Lowering stress levels
15 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety are common experiences for many people. In fact, millions of adults in the United States say they feel stress or anxiety daily.
Many people deal with stress every day. Work, family issues, health concerns, and financial obligations are parts of everyday life that commonly contribute to heightened stress levels.
What’s more, factors such as genetics, level of social support, coping style, and personality type influence a person’s vulnerability to stress, meaning that some people are more likely to become stressed than others (1, 2, 3).
Plus, research shows that parents, people in professions such as healthcare and social work, People of Color, and LGBTQIA+ individuals are more likely to have higher stress levels (4, 5, 6, 7).
Minimizing the chronic stress of daily life as much as possible is important for overall health. That’s because chronic stress harms health and increases your risk of health conditions such as heart disease, anxiety disorders, and depression (8, 9, 10).
It’s important to understand that stress isn’t the same as mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, which require treatment from medical professionals. Although the tips below may relieve many types of stress, they may not help people with these conditions (11).
Here are 15 evidence-based ways to relieve stress.
If you’re feeling stressed, moving your body on a consistent basis may help.
A 6-week study in 185 university students found that participating in aerobic exercise 2 days per week significantly reduced overall perceived stress and perceived stress due to uncertainty. Plus, the exercise routine significantly improved self-reported depression (12).
Many other studies have shown that engaging in physical activity helps reduce stress levels and improve mood, while sedentary behavior may lead to increased stress, poor mood, and sleep disturbances (13, 14).
What’s more, regular exercise has been shown to improve symptoms of common mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression (15, 16).
If you’re currently inactive, start with gentle activities such as walking or biking. Choosing an activity that you enjoy may help increase your chances of sticking to it in the long term.
Regular exercise may help reduce stress and improve symptoms related to common mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.
Your diet affects every aspect of your health, including your mental health.
Studies show that people who follow a diet high in ultra-processed foods and added sugar are more likely to experience higher perceived stress levels (17, 18, 19).
Being chronically stressed may lead you to overeat and reach for highly palatable foods, which may harm your overall health and mood.
Plus, not eating enough nutrient-dense whole foods may increase your risk of deficiencies in nutrients that are essential for regulating stress and mood, such as magnesium and B vitamins (20).
Minimizing your intake of highly processed foods and beverages and eating more whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, beans, fish, nuts, and seeds can help ensure that your body is properly nourished. In turn, this may improve your resilience to stress.
Following a nutrient-dense diet and limiting ultra-processed foods may provide your body with the nutrients it needs for optimal health and decrease your risk of deficiencies in nutrients that help regulate stress.
Smartphones, computers, and tablets are an unavoidable part of everyday life for many people.
While these devices are often necessary, using them too often may increase stress levels.
A number of studies have linked excessive smartphone use and “iPhone addiction” with increased levels of stress and mental health disorders (21, 22, 23, 24).
Spending too much time in front of screens in general is associated with lower psychological well-being and increased stress levels in both adults and kids (25, 26, 27).
Furthermore, screen time may negatively affect sleep, which may also lead to increased stress levels (28).
Minimizing screen time may help reduce stress and improve sleep in both children and adults.
Several vitamins and minerals play an important role in your body’s stress response and mood regulation. As such, a deficiency in one or more nutrients may affect your mental health and ability to cope with stress.
Plus, some studies show that certain dietary supplements may help reduce stress and improve mood.
For example, when you’re chronically stressed, your magnesium levels may become depleted.
Since this mineral plays an important role in your body’s stress response, it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough each day. Supplementing with magnesium has been shown to improve stress in chronically stressed people (20, 29).
An 8-week study in 264 people with low magnesium found that taking 300 mg of this mineral daily helped reduce stress levels. Combining this dose of magnesium with vitamin B6 was even more effective (30).
Other supplements, including rhodiola, ashwagandha, B vitamins, and L-theanine, have been shown to help reduce stress as well (31, 32, 33, 34).
However, dietary supplements may not be appropriate or safe for everyone. Consult a healthcare professional if you’re interested in using supplements to help relieve stress.
