Skip to Content
HCA Midwest Health

How to reduce stress hormones: 5 ways to lower cortisol levels

Chronic stress and cortisol buildup can cause health problems like high blood pressure. Learn how to reduce stress hormones and improve your health.

Tayla Holman
April 01, 2024
If you're in a constant state of stress, learning how to reduce stress hormones is critical to minimizing your risk of health problems such as high blood pressure and heart disease.

According to a survey from the American Psychological Association, Americans are more stressed than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on America's collective mental health, and issues such as climate change, inflation and racial inequality have contributed to increased stress across the nation. And stress doesn't only impact mental health; Cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, can cause serious physical health concerns if it builds up in the body.

If you want to learn how to reduce stress hormones, it's important to first understand what causes stress and how it affects your body. From there, you can take a few practical steps to support healthy cortisol levels.

What is stress?

Stress is a state of worry caused by a difficult situation. It's a natural human response that everyone experiences from time to time. When you're stressed, your body releases hormones, triggering your "fight or flight" response. Typically, your body returns to normal once the perceived danger has passed. But when you have chronic stress, your body stays in a heightened state of alertness even when you're not in danger. Chronic stress can lead to many physical and mental health problems, including anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system.

A variety of factors can contribute to stress, including grief, job loss or financial difficulty. Even positive life changes, such as a promotion or buying a home, can cause stress. In these situations, stress can motivate you to keep moving forward.

How does stress affect the body?

People handle stress differently. Some can move through stressful situations with relative ease, while others are more sensitive to its effects. Signs of stress can include:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Forgetfulness or difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in appetite
  • Irritability
  • Upset stomach
  • Headaches

If you're in a constant state of stress, learning how to reduce stress hormones is critical to minimizing your risk of health problems, such as high blood pressure and heart disease.

How to reduce stress hormones

The relationship between stress and cortisol levels goes both ways: Reducing cortisol means reducing stress and vice versa. Here are some steps you can take to lower your cortisol.

1. Eat a balanced diet

What you eat can impact your cortisol levels. One study found that a diet high in added sugar and saturated fat can cause higher cortisol levels than a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Dietary fiber from beans, nuts and seeds can also help keep cortisol levels stable.

2. Limit caffeine intake

While your morning cup of coffee may wake you up, caffeine can increase your cortisol levels. It can also affect your mood. High levels of caffeine may make you feel good initially but eventually cause you to crash. You don't have to avoid caffeine completely, but if you notice that a second cup of coffee makes you feel worse instead of better, limit your intake to one cup a day or switch to decaf.

3. Get enough sleep

Stress can make it difficult to fall or stay asleep. But not getting enough sleep can increase cortisol, potentially increasing stress. Prioritize getting a good night's rest. In addition to lowering cortisol levels, cutting down on caffeine can make it easier for you to fall asleep at night. You can also try:

  • Drinking chamomile tea
  • Keeping your room cool and dark
  • Limiting electronics before bedtime
  • Using a white noise machine or sleep sounds
  • Establishing a consistent sleep schedule

4. Try relaxation techniques

You don't have to be a yogi to benefit from relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation. One of the benefits of deep breathing is that you can do it anywhere, whenever you start feeling stressed. Taking controlled, deep breaths can help lower your blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol levels.

5. Consider supplements

A balanced diet is the best way to get essential, mood-supporting nutrients that can aid in stress management, but certain supplements can help too. For example, omega-3 fatty acids — healthy fats found in fatty fish like salmon, chia seeds and flaxseeds — have been shown to help reduce cortisol levels. You can get omega-3s from fish oil supplements. Vitamin D, which is also available as a supplement, has also been linked to lower cortisol levels.

Taking a personalized approach

Individual responses to stress vary, so what works for one person may not work for you. That's why it's essential to talk to your doctor before making significant lifestyle changes. Your doctor can help you create an individualized plan that works for your unique needs and circumstances. With the right approach, you can regulate your cortisol levels and keep stress at bay.

April 01, 2024

Related Blog Posts

De-stress the halls: How holiday stress can hurt your health 

November 27, 2023
How to eliminate stress this holiday season.

De-stress the halls: How holiday stress can hurt your health 

November 27, 2023
How to eliminate stress this holiday season.

Five tips for healthy aging 

November 01, 2023
Caring for your body, mind, mental health, and relationships has health benefits no matter your age.

8 benefits of nature on your cancer journey 

July 12, 2023
Nature can help heal hearts and offer support during any cancer journey.