Stress is a common and often inevitable part of life and we’ve all dealt with it at one point or another. When your body is stressed, there’s not only a mental and emotional effect but a physical one, as well. Stress causes your adrenal glands to release a hormone known as cortisol and while cortisol plays an important role in how your brain responds to high-stress situations, too much can do more harm than good. Luckily, there are various healthy ways to manage stress and decrease cortisol levels.
If you’re experiencing high levels of stress, regular exercise is a natural way to reduce it while keeping yourself healthy. When you exercise, your body kick starts the production of endorphins, sending those stress combatting “happy signals” to your brain. Your focus will quickly turn from what you were worrying or stressing about that day, to your body’s physical movements. It’s really a redirection of energy. Remember, exercise doesn’t have to take place in the gym, and it comes in many different forms. Try running, yoga, weight lifting, or joining a sports team; be creative and find out what suits you best!
Adopt Healthy Sleep Habits
Poor sleep habits resulting in sleep deprivation from stress can drastically increase your cortisol levels. While stress may make it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night, it’s essential to maintain healthy sleep habits the best you can. This is also another area where regular exercise can prove to show its benefits. Being physically active during the day is a great way to help your body wind down during night time, and will likely contribute to a better, more sound sleep.
Improve Your Diet
When you’re stressed, it’s not uncommon to turn to unhealthy foods for comfort. Processed foods high in sugar contribute to a rise in cortisol, leading to an increase in stress. Try substituting sugary processed foods for healthier choices that provide your body with the fuel it needs to function correctly. If you rely on caffeine-filled drinks during the day, try to limit your intake after a specific time at night; doing this will also contribute to a better sleep pattern.
Focus on Relaxation
Easier said than done, right? While it may be difficult to relax when you’re stressed, practicing relaxation techniques can help keep your stress levels at bay. Try practicing mindfulness or taking up meditation and deep breathing. A conscious effort to put your mind at ease will help you manage daily stressors in your life. Taking a deep breath may seem like a small task, but it can go a long way in calming your mind.