Of course, cortisol isn't all bad—we need it to survive. Cortisol is the stress hormone that gives us increased heart rate, and laser-like focus when we're faced with a danger.
But in our modern, stressful society, cortisol levels are often elevated, even when we don't realize it. That's because, hormonally speaking, our body treats all stressors alike. Simple events, such as rushing to work, and getting stuck in traffic can all contribute to elevated levels of cortisol.
As a doctor specializing in immune system problems, I often see frequent infections due to chronic stress suppressing the immune response.
How can you decrease cortisol? Here are my favorite ways:
1. Try restorative exercise.
Ever heard about Progenelone steal syndrome? It's what happens when you're stressed and then you do high-intensity exercise, drink your coffee, and head out for the day. Progenelone steal happens in situations where we need to make more cortisol. In that case, our body "steals" it from other places, resulting in a deficiency of other hormones. Simply put, we wind up with too many stress hormones.
So pick an exercise program that is calming. I know many of you on this site are already yoga and meditation fans, but I am a fan of active meditation too. Instead of a high intestity exercise sessions, just go for a slow jog in which you can clear your thoughts.
2. Take supplements.
I don't take supplements for stress on a regular basis and do not recommend it for daily, lifetime use. However, it may give you the support you need to get started. The supplements that have worked for me (notice: this list is definitely not exhaustive; just what helped me) include Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Ashgawanda, and Rhodiola. Try one of these at a time to gauge which one is helping you the most.
3. Get creative.
Whether you're a musician, dancer or painter, I am sure you can attest to the relaxation you feel from being creative. It has been proven to lower cortisol levels. Turning on your iPod to your favorite dance music for half an hour will more than suffice.
This one was a difficult one for me because I thought I was too "busy," but once I started trying to reduce my stress burden, I realized how refreshing an hour of music can be.
When I worked on addressing my cortisol levels, I was able to make a breakthrough in so many areas. Please let me know in the comments section what is your barrier to achieving cortisol balance? Or how have you managed to find balance in this area?
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com