October 5, 2022

5 Ways to Lower Cortisol Levels

Key Takeaways

  • Cortisol is the stress hormone that is meant to keep you safe by alerting you when danger is close. 
  • High levels of cortisol can wreak havoc on your body and cause long-term damage to your health and well-being.
  • Exercise, getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy, spending time outdoors, and laughing more are all natural and healthy ways to lower cortisol levels. 
  • Monitoring cortisol levels with an accurate at-home blood test is available with Getlabs.

Elevated stress levels can feel like a car alarm going off nonstop. It can be overwhelming, debilitating, and worst of all, have a serious impact on your overall health. Powering these feelings is the stress hormone cortisol. 

Cortisol plays an active role throughout your body. Most of the time, it’s meant to keep you safe from harm and alert you when danger is close. At other times, like during extended periods of stress, it can have a negative impact on your health and overall well-being. 

That’s why it’s important to find ways to decrease your stress and lower cortisol levels whenever possible. Fortunately, there are natural and effective lifestyle changes that you can help manage your stress and reduce cortisol levels, including: 

  • Exercise 
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Eat healthy
  • Spend time outdoors 
  • Laugh more and spend time with loved ones

What happens if your cortisol levels are high?

Stress is a normal part of life. It keeps you safe by alerting you of danger, but if high cortisol levels persist for long periods of time it can lead to several health complications. This includes everything from unwanted weight gain, insomnia, high blood pressure, to heart disease and much more. 

Additionally, high cortisol levels can have a direct impact on your immune system and ability to concentrate, or “brain fog,” as it’s commonly referred to. A compromised immune system makes fighting infections and diseases much more difficult.

Cushing syndrome is another example of a rare but serious disease brought on by high cortisol levels. Some hallmark symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome include: 

  • A fatty hump between the shoulders 
  • Rounded face 
  • Pink or purple stretch marks on the skin 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Bone loss 
  • Type 2 diabetes

Fortunately, treatments are available that can lower cortisol levels and reduce your cortisol levels and improve the symptoms of Cushing syndrome. 

All this to say, elevated levels of cortisol can wreak havoc on your body and cause long-term damage to your health and well-being. Speaking to a healthcare professional can help identify root causes of your health concerns, but finding healthy solutions to manage stress levels and lower cortisol levels is also extremely important. 

How do you lower cortisol levels? 

Stress affects all of us differently. Everything from environmental factors to genetics can influence your stress response. The most important factor to remember when it comes to stress management is to identify what works best for you and to find a healthy solution to deal with stress. 

For instance, alcohol, smoking, and eating unhealthy foods might make you feel better temporarily, but will hurt you more in the long run. The suggestions below can help you lower cortisol levels in a healthy and sustainable way.  

Exercise 

A runner’s high is a brief, deeply relaxing state where your body releases hormones called endorphins after exercising or running. Endorphins are a natural painkiller and are excellent at reducing stress and lowering cortisol levels overtime. Not only that, exercise has also been shown to improve sleep quality - an area we’ll touch on in a minute. 

However, running isn’t the only exercise that can lower cortisol levels. Most physical activities like yoga, long walks, lifting weights, biking, and swimming are all great ways to manage stress levels. It’s important to keep in mind that overdoing it can have an adverse effect on cortisol levels, so trying to aim for between 150-200 minutes of low to moderate intensity exercises each week is ideal.  

Get plenty of sleep 

Improving your sleep habits is one of the most effective ways to reduce cortisol levels. In fact, studies have shown that sleep loss results in elevated levels of cortisol the next evening. However, getting enough sleep is easier said than done, especially if you are suffering from insomnia or sleep apnea, which can lead to sleep deprivation. 

Here are a few tips that can help you improve your sleep patterns: 

  • Establish a bedtime routine with a consistent sleep and wake schedule
  • Limit caffeine and avoid nicotine and alcohol
  • Create a quiet and light free environment
  • Exercise at least 2-3 hours before bedtime
  • Stay off your cell phone before going to bed 

Healthy eating 

It’s true that you are what you eat, for better or worse. Food and nutrition play an important part in influencing cortisol levels. This is especially if your diet consists primarily of high added sugars, refined grains, and saturated fats, as studies have shown that those can cause significantly higher cortisol levels.

Comparably, diets consisting of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats are much better for your overall health and cortisol levels. For the candy lovers out there, there is good news - dark chocolate has been shown to lower the release of cortisol. Other foods that are great for managing cortisol levels include: 

  • High fiber foods like legumes and lentils 
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains 
  • Healthy fats 
  • Green tea 

Drinking plenty of water is also encouraged, as dehydration has been linked to temporary increase in cortisol levels. 

Learn more about foods high in healthy cholesterol.

Spend time in nature  

One of the downsides of being in a modern society is that we spend the majority of our time indoors and online and away from nature. All of which can have a serious negative impact on your mental health and stress levels. 

Fortunately, studies have found that even spending 20 minutes a day in nature can significantly decrease cortisol levels. The important part is to disconnect from any devices, social media, internet, and phone calls. It's also best to spend time in nature during the daylight hours. 

Laugh more and spend time with loved ones

The phrase, “Live, laugh, love” isn’t just for decorating walls; it’s also a healthy way to lower cortisol levels and manage stress. Laughter promotes the release of endorphins and suppresses cortisol. It also improves your mood, lowers blood pressure, and leads to a stronger immune system. 

Similarly, spending time with loved ones has also been linked to reduced cortisol levels. If you are struggling with high cortisol levels, support from loved ones and affectionate interactions can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, along with stress levels. 

Check cortisol levels at home with Getlabs

Everyone experiences high cortisol levels from time to time. After all, stress is a normal part of life. However, prolonged periods of high cortisol levels can have a significant negative impact on your overall health and well-being. That’s why it’s important to not only incorporate healthy stress management like the tips above into your daily routine, but to also monitor your cortisol levels. 

Home cortisol blood tests are an accurate and convenient way to take the stress out of blood work while monitoring stress levels from the comfort of your home - and Getlabs can help. 

If your doctor recommends a blood cortisol test, Getlabs will send an experienced and attentive mobile phlebotomist to draw a blood sample and deliver it to a nearby laboratory for testing. To learn more about Getlabs, visit Getlabs FAQ to find answers to any questions you may have. To schedule an appointment, simply follow the link below. 

We look forward to seeing you. 

Book an Appointment

Getlabs delivers healthcare to you. Our specialists come to you to collect your labs and deliver them to Labcorp and Quest for testing. We’re available same-day, nationwide.

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