4 Steps to Balancing Cortisol

4 Steps to Balancing Cortisol

Strategies for cultivating resilience and reducing stress in everyday life.

Long read

Stress presents itself as the natural consequence of pressing external situations. In truth, stress is our own physiological response to those external situations. So while our circumstances are often beyond our control, we are not powerless to affect the way we react. By using the tried-and-true techniques below for optimizing the rise and fall of cortisol, we just might find that life gets less overwhelming, we move more gracefully through the world, and stress gets less stressful.

1. Get good quality sleep, get enough sleep, and get to bed early.

The better our sleep is, the more prepared we will be for a healthy stress response throughout the day. Since melatonin encourages sound sleep, supporting melatonin can be an excellent way to improve sleep quality. Stimulate melatonin production by avoiding electronic screens a couple of hours before bed, sleeping in total darkness, and engaging in relaxing activities.

2. Manage your blood sugar levels.

Eating protein and fat with every meal is one easy way to support blood sugar balance. If you’re having issues managing stress, then healthy trends like intermittent fasting might not suit you. Don’t underestimate the importance of stable blood sugar when it comes to stress and cortisol.

3. Eat plenty of whole foods.

Consumption of nutrient-dense whole foods is one way to ensure your body is getting the fuel it needs for healthy adrenal function. Plus, natural sweeteners in whole foods won’t impact your blood sugar levels in the way processed sugar will.

4. Take stress seriously.

Meditations, mantras, yoga, taichi, qigong, journaling, prayer, time in nature, and leisure time with loved ones are proven to rebalance cortisol levels and promote healthy dynamic responses to stress. Having a routine of healthy active coping mechanisms to help destress regularly will make a world of difference the next time life “hands you lemons.”

If you don’t manage your cortisol, you just might find that it ends up managing you! But if you take care of it, it will return the favour tenfold. The evidence-based tips above are guaranteed to help achieve a healthy, dynamic cortisol response, so you can stay cool and collected no matter what life throws at you. Who wouldn’t want a generally less stressful existence, more energy through the day, smoother social interactions, and an overall sense of ease?

The Cortisol Awakening Response is also directly associated with general well-being and longevity. Multiple studies, most notably the Whitehall II study, showed that a flatter level of cortisol levels across the day was correlated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease mortality. This study suggested that cortisol slope might be a better predictor of early mortality than obesity or smoking! While the exact mechanism behind this may not be fully understood, the correlation is well established: healthy cortisol production and circadian rhythm play a significant role in our overall health.

Damien ZielinskiA cloud-based functional medicine practitioner with a focus on mental health and insomnia
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