Cortisol is known as the stress hormone and it’s one of the most important hormones in our body.
Most people go through life reacting to their feelings, but they never think to look at the root cause for their feelings.
In most cases, our hormones are heavily involved.
Whenever you better understand your hormones, you’re able to recognize when things are out of whack based on how you feel.
Then you can take the necessary steps to get your hormones in a favorable ratio again.
What is Cortisol?
Cortisol is a hormone produced in the adrenal cortex to regulate our response to physical and emotional stress.
Cortisol is naturally released in a cycle that correlates with circadian rhythms — we get a jolt of cortisol in the morning to help us wake up and feel energized. Caffeine raises cortisol, which is why drinking coffee makes us awake and alert.
Throughout the day, our cortisol slowly drops.
When cortisol spikes, our body shuts down reproduction, the immune system, and other unnecessary functions to prioritize all energy towards fighting the stress.
In most modern environments, spikes in cortisol don’t last long. However, in high-stress environments, chronic increases in cortisol can happen and can wreak havoc on our health.
Symptoms of High Cortisol
Here are several signs of having too much cortisol:
- Weight gain
- Mood swings
- Muscle aches
- Decreased libido
- Increased anxiety
- High blood pressure
- Fatigue and poor sleep quality
- Irregular periods and fertility problems
Symptoms of Low Cortisol
Believe it or not, you can actually have too little cortisol as well. Low cortisol isn’t as common and is typically a result of Addison’s disease, tuberculosis, HIV, and a few other rare conditions.
Here are several symptoms associated with low cortisol:
- Social anxiety
- Muscle weakness
- Anxiety and jitters
- Clumsiness and confusion
- Emotional hypersensitivity
- Inability to cope with stress
- Extreme craving for salty foods
- Insomnia and dark circles under eyes
How to Lower Cortisol
If you’ve got a lot on your plate or you just happen to live/work in a high-stress environment, you’re going to need to keep your cortisol levels in check to avoid feeling terrible all the time.
Fortunately, there are several lifestyle choices and natural remedies you can use to lower cortisol levels.
Exercise helps keep all of your hormones properly balanced and it’s also a great way to deal with stress simply by doing something physical.
Get a good night’s sleep
Each person is different, but most people need about 6-8 hours of sleep each night. It’s best to maintain a consistent sleeping schedule to maintain a predictable circadian rhythm.
High cortisol makes you feel fatigued during the day and full of anxiety at night, resulting in poor sleep and lots of coffee. You can break this cycle by not drinking any caffeine past noon. It will suck for a few days when you feel groggy in the afternoon, but once you’re getting proper sleep again you won’t need the afternoon coffee anymore.
Whether you use mindfulness, guided meditation, or any other option, meditation is a proven method to reduce cortisol and improve immune function.
I’ve used breathing exercises to immediately reduce stress and they work tremendously. There are tons of sources online — I highly recommend Wim Hof’s methods.
Adaptogens are herbs and superfoods that lower cortisol naturally.
- Licorice root
- Holy basil
My personal favorite is ashwagandha. Not only does it noticeably reduce stress levels, but it has a wide range of other benefits too.
P.S. If you don’t like being stressed out, you might like my book because it’s caffeine-free.
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What do you think? Do you agree, disagree or have any thoughts to add? Let me know in the comments below.
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