Certain supplements may reduce stress levels, including magnesium, L-theanine, rhodiola, and B vitamins.
Setting aside time to practice self-care may help reduce your stress levels. Practical examples include:
- going for a walk outside
- taking a bath
- lighting candles
- reading a good book
- preparing a healthy meal
- stretching before bed
- getting a massage
- practicing a hobby
- using a diffuser with calming scents
- practicing yoga
Studies show that people who engage in self-care report lower levels of stress and improved quality of life, while a lack of self-care is associated with higher risk of stress and burnout (35, 36, 37).
Taking time for yourself is essential in order to live a healthy life. This is especially important for people who tend to be highly stressed, including nurses, doctors, teachers, and caretakers.
Self-care doesn’t have to be elaborate or complicated. It simply means tending to your well-being and happiness.
Exposure to certain scents via candles or essential oils may be especially calming. Here are a few relaxing scents:
- Roman chamomile
- orange or orange blossom
Using scents to boost your mood is called aromatherapy. Several studies suggest that aromatherapy can decrease anxiety and improve sleep (38, 39).
Self-care is an important part of managing stress. A few simple strategies you may want to try are yoga, lighting candles, taking baths, and reading a good book.
Caffeine is a chemical found in coffee, tea, chocolate, and energy drinks that stimulates your central nervous system.
Consuming too much may worsen and increase feelings of anxiety (40, 41).
Plus, overconsumption may harm your sleep. In turn, this may increase stress and anxiety symptoms (42).
People have different thresholds for how much caffeine they can tolerate. If you notice that caffeine makes you jittery or anxious, consider cutting back by replacing coffee or energy drinks with decaffeinated herbal tea or water.
Although many studies show that coffee is healthy in moderation, it’s recommended to keep caffeine intake under 400 mg per day, which equals 4–5 cups (0.9–1.2 L) of coffee (43).
Still, people who are sensitive to caffeine may experience increased anxiety and stress after consuming much less caffeine than this, so it’s important to consider your individual tolerance.
Large amounts of caffeine may increase stress and anxiety, although people’s sensitivity to caffeine varies greatly.
Social support from friends and family may help you get through stressful times and cope with stress (44).
A study that in 163 Latinx young adults in college associated lower levels of support from friends, family, and romantic partners with loneliness, depressive symptoms, and perceived stress (44).
Having a social support system is important for your overall mental health. If you’re feeling alone and don’t have friends or family to depend on, social support groups may help. Consider joining a club or sports team or volunteering for a cause that’s important to you.
Having strong social ties may help you get through stressful times and is important for overall mental well-being.
Not all stressors are within your control, but some are. Putting too much on your plate may increase your stress load and limit the amount of time you can spend on self-care.
Taking control over your personal life may help reduce stress and protect your mental health.
One way to do this may be to say “no” more often. This is especially true if you find yourself taking on more than you can handle, because juggling many responsibilities may leave you feeling overwhelmed.
Being selective about what you take on — and saying “no” to things that will unnecessarily add to your load — can reduce your stress levels.
Plus, creating boundaries — especially with people who add to your stress levels — is a healthy way to protect your well-being. This can be as simple as asking a friend or family member not to stop by unannounced or canceling standing plans with a friend who tends to create drama.
It’s important to create healthy boundaries in your life by declining to take on more than you can handle. Saying “no” is one way to control your stressors.
Another way to take control of your stress is to stay on top of your priorities and avoid procrastinating.
Procrastination may harm your productivity and leave you scrambling to catch up. This can cause stress, which negatively affects your health and sleep quality (45, 46).
A study in 140 medical students in China linked procrastination to increased stress levels. The study also associated procrastination and delayed stress reactions with more negative parenting styles, including punishment and rejection (46).
If you find yourself procrastinating regularly, it may be helpful to get in the habit of making a to-do list organized by priority. Give yourself realistic deadlines and work your way down the list.
Work on the things that need to get done today and give yourself chunks of uninterrupted time. Switching between tasks or multitasking can be stressful in itself.
If you find yourself regularly procrastinating, staying on top of your to-do list may help ward off related stress.
