weight! So instead, try to eat single-ingredient foods incorporating leafy green vegetables and sufficient fat and protein. You will feel much better, certainly happier, and are more likely to reach and maintain your goals.
  8.  Take Ashwaganda if you are not sensitive to nightshades. This natural herb used in Ayurvedic medicine for years is proven to lower cortisol. It can help you fall asleep and wake rested. There are no groggy hangovers that are so often experienced with sleeping pills.

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