When the body is stressed (physically, mentally, emotionally, environmentally), it releases cortisol produced by the adrenal glands. High cortisol levels have many negative side effects on your health, including an increased craving for sweets and fats.
The goal is to move out of fight-or-flight mode and into rest-and-digest mode. In science terms, you’re moving your body out of sympathetic mode and into parasympathetic mode, which is a calmer, healthier state for the body to be in.
1. Remove Yourself from the Triggering Environment
You’re trying to reduce the stress, but cope in a way that doesn't mean you turn to food.
- Go outside or go to another room.
- Take a short walk.
- Get away from the environment and listen to music you love.
- Get away from the environment and take 3-5+ really deep breaths through your mouth (not your nose) to open your lungs and expand your diaphragm.
- Close your eyes and use calming imagery. Focusing on all the details in your mental image will shift your mind to something less stressful and more grounding.
2. Get Outside
- A dose of nature, even just 20 minutes a day, really helps lower cortisol levels, especially if there are trees involved.
- If you exercise inside, also make a point to also get outside time in your day.
3. Stabilize Your Blood Sugar
- Are you hungry? A drop in blood sugar stresses the body and can cause a cortisol release.
- Instead of processed, sugar-rich foods, try reaching for foods high in fiber or omega-3s, which will help keep your cortisol levels steady.
4. Swap Intense Workouts for Lower Intensity Exercise
- The length and intensity of your workouts can have a big impact on your cortisol levels. High intensity exercise, around 80 percent of your maximal oxygen uptake, even when done for just 30 minutes significantly elevates cortisol levels.
- Do you notice an increase in sweets cravings an hour or two after you’ve exercised? This is likely why.
- Try walking or yoga. Meditation is also wonderful for getting into parasympathetic mode.
5. Magnesium for Stress Support
- Levels can be easily thrown off by stress and alcohol use, and many people are deficient.
- Magnesium is responsible for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body,
- You can take a supplement or use Natural Vitality Calm magnesium powder.
- You know your body has reached its magnesium threshold if you experience loose stools.
6. Try Adaptogens
- Adaptogens are a group of plants, roots, and mushrooms that help the body better adapt to stress and manage the body’s stress response.
- Adaptogens that specifically target stress: Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, Eleuthero, Holy Basil, Reishi mushroom, Schisandra Berry
7. Do More Things in Your Day That Make You Happy
- Choose more “yes’s” in your day rather than filling your day with to-do’s that don’t light you up. What lights you up??
- Shifting your focus to something that makes YOU happy, even for just 2 minutes, can make a difference on your mental state, which impacts cortisol levels.
- Connect with friends and family.
- Plan in time to work on your hobby that day.
- Spending time doing what makes you genuinely happy can reduce stress and lower cortisol levels.
8. Hydrate with Herbal, Non-Caffeinated Teas
- Stress, habit, and routine can all trigger sweets cravings.
- Instead of reaching for the afternoon or evening sweets, pour yourself a calming hot tea.
- Lemon Balm, Licorice Root, Chamomile, hot lemon water, Mint tea, Rose tea, Lavender Tea
- Tip: buy organic (many herbs are sprayed with pesticides) and use loose leaf tea in a stainless-steel tea infuser. The satin tea bags are made from plastic and will add microplastic to your drink.