Yoga has become a popular method of stress relief and exercise among all age groups.
While yoga styles differ, most share a common goal — to join your body and mind by increasing body and breath awareness.
Several studies show that yoga helps reduce stress and symptoms of anxiety and depression. Plus, it can promote psychological well-being (47, 48, 49).
These benefits seem to be related to its effect on your nervous system and stress response.
Yoga may help lower cortisol levels, blood pressure, and heart rate while increasing levels of gamma aminobutyric acid, a neurotransmitter that’s low in people with mood disorders (49, 50).
Yoga is widely used for stress reduction. It may help lower stress hormone levels and blood pressure.
Mindfulness describes practices that anchor you to the present moment.
Stress reduction techniques that utilize mindfulness include meditation and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), a type of cognitive behavioral therapy (51).
Meditating on a consistent basis, even for short periods, may help boost your mood and decrease symptoms of stress and anxiety (52).
If you’d like to try out meditation, countless books, apps, and websites can teach you the basics. There may also be therapists in your area who specialize in MBCT.
Mindfulness practices such as meditation and MBCT may help reduce stress levels and improve mood.
Human touch may have a calming effect and help you better cope with stress (53).
For example, studies show that positive physical contact and sex may help relieve stress and loneliness (54, 55).
These types of contact may help release oxytocin and lower cortisol. In turn, these effects help lower blood pressure and heart rate. Both high blood pressure and increased heart rate are physical symptoms of stress (56).
Interestingly, humans aren’t the only animals that cuddle for stress relief. Chimpanzees also cuddle friends that are stressed (57).
Positive touch from cuddling, hugging, kissing, and sex may help lower stress by releasing oxytocin and lowering blood pressure.
Spending more time outside may help reduce stress.
Studies show that spending time in green spaces such as parks and forests and being immersed in nature are healthy ways to manage stress (58, 59).
A review of 14 studies found that spending as little as 10 minutes in a natural setting may help improve psychological and physiological markers of mental well-being, including perceived stress and happiness, in college-aged people (59).
Hiking and camping are great options, but some people don’t enjoy — or have access to — these activities. Even if you live in an urban area, you can seek out green spaces such as local parks, arboretums, and botanical gardens.
Spending more time outside — whether at your local park or atop a mountain — may help reduce levels of stress and boost your mood.
Mental stress activates your sympathetic nervous system, sending your body into fight-or-flight mode.
During this reaction, stress hormones trigger physical symptoms such as a faster heartbeat, quicker breathing, and constricted blood vessels.
Deep breathing exercises may help activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which controls the relaxation response (60, 61).
Deep breathing exercises include diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, belly breathing, and paced respiration.
The goal of deep breathing is to focus your awareness on your breath, making it slower and deeper. When you breathe in deeply through your nose, your lungs fully expand and your belly rises. This helps slow your heart rate, allowing you to feel at peace.
Deep breathing activates your body’s relaxation response, thereby counteracting some of the physical sensations of stress.
Having a pet may help reduce stress and improve your mood.
When you cuddle or touch your pet, your body releases oxytocin — a hormone that’s linked to positive mood (62).
Plus, studies show that pet owners — especially those who have dogs — tend to have greater life satisfaction, better self-esteem, reduced levels of loneliness and anxiety, and more positive moods (63).
Having a pet may also help relieve stress by giving you purpose, keeping you active, and providing companionship.
Spending time with your pet is a relaxing, enjoyable way to reduce stress.
Although stress is an unavoidable part of life, being chronically stressed takes a toll on your physical and mental health.
Fortunately, several evidence-based strategies can help you reduce stress and improve your overall psychological well-being.
Exercise, mindfulness, spending time with a pet, minimizing screen time, and getting outside more often are all effective methods.
Just one thing
Try this today: Although there are many ways to reduce stress on your own, it’s important to get help when you need it.
If you’re experiencing overwhelming stress or symptoms of anxiety and depression, consider making an appointment with a therapist or visiting a trusted healthcare professional to discuss ways to improve your mental health.
Read this article in Spanish.
