TOP 3 STRATEGIES FOR REDUCING STRESS AND LOWERING CORTISOL

27 / JANUARY / 2021
SHEREE'S HEALTH DIARIES

Is the stress of 2020 still lingering in your system? Or maybe 2021 hasn’t quite started out the way you’d intended? Or maybe, you’re living in survival mode on the daily?!

Stress is one of the leading causes of illnesses as cited by many articles and in my opinion the underlying factor that goes under the radar… I think it should replace hypertension in its name of being a ‘silent killer’. 

Whilst that might sound extreme, and we can often think our stress isn’t that bad, it can in fact be triggering biochemical changes and reactions in your body that you aren’t even aware of, because you are so used to the stress! 

Take a typical day for about 90% of the population:

You wake up to an alarm (maybe hit the snooze a few times before you finally get out of bed. You’re tired because you didn’t get to bed late until the night before, so you have a cup of coffee to start your day. 

You make a fruit smoothie for breakfast because you are being healthy, but it spills on the way out the door as you are running late. You think ‘great, an awesome way to start the day [sarcastically]’, and clean it up quickly before racing out the door. 

On your way to work you get stuck in traffic (because you are running late), and then someone cuts you off. You arrive at the office trying to brush it off and be in a good mood, only to find your inbox full of messages marked urgent. 

You feel the stress creep up, but you brush it off, it’s okay the promotion is going to be worth it. Lunch rolls around really quick and you realise you totally forgot to pack your lunch in your rush this morning so you’ll have to duck to the shops down the road for something quick before you rush back for your afternoon of meetings. 

Feeling tired still from a poor night’s sleep you grab yourself another coffee to get through the afternoon of meetings and your gym session later! Work day complete you drive to the gym, tired and mind elsewhere in peak hour traffic, trying to be productive listening to a podcast. 

You smash out a high intensity workout because that’s all you have time for, and you get a good sweat on, before heading home to whip up a quick dinner before relaxing in front of the TV for the next couple of hours. 

Feeling the eyelids get heavy you drag yourself to bed, only to find yourself unable to switch off, still annoyed at the smoothie spilling this morning! You finally fall asleep around midnight, then wake up and repeat the same the next day (hopefully this time without the smoothie fiasco). 

Sound familiar? I bet! 

CORTISOL TRIGGERS

And maybe this is a bad day in your books, but let’s just stop and look at how many times your cortisol levels will have been triggered throughout that day (and no this doesn’t include the negative thoughts that are running through your head subconsciously throughout the day)

CORTISOL TRIGGERS: 

  • Snoozing alarm
  • Cup of coffee
  • Fruit smoothie 
  • Spilling the smoothie
  • Running late/feeling of urgency
  • Traffic + road rage 
  • Full inbox
  • Forgetting lunch
  • Poor choice of food at lunch ‘quick option’
  • Rushing back to get to meetings in time
  • The other coffee
  • Traffic again 
  • HIIT workout 
  • Quick dinner 
  • Screen time 
  • Overthinking

YOUR POOR BODY! That is at least 15 times in one day that your body has been told to increase it’s cortisol levels, it has been communicated to that your body is in a life or death situation and therefore we need to conserve energy stores (fat), run on glucose (sugar) and raise our insulin levels to manage this. 

The reason the food is included too is because poor choices in meals, particularly those high in carbohydrates without and protein and leafy greens, or are highly processed will stress the body out by secreating more insulin as a response to cortisol! 

Talk about a rollercoaster ride for you! And you’re doing it day in day out! No wonder we have weight we can’t shift, painful periods, gut issues and bloating!! 

TOP TIPS TO REDUCE STRESS/CORTISOL

Not to worry though! I’m here to help! Now that we know the issue, let’s help reduce your stress! Here are my top 3 stress/cortisol reducing techniques! 

#1: Diaphragmatic Breathing

Taking deep diaphragmatic breaths is one of the only ways we know how to communicate to the body to reset the nervous system, back into its parasympathetic state (rest and digest), and out of survival (fight/flight/freeze – elevating cortisol). 

According to the research, 6 deep belly breaths is the magic number to reset, and so I recommend that you start your morning with at least 6, followed by 6 before every meal, and then whenever you are feeling stressed or notice your chest feeling tighter throughout the day, and then again before sleep. 

You may find you need more than 6 initially to retrain your body to belly breathe. Most of the time, we are living in a state of being switched on and stressed (sympathetic), that we have trained the body to breathe very shallow all the time. This is the easiest, fastest and instant ways to reduce your cortisol! 

#2: Grounding Exercises

Often we can find ourselves so wound up, and on high alert, and realise that we haven’t actually spent much time away from the laptop or being stuck in traffic… so taking some time out to connect with nature, is a perfect way to re-centre and GROUND yourself!

It is also an incredible way to ‘recharge your human battery’ as Ben Greenfield has put it [podcast link]. By taking your shoes off and connecting to the earth – whether that be grass, sand, concrete or actual mud you are drawing from the energy of nature, and helping draw in the negative ions from the ground to recharge yourself! It is suggested you do so for around 20 minutes to get the best benefit! 

I love going for a walk in bare feet, or meditating outside when I get the chance, but other grounding practices include yoga, and connecting to your senses e.g. savouring food, deep breathing, touching or being in water. Find one or a few you like and add it to your daily practice. 

#3: Meditation/Gratitude Journaling

The benefits of both meditation and gratitude journaling far surpass just lowering your cortisol levels, but that is a conversation for another day. Simply focusing on being still, present, clearing your mind and settling your breath in meditation is enough to drop our cortisol levels right down and tap back into our parasympathetic state (which we should be living in 95% of the time). 

Gratitude journaling is also extremely powerful, because when we are in a state of gratitude (love), we are in a state of peace, calmness and acceptance, which is the complete opposite of what triggers our sympathetic state – FEAR! Practicing gratitude outloud or writing it down in journal form is a beautiful daily practice, you can always bring yourself back to the present too when you are focused on the things you are grateful for, rather than the things you don’t have. 

Both of these practices don’t have to take long, and you may find you do both or prefer one over the other. Start slow, you don’t have to take it all on at once, similar to the other two suggestions above. Pick one of the three to start right now (yes it is that simple to breathe – you have to to survive), then slowly incorporate whichever other ones feel good, and watch not only your body relax, but your mindset and internal state shift! 

Yours in Health,
Sheree xo

SHEREE BEAUMONT

Holistic Nutritionist, Personal Trainer & Wellness Coach I empower women like you to transform their lives, understand their bodies and feel their best from the inside out!

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