We all experience stress in our daily lives, but hopefully in between stressful moments, our bodies return to a state of equilibrium. As we age though, it becomes harder to bounce back from stress. One of the main reasons why we’re more resilient in our youth than when we hit middle age is due to the fact that our adrenal glands naturally start to produce more cortisol, the stress hormone, and less DHEA, the repair, rebuild and recovery hormone.
Chronic stress from elevated cortisol levels wreaks havoc on our immune system, our digestion and our sleep, all of which are crucial to optimal health. If you’re worried about the effects of stress on your health, I’d like to share with you 8 health tips that can reduce your cortisol levels and help your body cope with stress.
1. Eliminate caffeine.
It’s the quickest way to reduce cortisol production and elevate the production of DHEA to promote rebuilding and repairing your body. 200 mg of caffeine (one 12 oz mug of coffee) increases blood cortisol levels by 30% in one hour! Cortisol from a cup of coffee can remain elevated for up to 18 hours in the blood. That’s why morning coffee can still interfere with sleep at night.
Think you can’t live without that morning jolt? Try blending Teeccino with your coffee and gradually reducing the amount of coffee in favor of more no-caf Teeccino every day for a couple of weeks. This will help you avoid painful caffeine withdrawal symptoms while your adrenals recover their natural rhythm. You can’t imagine how many times I’ve heard from people who reduced or quit caffeine consumption that they now have more energy than they ever had before!
2. Sleep deeper and longer.
The average 50 year old has nighttime cortisol levels more than 30 times higher than the average 30 year old. Getting a good night’s sleep becomes harder as we age due the changes in our hormone production.There are many techniques for increasing both the length of time we sleep and the depth of our sleep. The goal is to reach a prolonged stage of deep sleep, officially called N3 sleep. This sleep stage is essential to clear and reset our brains and repair our bodies with human growth hormone that is released during this stage of sleep.Some good inducers of deep sleep include taking a hot bath before bed, going to sleep at the same time every night optimally before 11PM, and supplementing with melatonin, a natural hormone produced at night that helps regulate sleep/wake cycles. You may not need it every night, but if you are waking up in the middle of the night or too early in the morning, melatonin can help you sleep deeper and lengthen your sleep cycle. If you get sleepy during the day even though you had plenty of rest, back off the melatonin for a while. It’s a sign you are getting too much.
3. Exercise regularly.
Exercise regularly to build muscle mass and increase brain output of serotonin and dopamine, two neurotransmitters that reduce anxiety and depression. Exercise has been proven to reduce the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, while it promotes the production of endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers that produce an exhilarating high. Watch how easy it is to sleep deeper and longer after a healthy workout too!
4. Keep your blood sugar stable.
Avoid sugar in the diet and refined carbohydrates to keep from spiking your insulin production. Eat frequent small meals balanced in protein, complex carbohydrates and good fats like olive oil and flax seed oil. Diets rich in complex carbohydrates keep cortisol levels lower than low carbohydrate diets. Keep well hydrated – dehydration puts the body in stress and raises cortisol levels. Keep pure water by your bed and drink it when you first wake up and before you go to sleep.
5. Take adaptogen herbs.
Herbs that are classified as “adaptogens” help the body adapt to stress, including both physical and emotional stressors. They reduce the body’s production of cortisol and adrenaline, increase endurance and energy production, while strengthening the immune system. Take adaptogens on a daily basis for best results as they act over time to normalize the body’s metabolic and functional systems. Here’s a list of the top adaptogens: ashwagandha, ginseng, astragalus, eleuthero, schizandra, Tulsi (holy basil) rhodiola and maca. You can find them in teas and beverages as well as in pills. Aaptogens have been around for decades since they were first identified in the ‘40’s but now they are the new hot trend in stress reduction!
6. Meditate or listen to relaxation tapes.
Meditate or listen to relaxation tapes that promote the production of alpha (focused alertness) and theta (relaxed) brain waves. Avoid jolting alarm clocks that take you from delta waves (deep sleep) to beta waves (agitated and anxious) and stimulants like caffeine that promote beta waves while suppressing alpha and theta waves.
Meditation has been proven to calm the sympathetic nervous system that is responsible for the “fight or flight syndrome”, our body’s stress response that helps us in times of danger. Meditation slows down our breath and heart beat while it activates the parasympathetic nervous system to calm and soothe our sympathetic nervous system. Numerous studies prove that meditation is highly successful in producing a calmer, more focused state of mind with many beneficial long term effects on your health!
It’s true, laughter is the best medicine. Studies show that laughter reduces cortisol while it helps us reset our mental frame of mind. Feeling stressed? Watch some ridiculously funny movie that produces those deep belly laughs that make tears roll down your cheeks. You’re sure to feel less stressed afterwards!
8. Snuggle with your pet or loved one.
It’s all about opening our hearts, isn’t it? A dog that greets us at the end of a stressful day with a wagging tail and joyful licks helps us immediately feel better as our hearts open to receive their love. We can do the same for each other. Let’s remember how important it is to hug, tell someone how much they mean to us and take a moment to give each other appreciations. When we feel appreciated and when we think of all of our blessings, stress is naturally reduced and a warm glow takes its place!