10 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress
It might surprise you to learn that biological stress is a fairly recent discovery. It wasn’t until the late 1950s that endocrinologist Hans Selye first identified and documented stress.
Symptoms of stress existed long before Selye, but his discoveries led to new research that has helped millions cope with stress. We’ve compiled a list of the top 10 ways to relieve stress.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by a stressful situation, try taking a break and listening to relaxing music. Playing calm music has a positive effect on the brain and body, can lower blood pressure, and reduce cortisol, a hormone linked to stress.
We recommend cello master Yo-Yo Ma playing Bach, but if classical really isn’t your thing, try listening to ocean or nature sounds. It may sound cheesy, but they have similar relaxing effects to music.
When you’re feeling stressed, take a break to call a friend and talk about your problems. Good relationships with friends and loved ones are important to any healthy lifestyle.
They’re especially important when you’re under a lot of stress. A reassuring voice, even for a minute, can put everything in perspective.
Sometimes calling a friend is not an option. If this is the case, talking calmly to yourself can be the next best thing.
Don’t worry about seeming crazy — just tell yourself why you’re stressed out, what you have to do to complete the task at hand, and most importantly, that everything will be okay.
Stress levels and a proper diet are closely related. When we’re overwhelmed, we often forget to eat well and resort to using sugary, fatty snack foods as a pick-me-up.
Try to avoid sugary snacks and plan ahead. Fruits and vegetables are always good, and fish with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce the symptoms of stress. A tuna sandwich really is brain food.
Laughter releases endorphins that improve mood and decrease levels of the stress-causing hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Laughing tricks your nervous system into making you happy.
Our suggestion: watch some classic Monty Python skits like “The Ministry of Silly Walks.” Those Brits are so hilarious, you’ll soon be cracking up, rather than cracking up.
A large dose of caffeine causes a short-term spike in blood pressure. It may also cause your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis to go into overdrive.
Instead of coffee or energy drinks, try green tea. It has less than half the caffeine of coffee and contains healthy antioxidants, as well as theanine, an amino acid that has a calming effect on the nervous system.
Most of the tips we’ve suggested provide immediate relief, but there are also many lifestyle changes that can be more effective in the long run. The concept of “mindfulness” is a large part of meditative and somatic approaches to mental health and has become popular recently.
From yoga and tai chi to meditation and Pilates, these systems of mindfulness incorporate physical and mental exercises that prevent stress from becoming a problem. Try joining a class.
Online meditation options
Read our review of the best online meditation options to find the right fit for you.
Exercise doesn’t necessarily mean power lifting at the gym or training for a marathon. A short walk around the office or simply standing up to stretch during a break at work can offer immediate relief in a stressful situation.
Getting your blood moving releases endorphins and can improve your mood almost instantaneously.
Everyone knows stress can cause you to lose sleep. Unfortunately, lack of sleep is also a key cause of stress. This vicious cycle causes the brain and body to get out of whack and only gets worse with time.
Make sure to get the doctor-recommended seven to eight hours of sleep. Turn the TV off earlier, dim the lights, and give yourself time to relax before going to bed. It may be the most effective stress buster on our list.
The advice “take a deep breath” may seem like a cliché, but it holds true when it comes to stress. For centuries, Buddhist monks have been conscious of deliberate breathing during meditation.
For an easy three- to five-minute exercise, sit up in your chair with your feet flat on the floor and hands on top of your knees. Breathe in and out slowly and deeply, concentrating on your lungs as they expand fully in your chest.
While shallow breathing causes stress, deep breathing oxygenates your blood, helps center your body, and clears your mind.
Stress is an unavoidable part of life, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. Too much untreated stress can cause potentially serious physical and mental health problems.
The good news is that in many cases, stress is manageable. With some patience and a few useful strategies, you can reduce your stress, whether it’s family stress or stress at the workplace.
13 Ways to Quickly Relieve Stress and Increase Productivity in the Workplace
Even if you love your job, you probably feel like a lemon from time to time. New messages are pouring into your inbox, managers and colleagues are demanding an account from you, you are forced to search for the necessary information on the network, and at the same time, even more important and urgent matters are constantly being found. Even the level of light and air temperature in the office can become sources of additional stress. All these factors overlap, and now you are already suffering from a headache, seizing anxiety and tossing and turning from side to side at night, unable to sleep.
