April’s flying by, but you still have a chance to participate in Stress Awareness Month! A lot of us are aware that chronic stress comes from the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. There are even many complications that can occur because of your long-term stress, such as high blood pressure, impaired brain function, and weight gain. If you feel like you’ve tried everything, you might feel discouraged to continue stress management, but don’t give up! Here are a variety of ways you can lower your cortisol levels:

Relaxation is Key

From meditation to massages, learning to relax your stress away could be what changes your life. Although relaxation can be hard to master for a stressed-out brain, it’s essential if you want to train your body to produce less stress hormones. Through deep-breathing exercises, yoga, and even listening to relaxing music, you can physically calm down your body by mentally calming down the release of cortisol in your brain. Just imagine how much better it would be if you could learn to cut off your stress at the source right when you feel those anxious feelings associated with hormone release.

cute dog put his face on his knees to the man and smiling from the hands scratching her ear

Amazing Animals

Many scientific studies have shown that taking care of a pet, and especially interacting with dogs, can significantly reduce your cortisol levels. If you’ve never owned a pet before, you’ll probably experience an even greater drop in cortisol, as studies show that non-pet owners tend to feel way less stressed with a new dog compared to people who have already owned pets in the past.

If your living situation doesn’t allow you to own a dog, try owning a smaller pet, such as a goldfish or a hamster. You’ll be surprised to find that feeling the joy of taking care of an animal will reduce your cortisol and help you with stress management. If you can own a dog, a therapy or service dog can help you, especially if your chronic stress is severe.

Keep Your Body in Check

You’re probably tired of hearing this one, but isn’t it worth a shot to try to eat healthy and exercise rather than continuing to shovel french fries into your mouth whenever you’re stressed out? So many of us have been there before, and there’s a clear connection with cortisol and weight gain. Because high cortisol levels increase your appetite, your brain can signal to your metabolism to change to store more fat.

The best way to ensure this doesn’t continue happening is simply having the right diet and exercise regimen. Take the time to eat healthy foods that are nutritious for your body, and limit your sugar intake. While sugar in some instances can reduce your stress, regular sugar consumption in high amounts is not good for you, and it impacts the way your body handles cortisol. Have a piece of chocolate cake once in a while, but don’t make it the norm.

Supplemental Health

You might be surprised to learn that certain supplements can help with your stress management, but there is plenty of data to show for it. Two supplements, in particular, fish oil and ashwagandha, can help you in reducing your cortisol levels. Fish oil works by providing you with omega-3 fatty acids, which some scientists have found reduce your anxiety and the symptoms that come along with chronic stress.

Ashwagandha, on the other hand, has very similar effects but is an Asian herbal supplement that has been used in traditional medicine. Be sure to talk to your doctor about these supplements if you’re interested in trying them out to reduce your stress.

Shot of a tired young man sleeping comfortably in his bed without a sign of being disturbed

Go to Sleep!

When in doubt, take a nap. Sleeping is your best friend, and getting the right amount of it is one of the most important ways you can feel less stressed out. Sleep deprivation can cause way more problems than you think, so staying up to watch “just one more episode” of your favorite show every night can be doing you more harm than good.

According to a few studies, insomnia can cause high cortisol for up to 24 hours, so imagine what it must do to you if you get insomnia regularly. The best ways you can ensure you’re getting enough sleep is to keep a consistent sleep schedule, limit your distractions before bed, and avoid caffeine in the evening.

Stress management is hard. At Fox Medical Centers, we want to help you with all of your health needs, big and small. If you want to talk about your chronic stress and discuss more ways you can improve your body, feel free to schedule an appointment at our office, we would love to have you!

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