Cortisol is called the stress hormone. Our body was originally meant to release a hormone called cortisol in response to dangerous stimuli and to prepare our body as part of our fight or flight response. When used for that specific goal, it serves a great purpose. But the release of cortisol, in response to stress, overexertion, anger, and anxiety on a daily basis, can tire out our nervous system, bring about fatigue, and have long term chronic implications on our health. Part of maintaining overall wellness today constitutes managing cortisol levels in our body, through multiple natural and non-invasive measures. Simply put, high cortisol levels are a sign that you need to slooow down.
Excessive cortisol levels can lead to problems including hypertension, type-2 diabetes, osteoporosis, weight gain, irregular sleep, fatigue, dullness, brain fog, and lowered immunity.
Here are a few things you can do to tame the cortisol levels.
Get enough sleep
Studies show that when you sleep, how long and the quality of the REM sleep matters in regulating cortisol levels. Sleep deprivation can cause cortisol levels to shoot up.
What is the ideal time to hit the sack? What do you do if you work different shifts that disrupt your sleep cycle? What should you eat before going to sleep, so you sleep better? Can meditation really improve sleep? Here are six quick Ayurvedic tips to give your beauty sleep a qualitative boost.
Breath-based meditation practices
A study done by a group of Italian researchers showed that deep breathing practices helped significantly in improving mood and reduce stress, concluded both by self-reporting and by examining the heart rate and cortisol levels over a period of time.
A particular technique that research has found to help reduce cortisol levels by 56.6% with just two weeks of practice is Sudarshan Kriya Yoga, a rhythmic powerful breathing practice taught as part of The Art of Living programs. The technique is also known to
- Increase mental focus
- Heighten your awareness
- Improve the quality of sleep by increasing time spent in deep sleep
- Reduced biochemical markers of stress including cortisol, corticotrophin, blood lactate, ACTH, and plasma malondialdehyde.
Increased happiness indicates a sense of well-being and better well-being is key to maintaining cortisol levels. Now studies have shown that a positive state of mind is linked to lower cortisol, lower hypertension, strong heart rate, and better immunity.
Outdoor activities, serving the community, gardening, laughter, and reading-basically engaging the body and mind in activities that bring life satisfaction is going to help you control cortisol levels better, as these activities counter the cortisol increase by increasing the release of feel-good hormones like dopamine and endorphins.
Abhyanga and massage therapy
Research reviews done at the University of Miami School of Medicine found that studies on the effect of massage therapy on those undergoing depression, pain syndrome, autoimmune conditions, job or pregnancy stress, showed positive results in alleviating stress levels. Cortisol found in saliva and urine reduced by 31%, and feel-good hormones like serotonin and dopamine improved by 28%.
While massage therapy is now scientifically proven to benefit in stress reduction, it is important to pick the right oils to be administered on the body for fuller benefit and relaxation.
For example, Shankara’s Harmonizing Body Oil is formulated with the goodness of exotic herbs and herbal extracts like raspberry seed, black cohosh, clary sage, sesame oil, grapeseed oil, borage, aloe vera and castor oil and other herbs.
It uplifts, rebalances, and centers you. It comes with a fragrance that engages your senses in a soothing and relaxing way. The raspberry in the oil has an anti-aging quality to it, fights inflammations, acne and blemishes. Clary sage present in it is a natural mood lifter, mitigates stress and also soothes menstrual cramps.
Here are five calming Ayurveda inspired body oils to cool you down, soften your skin, reduce dryness, chronic pain and heal anxiety and stress.
Give spirituality a chance
Studies now show that developing faith or spiritual engagement can also help reduce cortisol levels. A direct way spirituality helps is, it helps you surrender your anxieties and burdens to a higher power, thereby making you experience lightness and a sense of well-being. This sends a signal to your system that all is good and that there is no raging threat to respond to. Faith groups also provide social support that helps one feel secure. Committing acts of random kindness, serving the community can also have a similar effect on the cortisol levels. Studies also show that practicing faith has helped many adults log lower cortisol levels even while undergoing life-threatening illnesses.
“Spirituality gives you a deep sense of inner contentment and, as a result, you can discharge your duties and responsibilities much better. Every person wants happiness, wants love. That is what spirituality provides. Spirituality is just living life to the fullest, living it as a celebration. Certain elements, if present, make life a fulfilling experience. Staying healthy, knowing a little bit about oneself in some depth, spending some time with nature, living in harmony with it, caring for people around you, doing some service. We find that all these aspects are part of ancient cultures all over the world. You don’t have to leave or sacrifice anything to have a spiritual life,” says spiritual leader and humanitarian, often called the Guru of Joy, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.