But no matter how easily stress builds up during the day, you can just as easily resist it from the comfort of your desk. Try these 13 ways to help reduce stress, improve your mood, and increase productivity at work.
1. Write down your concerns
Whether you're anxious about preparing an important presentation or the results of a future project, simply writing down your concerns can help reduce stress and improve productivity. Worrying about an evolving situation impairs short-term memory by draining your brain's "processor" power. By writing down problems, you stop replaying them over and over again in your head and identify the true sources of stress. As a result, your short-term memory resources will be freed up, and you will be able to perform more efficiently when the need arises.
2. Watch funny videos
Laughter not only helps to unwind and clears the mind, but also reduces the stress response. It reduces blood pressure and pulse rate, improves blood circulation, relaxes muscles and promotes the production of endorphins. And it not only helps fight stress, but also enhances creativity and productivity.
3. Turn off the monitor for 10 minutes
Computer and smartphone monitors, TV screens attract our attention from the moment we wake up until we go to bed. The resulting computer vision syndrome leads to eye fatigue, headache and neck pain, nausea, and increased anxiety and depression. So try to switch off as often as possible - literally. Instead of checking out social media during your break or texting a friend, turn off your monitor, close your laptop, and let your eyes rest. Read a book or magazine, go for a walk (don't play Pokemon Go!) or make yourself a cup of coffee and chat with a colleague.
4. Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This relaxation technique relieves muscle tension resulting from stress. You need to tense and then relax the main muscle groups for five seconds each. This will help slow your breathing and heart rate, stabilize your blood pressure, and help you relax.
5. Pet the dog (or go to a dog park)
Playing with your dog helps lower blood pressure, releases good mood hormones like oxytocin, and reduces the stress hormone cortisol. By the way, dogs are great listeners, so you can safely share your worries with them without fear that they will judge you.
6. Snack but don'tovereat
We are often advised not to stress eat, but sometimes you can treat yourself to a treat without harming your figure. In fact, a healthy snack contributes to a slight increase in blood sugar and, as a result, a good mood. The main thing is not to reach for a box of donuts, but to choose foods that have proven to be effective in combating stress, such as berries, nuts, dark chocolate and oatmeal. Also, do not forget to eat slowly, enjoying every bite, and not chew on the run.
7. Breathe deeply
You don't have to go to a yoga studio to experience the benefits of deep breathing, which can lower blood pressure, help you relax and calm your nervous system. Plus, it's a great way to relieve stress—quickly, efficiently, and discreetly, even in a crowded office. Just inhale for four counts and then exhale for four counts.
8. Listen to music
Music, especially classical music, is a powerful tool in dealing with stress, helping to lower heart rate, blood pressure and levels of harmful stress hormones. It also improves mood and self-esteem. (I offer for example my personal stress-relieving playlist. Share your playlists in the comments!)
9. Take up meditation
Recent studies have shown that a few minutes of meditation a day can have a significant impact on stress levels. What's more, meditation improves attention and mental performance, and even increases the density of gray matter in the brain. You can download a free meditation app like Calm, listen to meditation podcasts on iTunes, or watch YouTube videos to carve out a few moments of peace right at your desk.
10. Look out the window
Take a few minutes to just look out the window and mark. Admiring nature (real nature, not the picture on the monitor) helps to relax and slow down the heartbeat, and by dreaming, you unleash your creativity and can find an unexpected solution to the problem.
11. Remember what is important to you
Do you have a gratitude journal? Don't be too quick to dismiss the idea — keeping a gratitude journal reduced stress levels by 27% in a group of Stanford University students, and recent research from Yale and Columbia University found that using gratitude journals increased attention, receptivity, and energy, as well as boosting the immune system. system and reduce anxiety.
12. Call friends
When you communicate with a close friend, your body's production of the stress hormone cortisol decreases, and talking with a loved one can trigger the so-called "relaxation response". So the next time you're worried about signing a new client, call a friend or mom.
