Stress is everywhere these days. We feel it when we wake up, when things happen during the day, and then we take it to bed with us.
Ever feel like there’s just no escaping it?
That's because it's chronic! High levels of stress are not good for your mental or physical health. Reducing stress is so important for anxiety management and care.
From the outside looking in, it can be difficult to know the differences between stress and anxiety. Both can produce physical symtpoms like rapid heart rate, muscle tension and headaches and both can lead to excessive worry, lack of focus, irritability, and sleepless nights.
So what’s the difference?
In short, stress is your body’s response to a “threat” and is often a short-term experience. Anxiety is a sustained mental health concern that can be triggered by stress, but is not short-term. Anxiety hangs around, completely uninvited, even when the “threat” is gone.
Our natural “fight or flight” stress response can sometimes go a little overboard. It’s supposed to help us escape injury or death in an emergency and then return to normal after we’ve fought or flew. But, in our society it becomes a long-term reaction.
It becomes chronic, hanging around for way too long.
You’ve probably heard of the main stress hormone, called cortisol. It’s released from your adrenal glands in response to stress. The thing is, your body doesn’t know the difference between running from a lion or the day-to-day stressors of your finances, relationships, job, traffic jams, etc.
If only it were so easy and we could leave the job, money magically grew on trees, everyone had impeccable driving skills and all our relationships with family and friends were perfectly stress-free.
Unfortunately stress is here to stay, but I have some awesome stress-busting, cortisol lowering tips for you!
#1 Reduce Sugar
How many of you grab for something sweet when stressed? My go-to is mini eggs. But sugar is just going to raise our cortisol levels more. Reducing the sugar we eat and drink on a daily basis goes a low way in helping lowering cortisol levels.
Try switching up your mini eggs for herbal tea and (minimally processed 70% or higher) dark chocolate.
I like Chamomile or Lemon Balm tea. Lemon Balm reduces cortisol, relaxes the body without causing drowsiness and helps to elevate mood. Closer to bedtime? Try Chamomile! Chamomile reduces stress, anxiety, relaxes muslces and reduces irritability to help you sleep.
The herbal tea and dark chocolate combo is one of my favourite ways to unwind.
#2 Reduce Caffeine
High doses of caffeine increase your cortisol levels and affect your sleep. If coffee makes you feel anxious and jittery, then cut back on the amount of caffeine you have. Pay attention to how it makes you feel, find your coffee sweet spot and stick to it.
#3 Drink Plenty of Water
Being dehydrated increases cortisol. Make sure you’re drinking at least 8 full glasses of water a day. More if you exercise.
#4 Eat a Variety of Nutrient-Dense Whole Foods
This doesn’t just help reduce your stress hormone, it helps with all aspects of your physical and mental health. Whole foods are foods that are unprocessed and unrefined, such as, whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, high-quality meat and seafood, nuts and seeds.
#5 Probiotics And Prebiotics Are Your New Best Friends
This one is huge in both my personal practice and working with clients. There is so much research about the gut-mind connection, and how taking care of your friendly gut microbes is key. Make sure you’re eating probiotic rich fermented foods and getting a healthy dose of prebiotic fiber.
#1 Yes BREATHE!
How we can use food and breath to heal are the pillars of my practice. It’s not just food, but how you are breathing and certain lifestyle tweaks that can help lower cortisol levels.
Practice deep, diaphragmatic breathing for as little as 5 minutes a day.
You can also de-stress with mindfulness activities. Reducing stressful thoughts and worry reduces cortisol. Every Monday I post simple mindfulness activities that can be implemented into your daily tasks over on my Instagram.
#2 Get Enough Exercise (but don’t overdo it)
Intense exercise increases cortisol levels temporarily. When you are feeling stressed save your high-intensity work outs or cardio jams for another day and swap in some yoga. Yoga incorporates deep, diaphragmatic breathing, mental focus and movement that activates your parasympathetic nervous system ("rest and digest").
#3 Get Enough Sleep
This might seem like a catch 22. If stress is keeping you up how are you supposed to sleep?
Try a calming, sleep inducing herbal tea before bed and supplement with magnesium.
Getting adequate sleep is way too underrated. Sleep reduces cortisol levels and also helps improve your overall health in so many ways. One of the best things you can do is get consistent with your sleep schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. This way your body can find its natural rhythm and settle into a regular sleep-wake cycle.
If I had to pick only one stress-busting trick it would be dancing. Make a playlist of music that makes you happy and have dance parties… often! When your body feels good, your mind does too... simple as that. Any type of physical activity releases neurotransmitters and endorphins which alleviate stress.
My go-to's are Happy by Pharrell Williams and Walking on Sunshine by Katrina & The Waves.
#5 Be Social
Often the last thing we want to do when feeling stressed is be social, especially if your stressors are primarily financial. But there are also health risks from social isolation and loneliness. Maintaining good relationships and spending time with people you like and who support you is key.
Last night I cried and ate way too many mini eggs. Then I picked myself up, made a nutritious dinner with whole foods, blasted music, had a dance party with my cats (who surprisingly didn’t squirm away), drank chamomile tea and traded in my mini eggs for dark chocolate.
Try these proven ways to reduce stress and cortisol levels naturally!
Remember to always, always be patient and kind to yourself.
Reach out for support if you need it 💜
Jump on my mailing list below to receive simple, quick, exclusive recipes every week only for my tribe!