I Tried This 7-Day Challenge For Balancing Cortisol — Here's What Happened
Ever felt stressed out about feeling stressed out? It's what happens every time I read about the impact high cortisol levels can have on my mind and body—a case of meta-stress.
Keeping cortisol in check
Cortisol1 is known as our body's stress hormone—it's released by the adrenal cortex when we're exposed to physical or psychological stress and is designed to prepare us for action. It raises blood sugar and blood pressure while suppressing our immune system (all helpful for sprinting away from predators). It's normal for cortisol levels to peak from time to time, but at some point, they're meant to come back down.
Cortisol levels thrive in balance. Regulated levels are connected to boosts in energy and mood2 but also aspects of brain health, like memory and attention. But in this modern world, keeping our cortisol in check is no easy feat—and don't I know it. Between work deadlines, passion projects, and keeping my social life alive, my cortisol levels are something of a roller coaster, so when I saw mindbodygreen's seven-day challenge for new and improved stress management—I was all in.
The 7-day challenge for balancing cortisol
In a world where stress management is on everyone's mind, this challenge is a breath of fresh air. It was created with the expert input of Kristina Hallett, Ph.D., an executive coach known for helping people harness the positive power of stress. Turns out, stress isn't all bad—it can actually motivate us and illuminate priorities. Positivity is at the heart of this challenge, which is certainly a welcome change of tone.
Even better, this challenge is actually realistic. It offers small but mighty practices to adopt each and every day—from self-compassion exercises to Cortisol Manager®, a daily supplement created by Integrative Therapeutics® to support balanced cortisol levels and a healthy stress response.* In fact, each day's assignment can be done in under five minutes (for the full version, click here):
Day 1: Add a supportive evening supplement: Cortisol Manager®.
Day 2: Bring more nature into your life.
Day 3: Exercise self-compassion.
Day 4: Try a breath technique.
Day 5: Practice gratitude (the right way).
Day 6: Take mini-breaks in your day.
Day 7: Connect with someone who makes you laugh.
How it went
Not all of us have time for an hourlong yoga practice or funds to bask in an infrared sauna. What I loved about this seven-day experience was the accessibility from the very start.
Day one, I started incorporating a stress support supplement before bed: Integrative Therapeutics Cortisol Manager®. This small step felt like a big gesture for my cortisol levels, considering cortisol is often thought of as a bridge between stress and its health impact.* With ongoing use, Cortisol Manager® supports balanced cortisol levels and even supports restful sleep during extra-stressful times.*
From there, this challenge introduced bite-sized practices that brought more space and intention to my days. For example, on day two, inviting in a sense of awe through moments of nature—I found that just by driving with the windows down. On day five, I received a much-needed perspective shift on cultivating gratitude. On day six, I played with taking mini-breaks throughout my workday (every 50 to 60 minutes), and it's my new nonnegotiable. Start-to-finish, this challenge was barely a challenge at all and more like overdue self-care.
If you're living in the same world as me, chances are you're also seeking ways to manage your stress. The huge overhauls and shiny resets are tempting but quickly turn into yet another thing to fret about. For me, this seven-day challenge was a reminder that change is ultimately the sum of small steps. It left me with a handful of tools to take forward, alongside the ongoing support of Cortisol Manager®.* This is the stress management routine that anyone can stick to, week after week!