Chronically stressed out? I won’t lie, me too.
I’ve always felt this internal ‘restlessness,’ and inability to chill out. I always thought it was a good thing, even maybe proud of it – you know – being ‘super productive.’
But yikes, that eventually catches up to you. Cortisol (aka our stress hormone) is important for our functioning (and our ability to adapt to stress) – but too much or too little can be problematic.
Here’s an example of how cortisol works. You’re in the jungle, and you see a lion. Naturally, you’re terrified! In response to this stressful situation, your cortisol will spike and you’ll react appropriately (I hope). Now, after you’ve reached safety, your cortisol should come back down to baseline. But if you’re never reaching that state of ‘safety,’ your cortisol might be chronically elevated.
Now, doing intense exercise can actually temporarily ramp up your cortisol. So, ideally, in a state of acute stress, you might be better off going for a brisk walk (and not running on the treadmill). Running can put more stress on the body (you’re ‘fleeing’ from the lion). It seems backwards, but when it comes to cortisol, it seems that the intensity of the exercise does play a defining role in the increase or decrease of cortisol. (1)
I’m trying to be a good ND and take my own advice. Here are some cortisol-reducing activities to consider incorporating:
Yoga, tai chi, qi gong. (2)
Going for a walk outside – alone (music, podcasts, silence), with pets (I wish I could take my cat without being frowned upon) or with loved ones.
Getting more/better sleep – hint: consider how much blue light you’re exposing yourself to.
Limit multitasking (quite possibly, the opposite of mindfulness).
Consider green tea instead of coffee - EGCG (a major component of green tea) has been found to inhibit a cortisol-producing enzyme. (3)
Acupuncture - studies are a bit mixed on this, but for some individuals, acupuncture/acupressure may be helpful. (4, 5)
Adaptogenic herbs – a number of herbs can help reduce cortisol levels!
Curious about which adaptogens are suitable for you? Book an appointment here.
(1) PMID: 18787373
(2) PMID: 22502620
(3) PMID: 24404164
(4) PMID: 28768251
(5) PMID: 26525188