13. Take up a soothing hobby
Solve Sudoku, spend ten minutes knitting, read a chapter of a detective novel, take care of a bonsai plant - whatever your hobby, it helps you take your mind off work and focus on your favorite activity, which means it is an excellent opportunity to reduce anxiety and stress levels.
The all-in-one way to reduce stress
Instead of fighting stress, reduce it in any way possible by organizing your workflow. Try Wrike project management software to increase your productivity at work and get your projects done on time without stress.
9 Ways to Reduce Cortisol and Prevent Stress
Stress is the body's response to a potential threat that can be linked to physical and psychological factors.Learn about the role of cortisol in stress and how to lower cortisol.
Cortisol is one of the hormones produced by the adrenal cortex. It is involved in many metabolic processes, for example, it helps regulate blood pressure and blood sugar levels. In addition, it plays a role in the process of waking up after sleep. When you wake up, the hormone levels rise, reaching a peak after 30 minutes and then gradually decreasing throughout the day.
Cortisol is also called the "stress hormone". When your body feels threatened, either physically or psychologically, the brain sends a signal to the adrenal glands, and in response, they release cortisol. Thanks to this hormone, concentration improves, blood circulation and glucose synthesis increase - this helps the body release additional energy in order to more effectively overcome stress.
Despite the benefits of cortisol, frequent or prolonged increases in its levels can harm the body. For example, chronic stress causes cortisol dysfunction, which leads to inflammation, depression, and accelerated cellular aging. It is also associated with the development of osteoporosis, muscular dystrophy and a decrease in antitumor immunity.
Chronic stress results from repeated exposure to situations that release stress hormones, including cortisol.
We've compiled nine scientifically proven ways to naturally lower cortisol and manage stress. So your body will be less likely to experience a state of mobilization to eliminate a potential threat.
This article is for educational and informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose or treat or replace professional advice.
1. Identify factors that trigger stress
Threats to life or change of scenery are irritants that provoke anxiety and can be a trigger or stressor. These irritants include physical pain, relationship or work problems, and financial difficulties. It is, of course, impossible to predict when you will hit your foot on a chair. But some types of triggers can be learned to recognize.
One of the first steps to relieve stress is to understand what causes it. I do not want to remember and think about unpleasant situations once again. But a stress diary can help you recognize stimuli so you can learn to respond less to them. It is not necessary to remember all the details of an unpleasant event - it is enough to write down the fact and try to analyze why what happened caused you a negative reaction.
A stress diary can help you find practical ways to deal with such situations. For example, avoid quarrels, learn to build personal boundaries in relationships and at work, and say “no” at the right time. Moreover, you will be able to identify the hidden causes of stress as hanging out on social networks.
2. Learn to recognize stressful thoughts
Thinking about negative and traumatic events is a trigger for cortisol synthesis. British scientists conducted a study in which participants recorded their most negative memories for 20 minutes over three days. The results showed that it caused the participants to have high levels of cortisol. Scientists attribute this to long-term effects on the entire body.
The scientific community also emphasizes the role of anxiety and negative thought cycles in stress levels. It has been proven that negative thinking not only increases cortisol levels, but also has a bad effect on the production of oxytocin, a hormone that calms the nervous system.
Mental practice or mindfulness is one of the ways to combat negative thinking and helps to reduce cortisol levels. Hungarian scientists conducted a meta-analysis of ten studies on the relationship between meditation and stress hormone levels. The results showed that meditation has a positive effect on people living in stressful conditions, but especially on patients with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
3. Pay attention to the quality of your sleep
A person who has had a good night's sleep can cope more easily with stress and unpleasant situations. The quality and duration of sleep depends largely on your circadian rhythms and habits. What time you go to bed and wake up also plays a role. Studies show that people who work night shifts and sleep during the day are more likely to have elevated cortisol levels.
Shift work before age 40 is associated with higher body mass index (BMI) and higher cortisol levels.
