Welcome to my final blog post in my three part series about cortisol. If you haven’t read part one and two, please give them a read. Those posts will provide the necessary background information as to why it is important to reduce cortisol in your system and strive for hormonal balance.
As I’ve previously discussed, cortisol is a necessary hormone that helps your body get into action and survive intense, stressful situations. However, when cortisol runs rampant, it can cause quite a bit of wear and tear on the body. This can lead to mild to severe symptoms that can overhaul your physical, mental, and emotional health.
So how can you combat cortisol, bring balance to your body, reduce (and even reverse) the effects of cortisol on your system? Keep reading!
First, let me list some simple things that may help to slow you down and relax. These practices may seem obvious, but they really work!
- Getting a massage (either professionally or from a friend/partner).
- Mild exercise, such as a walk, swim, or fun sport.
- Yoga, Tai Chi, or Qigong – You can join a class or find really helpful videos on youtube.
- Mindfulness Meditation – I’ve provided some videos in my previous posts and there are more videos you can find on youtube.
- Sleep – It’s really, absolutely vital that you are getting enough sleep. If you are sleep-deprived, not only are you throwing your body systems out of rhythm, but it will be harder to cope with daily life.
- A balanced diet – It is important to eat healthy, raw foods more often than processed, sugary foods. Eating at every mealtime and enjoying healthy snacks in between can kick start metabolism and keep your body happy.
Along with healthy, stress reducing practices, there are also vitamins, minerals, and herbs that can really help with reducing stress and balancing cortisol in the system. For example:
- Vitamin C – As mentioned in my previous posts, cortisol can inhibit your immune system. Take 1000 mg of vitamin C daily when you are feeling stressed and run down.
- Magnesium – This mineral is necessary for enzymes to convert carbs, protein, and fat into energy, which will obviously help with increasing energy, but also losing weight caused by cortisol. It is also important for nervous system function. Supplementing magnesium at night time can help calm and relax your system so you are ready for a deep sleep. Most people are low on magnesium, so it’s a good idea take it regularly even if you aren’t stressed.
- All B vitamins – You can by a B-complex supplement, which should contain all essential B vitamins. These vitamins are important for enzyme function, as well as mental function and stress reduction.
- Magnolia Bark – An antioxidant used in Chinese medicine to treat low energy, anxiety, and depression by modulating neurotransmitters and enzymes in the brain.
- Ginseng – An adaptogen (meaning it brings balance to the physical processes of the body) that can improve mental function. It can also increase energy and endurance and improve the immune system. I mentioned in my previous blog post that cortisol can increase testosterone. Well, ginseng can reverse this effect by bringing balance to testosterone in the body.
- Ashwangandha – Nicknamed “Indian Ginseng” because it has similar effects on the body as ginseng. This herb is used in Ayurvedic medicine to “balance life forces”, meaning it is used to treat insomnia, adrenal fatigue (which can be caused by too little or too much cortisol), and promote bodily relaxation.
- Kava Kava – A great root for treating stress and anxiety. For more information, check out this post that I wrote about Kava.
- St. John’s Wort – It is often used as an herbal alternative to antidepressants. It is used to improve mood and energy, as well as provide relief from fatigue that is caused by depression and high stress. It does all this by bringing balance to neurotransmitters in the brain.
- 5-HTP – Tryptophan is an amino acid that is converted by the body into 5-HTP, which can then be converted into serotonin. Increasing serotonin (if you are lacking), can relieve depression, insomnia, and stress. There is are certain type of antidepressants called SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) that aim to do exactly the same thing as 5-HTP. If you are currently using SSRIs, this may be an effective, natural alternative for you.
There are many more supplements and herbs that can be used to boost relaxation, reduce stress, and calm the body, but I just wanted to highlight a few that I have come across. Like all supplements and herbs, please do research before diving in and taking them. Most of these supplements can be taken safely, but some of them cannot be mixed with other medications or chronic illnesses. I would also advise seeking health advice from your doctor, naturopath, or other health care professional.
If you suffer from chronic stress, it may be a good idea to seek out professional help. There’s no shame in seeking outside assistance, especially if you have experienced some sort of trauma in your life. Life can be really hard to deal with, no matter who you are or what you’ve been through. Let’s face it: our society does not teach people how to handle stress and emotions properly and safely. It’s no wonder depression is an epidemic that’s only rising in North America! I have listed some therapies below that have been proven to help people manage their stress (some of which I have tried myself). I hope that one or all of these therapies can be effective for managing your stress.
- Cognitive/behavioural therapy – This is probably the most popular form of therapy in the Western world. It used to change unhealthy thought patterns and behaviour, as well as solve current problems. I tried this therapy for two years and found it very helpful. There are many therapists and counselors available, so a quick google search should help you find one in your area.
- Somatic experiencing (SE) – This is a form of therapy used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other related effects from trauma (mental or physical). The essence of SE is that trauma (or stress) is stored up in the body as energy. The goal is to release that energy to relieve built up tension and pain. I’m currently seeing an SE therapist and I am finding it quite helpful!
- Tension, Stress, and Trauma Release Exercise (TRE) – This therapy is very similar to Somatic Experiencing, but more intense. I haven’t tried this myself, but I know others who have benefited from it. I follow a blog called The Ass Movement and there’s a great post on TRE that you can read there.
That wraps up my three part series on cortisol! I hope that some of what I’ve shared has and will help you combat stress. Trust me, we’re in this together! If you have any questions, feel free to comment.
Make sure to take a breathe, meditate (Ommmm), and stretch out those limbs yoga-style! You deserve it!