Steering clear of stress can seem impossible in this current culture of high-pressure living. With what seems like ever extending work hours demanding more and more of your energy, it’s easy to find yourself with less time for yourself.
Symptoms of stress can include panic, insomnia, anger, irritability or hostility, and that’s not all. Stress can evolve into physical symptoms which include tense muscles leading to pain, dry mouth, headaches, insomnia, heartburn, diarrhoea, vomiting and more; a seemingly endless list.
Large amounts of cortisol and stress in the body can do incredible damage and has even been found to change your DNA when experiencing chronic forms of stress.
Cortisol and Stress
Stress and the release of cortisol are integral to the normal functioning of the body. The hormone cortisol is responsible for controlling blood sugar levels which then regulates metabolism, acts as an anti-inflammatory, influences memory formation, controls the balance of salt and water in the body, influences blood pressure, and also helps development of the foetus. The stress response directs certain glands to release a flood of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol that increase alertness, heart rate and blood flow to muscles, in order for the body to be in prime condition for immediate responses to danger. But, too much stress can have devastating effects on both physical and mental wellbeing.
People can experience stress for a range of different reasons. Work deadlines, money, family relationships, and feeling as if you are not reaching expectations are just some of the issues that may spike your cortisol levels. But, thankfully there are plenty of ways to manage how you let these things affect you without using pharmaceutical drugs.
Just for you, we have created a list of 5 ways to help naturally lower cortisol and improve well-being without the need for pharmaceutical interventions.
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1. Sweat It Out!
For those who feel the effects of stress in their lives, one of the first things you may be advised to do is exercise. It’s such a common term it’s cliche. But there is proof in the pudding. Many attest to the therapeutic effects of exercise as a stress reliever, as it has been found to significantly reduce adrenaline, stress and cortisol levels in the body while stimulating endorphins (the hormones that make you feel good); both treating and preventing short-term stress and cortisol highs in the body.
And not only can physical exercise help. As the root of all stress is emotional, it is best reduced by trying to eliminate problems in your life that trigger the stress and cortisol response.
Autoregulatory exercises in the form of meditation, breathing exercises or even mindful thinking, may help with this, as these techniques are designed to replace cycles of stress with repose.
Try starting with a relatively easy technique, like a simple breathing exercise:
- To begin, breathe in slowly, pulling air through your nose and deep into your lungs, extending your diaphragm to its maximum extent
- Hold your breath for a count of 3
- And exhale slowly through your mouth
- Repeat this sequence five to 10 times, until you begin to feel at ease and relaxed
This technique is easy to learn and can be done anywhere, and at any time.
2. A Cup of Green Tea
The amino acid L-theanine (a major component in green tea) is said to have calming effects, with research suggesting it helps curb a rising heart rate and blood pressure as well as reducing anxiety. In one study done on test subjects with a high proclivity for anxiety, it found that these individuals had “elevated visual attentional performance, and improved reaction time response among high anxiety propensity subjects compared to a placebo” after drinking 200mg of L-theanine in water. Though, in order to get that much L-theanine from green tea, you would need to drink as little as five cups and as much as 20 cups per day.
But don’t worry, L-theanine is also found in other foods such as:
- Tree nuts
- Beef liver
- Brown rice
- Spinach & more
3. Calming Chamomile
For centuries, chamomile has been used for many different medicinal and therapeutic purposes, but recently has come into popular demand in Europe and America as a sleeping aid and muscle relaxant. One study found that “inhalation of the vapor of chamomile oil reduced a stress-induced increase in plasma adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH),” which is the hormone that stimulates our adrenal cortisol production. This method is usually done through steeping flowers in boiling water for tea, or are made into essential oil for aromatherapy. Chamomile is grown all around the world these days and can usually be found in the tea aisle at your local supermarket, or can be found easily online.
4. Kava Root
Kava, or kava kava, is a root found in the South Pacific Islands. These islanders have used kava as medicine and in ceremonies for centuries. The kava root has been found to have similar effects to that of valium and diazepam, with studies attesting to its anxiolytic and analgesic qualities. It is important to note that kava was traditionally drunk for its alcohol like effects and so should not be taken without consulting a doctor. It is also advised not to use kava root if you suffer from depression, are pregnant or have liver disease, as it is a depressant and has been known to exacerbate liver problems. Kava is traditionally made into tea or boiled, but these days you can find kava root as a powder in almost any health food store, or online.
5. CBD for stress
CBD, or cannabidiol, is an incredible compound within the cannabis plant family that has been found to have analgesic and anxiolytic effects amongst a host of other fantastic properties. Rather than having a direct effect on the body, CBD seems to influence the body to use more of its own cannabinoids, which control everything from appetite to the reproductive system, as well as mood and pain. Many are now turning to CBD as a remedy for an innumerable amount of issues, as it provides the calming and relaxing effects that we associate with the cannabis plant, but without the psychoactive effects of its better known compound THC.
CBD can be taken in a number of different ways, but is most widely available as CBD oil, which is taken both internally and externally. You can also find CBD paste, CBD topical creams and even CBD suppositories.
Many of these products are easily found in supermarkets or in health food shops, but CBD may be harder to find due to laws pertaining to its sale and distribution - depending on where you live. If you would like to buy high quality CBD oil, CBD pastes or other CBD rich products, make sure you do your research and visit sites like Trustpilot before buying. This way you’ll know you're getting a product that will treat both stress and cortisol in the body.