Stressed: Maintaining your mental health is vital no matter what, but it’s crucial now that COVID-19 anxiety is running high. Anxiety and stress that persist over time can be harmful to your physical and mental well-being.
This is the reason why: The adrenal glands are the source of cortisol, also referred to as the stress hormone. It is higher during times of increased stress or anxiety and lower during moments of relaxation. The body uses all of its energy to deal with the stressor when cortisol levels rise, rather than using that energy to regulate other bodily functions, such as the immune and digestive systems.
I like to compare it to being pursued by a lion. You’re not concerned about getting sick or having a bowel movement when a lion is pursuing you. Therefore, cortisol normally aids in the regulation of blood pressure, glucose, appetite, weight, body metabolism, and immune system. However, prolonged stress can lead to a host of negative symptoms, including headaches, memory loss, brain fog, weakened immunity, weight gain, insomnia, pre-diabetes, and increased anxiety or depression.
However, I am aware that controlling anxiety is a difficult task, so I have provided you with a number of strategies to help you reduce cortisol and keep your mind at ease during this uncertain period of your life. These are lifestyle adjustments that you can make for the rest of your life, not just for the current pandemic.
Stressed: Ten Strategies for Reducing Cortisol Levels
- Consume a plant-based, whole-food diet. A poor diet high in processed foods and added sugars will increase cortisol levels and increase your risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure. As fibre helps to regulate gut bacteria, which in turn helps to regulate hormones, be sure you’re getting enough of it (fruits and vegetables are great sources). Eighty per cent of the fight is won or lost via diet.
- Include supplements if necessary. A well-balanced diet should not be substituted for supplements, and they should be under a doctor’s care. However, the most significant mineral we use in our clinical practice, if suggested, is magnesium, which aids in cortisol regulation. The metabolism of cortisol can also be supported by vitamin C, folic acid, and vitamin B12.
- Breathe deeply. The advantages of performing deep breathing exercise three to five times a day for at least five minutes have been shown by several studies. Studies indicate that it can alleviate anxiety and depression, reduce cortisol levels, and enhance memory. Use a deep breathing app such as Calm or Insight Timer to get started.
- Cut back on the caffeine. Adrenal fatigue is a term used to describe the condition that chronic stressors may have when their cortisol levels are completely out of control. They become so exhausted as a result that they frequently turn to coffee to get through the day. Once the caffeine wears off, they become exhausted once more, creating a vicious cycle. Caffeine can increase cortisol levels, but it doesn’t deal with the underlying issue—that of hormone balance.
- Get enough rest. We require seven or eight hours of sleep per night to enable the body to heal. Despite being so crucial, it frequently gets neglected due to our hectic schedules.
- Work out frequently. The American College of Lifestyle Medicine recommends a standard of thirty to fifty minutes per day. You should push yourself to the point where you can exercise and converse but not sing, and walking your dog doesn’t count.
- Take notes in a journal. Sometimes it helps just to put ideas down on paper. Reliving happy memories is an option, and clearing stressful thoughts from your mind will prevent you from thinking about them all the time.
- Take up a hobby. Engaging in enjoyable activities such as gardening, crafting, drawing, or playing an instrument can serve as a beneficial diversion from stressful situations and thoughts.
- Step outside. Being in the company of plants, trees, flowers, birds, and other natural elements can be mentally soothing. Sit on your front porch or take a stroll around the block, if you can. It will get easier to take pauses and spend time outside as the weather warms.
- Lead without fearing. Prioritizing fear can be confusing. It permits us to act impulsively and inappropriately in ways that we otherwise would not be able to. Leading with positivity can be achieved by practising mindfulness, deep breathing, and the other strategies mentioned above.
Although it may seem overwhelming, you don’t have to apply every one of these suggestions at once. The best approach to implementing long-lasting, beneficial changes is to do so gradually. Once one or two become ingrained in your routine, gradually incorporate the others. In races, slow and steady frequently wins.