Updated: Jan 29, 2020
“Don't underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering.” – Winnie the Pooh
Skip to how to actually decrease your stress and cortisol by scrolling down
Cortisol is essentially a hormone that influences or can be influenced by stress. If we do not keep our levels down it can affect our mood, performance, health, muscle growth and how long we live
The human body is not used to being in a heightened stressed state for long periods of time and unfortunately, our lifestyles demand it.
It is essential we learn how to control our cortisol
Cortisol naturally spikes high in the morning then during the afternoon, it is supposed to dip allowing melatonin to spike as we start to sleep.
Melatonin is what allows us to achieve high-quality levels of rest, and recovery for our bodies, brains and minds during sleep
Micro Stress Dose - MSD’s increase our cortisol and stress levels. These can happen as soon as we wake up which can lead us into a flow of being constantly sensitive to stress
Take reset moments (RM). An RM for R.E.M. (sleep). A reset moment is consciously stopping the flow of cortisol.
It is absolutely key to learn to recognise when you’re in high cortisol and stressful state, acknowledge it, and then try to remove it.
It is also key that you increase awareness of high cortisol and stressful states, especially in your schedule. Being aware of the stress that may come up during the day, the next day and the rest of the week is essential.
Scroll down to see the list of what you can actually to reduce cortisol and a stressful flow here
What Is Cortisol?
Cortisol is essentially a hormone that influences or can be influenced by stress. It can be extremely positive to the body in small doses and negative in continuous high doses.
Positive: Cortisol can help control blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, help reduce inflammation, and assist with memory formulation. It has a controlling effect on salt and water balance and helps control blood pressure.
Negative: Cortisol also causes your body to respond to stress or danger, increase your body's metabolism of glucose, control your blood pressure and reduce inflammation.
Cortisol is used and is spiked when exposed to stress. High stressed states cause cortisol to rise and if cortisol is elevated for too long it can be damaging on the body.
Is Your Day Overloaded With Stress or MSD’s?
Your body has a limit to the amount of stress or micro stress doses (MSD’s) it can process in a day. If you start your day with a few MSD’s you can open the flood gates and increase your sensitivity to being sensitive to more MSD’s. If you're constantly exposed you can end build weekly habits to being constantly sensitive MSD’s all day. Resulting in a constant stream of cortisol throughout the day.
Johnny’s day may look somewhat like yours, the following are all examples of MSD’s:
Wakes up to an alarm
Hits snooze wakes up to another alarm
Has to rush to get out of bed
Immediately remembers all of the tasks he has to do today
Gets distracted and has to rush getting ready for the day
Almost forgets saying goodbye to his partner
Gets stuck in traffic
May have to fill up in petrol
Still stuck in traffic
Arrives to work just in time but immediately has to start and doesn’t get a chance to focus
Phone keeps ringing
Emails flood in
Starts rushing at work trying to remember all the things he has to do not just at work but also outside of work
By the time Johnny has started work he has been exposed to so many MSD’s that his stress tolerance tank is depleted. This means that his cortisol will rise and remain risen throughout the day unless he does something about it. You can see this in Figure 2.
So what can Johnny do? Firstly I’ll quickly explain how cortisol is supposed to work so you understand, there is also a list that could help below.
Cortisol and Melatonin
Figure 1 shows how cortisol and melatonin should flow throughout the day.
You can see here the black line “cortisol”:
Spikes in the morning
Slowly decreases through the day
Drops down to nothing in the evening
Rises again for the morning
Notice when your cortisol is down the red line “melatonin” rises.
Melatonin is your champion sleep hormone. If your melatonin level is healthy you will most likely have one of the best restful and regenerative sleep possible. We all know how critical sleep is for performance, health, energy and regeneration.
If your cortisol DOES NOT decrease, your melatonin will not rise and may reflect the red line in Figure 2 below.
If your melatonin DOES NOT rise you will not get the rest you need to be you, at your best.
Basically, what we need to do is ensure that during our day our cortisol decreases and be aware of what can cause cortisol spikes. Cortisol spikes and MSD’s will prevent cortisol from dipping down to the level it needs to to allow melatonin to rise.
It is essential to look out our own daily schedule of exposure to MSD’s, positive and negative stress.
We need to spike our positive stress in the morning and reduce all other stresses throughout the day. If we find ourselves in an elevated state we may need to take a step back and have a moment to ourselves to relax, calm down or meditate.
What this does is closes the flood gates and puts a stop to your highly sensitive high stress and cortisol state. This gives you a chance to re calibrate and allow you to control and decrease your stress levels. Hopefully, getting the ball rolling for continually being in a calm and collected state.
What Do We Do Then?
What are we supposed to do? It's really simple:
Allow cortisol to spike in the morning with a positive stress and decrease accordingly as the day goes on.
And that's it, when cortisol decreases it allows melatonin to rise. (see my article on meditation here).
How Do We Decrease Our Stress and Cortisol Response?
We decrease our stress and cortisol levels by relaxing and by giving yourself permission to reset. Take a reset moment (RM). An RM for R.E.M. (sleep).
A reset moment is consciously stopping the flow of cortisol. Again, this gives you control over your attitude and response to stressful or micro stressful situations, the pressure people may put on you, or the pressure you put on yourself.
It is absolutely key to recognise when you’re in a high cortisol and stressful state, acknowledge it, then try to remove it (some examples on the list further down may help you).
It is also key that you increase awareness of high cortisol and stressful states especially in future.
Being aware of the stress that may come up during the day, the next day and the rest of the week is essential. Using a journal or even weekly looking at your calendar or weekly to-do list may be of benefit to you.
Look at what days are going to be the most stressful, what the most stressful events are on, when you most need to be prepared an organised to reduce stress. The schedule in your RM’s (reset moments), especially on the high stress days.
For example, I catch a 50 minute train to work so I do a 1 x 20 minute meditation in the morning to reset. I also have sauna Thursdays and long hot baths early on Monday nights. Daily, I take a 30 minute walks outside in the evening with no distractions like music, but maybe an audio book to wind down. These things really decrease my cortisol and stress. As a result, my performance, sleep and stress response have dramatically improved.
Somethings you can add into your schedule and be mindful of are any of the following:
The best thing to do is to learn how to Meditate (see link here)
Get the right amount of sleep
Learn to recognise stressful thinking
Learn to really let yourself relax and get into a relaxed state
Morning Gratitude List (top 3 things your grateful for) this is probably the most simple but effective action besides meditation. I encourage you to try it every day for at least a week. This is genius in simplicity.
Quality family time
Reset Moment journal - when your stressed write down why your stressed and how its making you feel (physical symptoms and emotional symptoms)
Brain dump - journaling tomorrows To-Do List before bed (this allows your brain to stop thinking about future stressors)
Wake up earlier
Longer outside walks - walking gets your blood flowing and allows your body to remove toxins and lower cortisol. Walk without your phone
Get your exercise in first thing
Earthing - doing something barefoot outside
Coffee curfew of 2pm
Read a book
Light exercise like yoga
Sauna (no distractions unless a guided meditation)
Distraction break 20-30 minutes to yourself no phones, no book, no Netflix no work just you for 20-30 minutes
Massage or long stretch
Quality family time
Night time curfew to remove ALL distractions (yes your phone too)
Look at your schedule and calendar and try at least 3 of these things 5 would be better.
For guided meditation links I like please click here.
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