Cortisol can be elevated due to lack of sleep or insomnia, especially in the evening after sleep deprivation. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system is responsible for the production of cortisol. When a threat to the body appears, a part of the brain, the hypothalamus, synthesizes special substances that are sent to the pituitary gland. It in turn sends a signal to the adrenal glands. In response, the adrenal cortex produces cortisol, some of which again enters the brain, affecting thought processes. This brain-kidney relationship is called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.
The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis is also responsible for regulating sleep cycles. Stress, illness, or poor nutrition can activate the axis. This can make your sleep worse and increase your cortisol levels later on.
Sleep hygiene is one of the decisive factors in its quality. Try to create conditions in which the amount of noise and light will be minimal. Blackout curtains, an eye mask, and earplugs will help with this. We wrote about this in detail in this article.
Sleep tips to reduce cortisol:
- Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time
- Wash bed linen and sleepwear regularly - a fresh smell helps the body relax
- Avoid using blue light devices (TV, phone, tablet) for 2 -3 hours before bedtime
- Avoid caffeinated drinks in the afternoon
- Avoid excessive strength and cardio activities two hours before bedtime.
4. Exercise regularly
Exercise can either increase or decrease cortisol levels, depending on the duration and intensity of exercise. Despite the benefits of playing sports, it is still a burden and stress for the body. Therefore, as a result of intense exercise, cortisol usually rises briefly, but then drops at night.
At the same time, moderate-intensity exercise does not lead to an increase in the level of the stress hormone. Like intense exercise, moderate exercise has been linked to lower nighttime cortisol levels.
Cortisol levels can be controlled through regular exercise. And in addition to reducing the stress hormone, sports have a good effect on the microbiota. But it is better to avoid strenuous evening workouts that will keep you awake. Physical activity isn't just good for the body—many doctors recommend it to improve mental health as well.
5. Find something to do
Learning to relax is really good, especially if you want to manage stress. A new hobby is one way that also helps you learn a new skill. It doesn't matter what you do, the main thing is that you enjoy it.Photo by Steve Johnson / Unsplash
American scientists conducted a study of 50 former combatants who had depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or substance abuse. For a month they were engaged in gardening and occupational therapy. The results showed a reduction in stress and a decrease in cortisol.
Think about what you would like to do, perhaps painting, music, or gardening.
6. Laugh more often
Laughter is good not only for the soul, but also for the body. This is a natural way to overcome stress and lower cortisol levels. A study published in 2008 showed that even the anticipation of laughter leads to a decrease in blood levels of cortisol, as well as two other stress hormones - adrenaline and norepinephrine.
Laughter reduces not only the level of stress hormones, but also blood pressure.
If you are having a fun and interesting time, it is unlikely that you will experience a lot of stress at the same time. That is why it is so important to plan your pastime and visit interesting places and events.
7. Connect with animals
It has been scientifically proven that contact with animals is associated with lower cortisol levels. Scientists have studied how interaction with animals affects stress, and found that prolonged contact with dogs, even strangers, as well as owning a pet, has a positive effect on cortisol levels. In addition, the interaction between a human and a dog increases the level of oxytocin in both.Photo by Vitalie Sitnic / Unsplash
Pets are associated not only with reduced stress levels, but also with other health benefits. It is easier for owners of cats, dogs, parrots and other pets to focus attention. Animals also have a positive effect on blood pressure and help avoid feelings of loneliness.
8.Add foods that reduce cortisol levels to your diet
Nutrition affects not only the metabolic processes in the body, but also the level of cortisol. Some foods, such as sugar, can increase the amount of the stress hormone.
Neurotransmitter chemicals are responsible for signaling the nervous system and controlling mood. And hormones and food are responsible for their production.
How to reduce cortisol through nutrition
Foods rich in polyphenols help reduce stress hormone levels. For example, the long-term health benefits of drinking green tea have been scientifically proven - drinking just half a glass a day reduces the risk of depression and dementia.
Eating the following foods will help control cortisol levels:
|Dark chocolate||Green tea|
|Vegetable fibers||Probiotics (yogurt)|
Keep in mind that stress eating provides only temporary relief and can lead to eating disorders, weight gain and blood sugar problems. During times of stress, try to choose products containing vegetable fibers - fiber provides a feeling of satiety for a long time and regulates blood sugar levels.
