Have you ever wondered what makes us feel stressed? We have a hormone in our body called cortisol, also named "stress hormone". It gets released whenever we’re put under stress, fear, or feel anxious. It’s what makes us sweat when we’re nervous, and get the jitters when we have anxiety. Furthermore, studies suggest that high levels of cortisol are responsible for increased intake of fatty and sugary foods and typically people with high stress levels will carry their excess weight around their midsection.
Now you can understand why it's important to manage your stress levels, especially if you are trying to lose weight. Even if you are happy with your body, but feel stressed all the time, you should consider implementing practices in your life that will help you keep your cortisol levels under control for a brighter future. Here are 6 ways to release some steam and get back to your calmer self.
1. Exercise Regularly
Regular exercise is a very easy way of lowering cortisol. The main reason this works is because our body releases endorphins when we work out. This is another hormone that helps us feel happier and less stressed.
Beware however, while often pushing through a tough high intensty session can feel liberating after a very stressful way, exercise itself also puts stress on the body. When you feel run down, instead of the higher heart rate zones, engage in lower intensity activities like pace walking, playing sports, doing yoga or attending a dance class.
2. Learn To Relax
Naturally, one of the best ways of managing your stress hormone is by relaxing regularly. When you’re in a relaxed state you don’t produce excessive amounts of cortisol. Try and dedicate ten or fifteen minutes a day to relaxation techniques. You can meditate, practice deep breathing, or even partake in some stress-relieving yoga.
3. Sleep More
Sleep is a natural cortisol suppressor that will make you feel so much better. When you’re asleep, your body is nice and relaxed. Then, you wake up feeling refreshed and in a good mood. But, if you don’t get enough sleep, then you’ll feel more tired and stressed throughout the day, leading to elevated cortisol levels. Make sure you get a solid 8 hours every night, and you’ll be fine!
4. Laugh Often
Well, it turns out that laughter actually is the best medicine - at least where your stress hormone is concerned. Studies suggest that laughing helps lower cortisol levels. This is because you’re extremely happy when you laugh, it makes you feel good. If you’re having a tough day, watch something funny on YouTube or Netflix and let yourself laugh!
5. Fix Your Diet
Funnily enough, your diet plays a huge role in your stress hormone management. Generally speaking, you should attempt to avoid inflammatory foods. These cause a response in your body that sparks a cortisol release. Similarly, certain things can help lower your stress hormone levels. Water is the main one - if you’re dehydrated your cortisol levels will go through the roof.
6. Try Supplements
Finally, if you tried everything and you still feel stressed, your body may be craving for certain nutrients. For a temporary boost and after consulting with a dietitian you may want to get your hands on some supplements that are proven to help reduce your stress levels and lead to the proper function of your body.
There are countless things you can try, but the best of the bunch are Omega-3 Fish Oil capsules and probiotics. Omega-3 helps with brain health which helps prevent feelings of stress. Probiotics are great for your digestive system, preventing problems that can cause stress and lead to elevated cortisol levels.
Magnezium also seems to be the mineral that causes most deficiencies and can help you relax when taken before bedtime, especially when accompanied by Zinc. Before you make a decision though, make sure you conult your GP.
When your stress hormone is running riot, it will ultimately prevent you from achieving your fitness goals. You’ll feel sluggish and tired, not to mention all the potential health problems you can get. Work on managing this hormone, and you’ll feel a lot better and be healthier too.
Owner and creator of One Small Step, Joe has been in the health and fitness industry for 8 years and takes an all-round approach to his coaching.