6 Ways to Balance Your Cortisol
Cortisol, known as a stress hormone, is made by your adrenals, which are little glands that sit on top of your kidneys. Cortisol helps wake you up in the morning and turns on “flight or fight mode” when you’re in danger. Too little cortisol would be a no-go. Your body doesn’t want to make life harder for you-- it wants to keep you safe. On the other hand, when cortisol spikes too high, too frequently, it takes a toll on your body, mood, and mind. Your usually motivated and sunny disposition can plummet into a thunderstorm. You might have trouble properly taking care of yourself from not sleeping well or feeling as satisfied by healthy meals. Your relationships can also suffer.
It might be time to work on lowering your cortisol if...
Little things get under your skin and cause you to feel snappy and irritable.
Your sleep hygiene is suffering and you're staying up late even though you're tired during the day.
You're getting stress breakouts.
You’ve gained stubborn weight in your midsection, even though your limbs remain the same size.
You keep drinking coffee to try to make it through the day.
You’re having trouble falling asleep at night.
You’re having more cravings than usual.
You’re getting sick more easily.
I’m sharing 6 ways to biohack your way to better cortisol levels so that you can thrive again: 1) Cycle Synch Your Workouts
Working out should make us feel good and can be a wonderful way to manage stress! Exercise can give incredible hormonal benefits, like promoting Human Growth Hormone and encouraging the release of dopamine aka the reward hormone. Sometimes though workouts can be a stressor and raise your cortisol, causing inflammation, mood swings, and blood sugar spikes. When it comes to balancing your hormones, you want to learn what your body’s zone of happiness is and make sure that your hormones aren’t going to extreme highs or extreme lows.
During your follicular and ovulation phase, you’re more resilient to stress and can naturally have lower cortisol, and then during luteal phase, you’re less resilient to stress and cortisol can rage.
Don't worry-- if you love lifting or running, you don't have to give that up entirely. Instead, consider adding variety to your workouts and incorporating high intensity, moderate intensity, and low intensity workouts into your regular routine. Definitely don't skip leg day before ovulation when energy is high, but focus more on pilates, barre, and power walking before your period when energy dips and cortisol is sensitive. 2) Listen to 528 Hz Music Research shows that listening to 528 hz music has amazing benefits for the endocrine system & the autonomic nervous system! Listening to the specific frequency of this music has shown to reduce cortisol when measured with salivary tests, increase oxytocin (the social trust/ bonding hormone), and showed significant improvements in mood. In fact, EVERY negative mood that was included in this study improved, including anger, confusion, depression, and fatigue, while friendliness increased. If you're on Spotify, HERE is a playlist I made for you with all 528 hz songs that you can listen to during your morning meditation, while you're taking a bath, while you're getting ready for bed, or whenever you like.
3) Swap Your Coffee for Matcha
Coffee and most other caffeinated beverages spike your cortisol. Many women feel their anxiety rise from having caffeine, but even if you’re not one of these women, your body still makes more cortisol than it usually would from becoming dependent on coffee. Like a lot of women, before I started cycle synching and balanced my hormones, I’d have an amazing, productive, week during ovulation, then in the following couple weeks before my period (luteal phase), my energy and focus would go down the drain. I’d beat myself up, try to overcompensate with having lots of coffee… over time, I’d feel tired, wired, and stressed. I loved coffee and otherwise metabolised coffee well, but my cortisol still spiked with every cup.
Reducing caffeine and trading coffee for matcha-- which doesn’t spike your cortisol-- lowered my cortisol and helped me feel better.
Matcha has an amazing anti-stress effect thanks to a compound called L-theanine, which lowers cortisol, as well as tryptophan, which is a precursor for serotonin.
Make yourself a matcha latte and feel the difference!
4) Mindful Meditation Mindfulness is the act of being fully present to experience your surroundings, physical sensations, emotions, and actions. In a mindful meditation, you practice slowing down and observing what’s going on in your body and around you.
A study shows that mindful meditation is proven to lower cortisol levels,confirmed by cortisol serum tests which measure the amount of cortisol in the blood, urine, or saliva.
Mindful meditations don’t have to be long. You can use a guided meditation or you can simply slow down, find a comfortable seat, begin taking slow, intentional breaths, and observe how you feel. I personally use and love the Calm app, which has amazing 10 minute Daily Calm meditations (there’s a new one every day) and beautifully narrated bedtime stories that are so good, I never hear the end of them.
As you slow your breath and heart rate, you activate your parasympathetic nervous system. This turns on your “rest and digest” and “tend and befriend” modes, so your body stops releasing cortisol.
Health tip: Women who meditate also experience more orgasms than women who don’t. Orgasms can also flush cortisol from your body, so there’s more motivation to practice your 10 minutes of mindfulness than ever. 5) Sleep Hygiene Don't shoot the messenger, but your sleep habits might adding to your stress and zapping your energy. Being exhausted during the day, yet staying up late out of habit is a telltale sign that your cortisol out of balance. This year, my New Year's Resolution is to use an alarm clock and leave screens and smart devices out of the bedroom. Instead of letting screens and blue lights keep me awake, then waking up and immediately seeing notifications or being tempted to hop on social media, I want to go to sleep and wake up connected to my own energy. If you're staring at your computer, phone, or TV right before bed, your brain doesn't produce as much melatonin because it thinks you want to stay awake. Getting good quality sleep also allows your glymphatic system (your brain's filter for toxins) to push out unwanted debris and improve the health of your brain. Create a bedtime routine that includes winding down and relaxing without screens and aim for 8 hours per night. Don't feel guilty for taking extra time and care of yourself to rest, it can only benefit the rest of your life! 6) Reishi Known as "the mushroom of immortality," reishi regulates cortisol, promotes a calm mood, and boosts immunity. During periods of high-stress, incorporate this adaptogen for 4-12 weeks daily in a capsule, tea, or powder that you can add to your smoothie. One study found that breast cancer patients who took reishi for 4 weeks had reduced fatigue, anxiety, and depression.
Save this to Pinterest as a reminder to invest in your rest!