Regular sugar intake is associated with long-term high cortisol levels and is associated with a higher risk of heart disease in overweight men.
The gut microbiota contains trillions of bacteria that are good for your health. They strengthen the intestinal mucosa, fight inflammation, regulate the immune system, and even mental health. That is why it is important to take care of the composition of intestinal bacteria.
Among the inhabitants of the intestinal microbiota are probiotic bacteria that reduce cortisol levels and, consequently, stress. Among them are bacteria Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus and L. farciminis.
Probiotic foods help support beneficial gut bacteria. Fermented milk drinks like kefir and yogurt, as well as fermented foods like kimchi, contain certain strains of probiotic bacteria. They help reduce stress-induced cortisol levels. Studies show that one strain of Lactobacillus - L. Plantarum 299v reduces exam stress in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
With the Atlas Microbiota Test, you can learn about the bacterial diversity of your gut, as well as assess the level of probiotic bacteria.
9. Spend time in nature
The noise of the big city, rush and traffic jams are part of the lives of many people, but not everyone realizes the extent of the negative impact of such an atmosphere on physical and mental health. Even a park or reserve within the city is a great opportunity to recover and relax.Photo by Amos G / Unsplash
Forest therapy is a part of life for most Japanese people. They call it "shinrin-yoku", which translates to "forest bath". This is the practice of walking in the park or in the forest for 2-4 hours, which includes the contemplation of nature and deep breathing. As scientists have proven, such a pastime reduces the level of cortisol, normalizes the heartbeat and blood pressure.
Deep breathing reduces heart rate, improves mood and reduces stress.
There is no one-size-fits-all method of coping with stress, because every body and brain is unique. Good sleep, proper nutrition and regular exercise are the basis for a healthy body. Now you also know what other scientifically proven ways there are to prevent and reduce stress levels.
- Identify factors that trigger stress
- Learn to recognize thoughts that cause stress
- Pay attention to the quality of your sleep
- Exercise regularly
- Find something to do
- Laugh more often
- Get a pet
- Eat more cortisol-lowering foods
- Spend time in nature
despite the stress. It talks about how to deal with stress scientifically and worry less about its consequences.
Other blog articles on the effects of stress on health:
- How the microbiota fights stress and depression
- How stress affects digestion 2014
- Harri Lindholm et al. , Morning Cortisol Levels and Perceived Stress in Irregular Shift Workers Compared with Regular Daytime Workers, 2012
- Center for studies of human health, Acute vs. chronic stress
- Veronika Engert et al., Mind your thoughts: associations between self-generated thoughts and stress-induced and baseline levels of cortisol and alpha-amylase, 2014
- Karen Weintraub, “Stress Hormone” Cortisol Linked to Early Toll on Thinking Ability, 2018
- Susan Jennifer Thomas, Theresa Larkin, Cognitive Distortions in Relation to Plasma Cortisol and Oxytocin Levels in Major Depressive Disorder, 2020
- Adam Koncz, Meditation interventions efficiently reduce cortisol levels of at-risk samples: a meta-analysis, 2019
- Harvard Health School, Blue light has a dark side, 2012
- Sean M. Smith, The role of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in neuroendocrine responses to stress, 2006
- Mark B Detweiler et al., Horticultural therapy: a pilot study on modulating cortisol levels and indices of substance craving, posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and quality of life in veterans, 2015
- Sophie Bostock, Andrew Steptoe, Influences of early shift work on the diurnal cortisol rhythm, mood and sleep: Within-subject variation in male airline pilots, 2013
- American Physiological Society, Anticipating A Laugh Reduces Our Stress Hormones, Study Shows, 2008
- John P Polheber, Robert L Matchock, The presence of a dog attenuates cortisol and heart rate in the Trier Social Stress Test compared to human friends, 2014
- NIH, The Power of Pets, Health Benefits of Human-Animal Interactions, 2018
- Ali Iranmanesh et al.