Now that we know the damage that chronically elevated cortisol and sugar cravings can cause overtime, let’s manage it! How? First acknowledge this-stressors are not always in our control and are just a natural part of life. That work interview for a new job, school assignment, or a breakup, can all contribute to our heightened stress levels. We may not be in control of stress, but we are always in control of how we react.
Work on managing and reducing your stress response by trying out some of these methods:
Your breath is the most powerful and inexpensive healer you own, and it is at your fingertips whenever you need it! Start with a simple breathing exercise such as the 4-7-8 method. Inhale for 4 counts, breathing in through your nose, hold for 7 counts, and exhale out from your mouth for 8 counts, making a whooshing sound.
Check out this instruction video here to start practicing!
Drink a cup of calm
Start your day with a hot cup of green tea instead of coffee; it contains a compound called L theanine which promotes relaxation (3). Feeling stressed or anxious before bed? Finish your day with chamomile tea; known to promote stress relief and calm a nervous stomach (4). Try doubling up on tea bags, and steep covered for 4-5 minutes. This will provide a more potent dose of herbal relaxation support.
Research has found that both gardening and walking in the woods have proven cortisol-lowering effects (1, 2). Not only is it relaxing and rejuvenating to the mind, getting out in the dirt allows healthy soil-based organisms to transfer good bacteria to your skin, providing immune boosting benefits!
It is nice to have self care time, but it is also important to be connected to others. If you are able, hug a friend, family member, or even a pet! When you hug someone, oxytocin, also known as the cuddle hormone, is released, inducing higher levels of happiness and lower levels of stress and cortisol (5).
Move Your Body
I’m sure you have heard it before, physical activity is one of the best ways to reduce stress, and improve mental health. If you are thinking you don’t have enough time, or are intimidated by starting a new exercise routine- no worries! There are plenty of ways to move your body besides trying to squeeze in that post-work spin or gym class. Here are a few that are easy, fun, and versatile- hiking, kayaking, yard work, brisk walking, jump roping, dancing, and biking!
If you feel like stress management is one of those things you have been sweeping under the rug, it’s time to incorporate it into your daily life! Start with these 5 things above, and reach out for support from friends, family, and coworkers. Accountability, and motivation are important factors when making and sticking to new lifestyle changes!