How to get your cortisol under control

Women relaxing on her bed to reduce her cortisol levels

In today’s fast-paced world, we often find ourselves juggling multiple roles and responsibilities, which can take a toll on our overall health and well-being. One significant factor that can disrupt this delicate balance is cortisol, the stress hormone. High cortisol levels can lead to a range of health issues, both physical and emotional. But luckily there are some practical and effective ways to get your cortisol under control and restore a healthy happy balance to your life. Here’s how to support your body and stress less.

Prioritise self-care

The first step in managing cortisol is to prioritise self-care. Carving out time each day for activities that bring you joy and relaxation is essential. Engaging in things like reading, yoga, taking a warm bath or pursuing a hobby. Regular self-care practices help alleviate stress, promote a sense of well-being and therefore naturally lower cortisol levels. Self-care can also come in the form of small micro-habits that fit into your everyday activities like a few deep breaths, taking a quick walk or listening to your favourite song. Self-care is personal and can look different for everyone, it’s important to find what works best for you and your body.

Identify and manage stress triggers

Another key step in managing your cortisol is taking time to identify the factors that contribute to your stress levels. It could be work-related pressure, relationship issues, financial concerns, or even certain environments. Once you pinpoint your stress triggers, explore strategies to manage them effectively. This might involve setting boundaries, delegating tasks, or seeking support from loved ones or professionals. 

Adopt a balanced diet

What you eat can significantly impact your cortisol levels. Opting for a balanced diet including plenty of fruit, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains can be beneficial for supporting and nourishing your body in a whole range of areas. Be mindful of highly processed and high-sugar foods as they can spike cortisol levels. Additionally, consider incorporating foods rich in vitamin C, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids, as they have been shown to support adrenal health and cortisol regulation.

Be mindful of caffeine consumption 

Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, energy drinks and some soft drinks. It has a direct impact on the body’s stress response and can influence cortisol levels. Consuming caffeine temporarily increases cortisol levels in the body as part of the natural stress response. If you notice that caffeine consumption significantly impacts your stress levels, sleep patterns or overall health, it may be worth exploring alternative caffeine-free hot drink options.

Practice mindfulness and meditation

Mindfulness and meditation are powerful tools to manage stress and regulate cortisol levels. Dedicate a few minutes each day to sit quietly, focus on your breathing and let go of racing thoughts. Consider exploring mindfulness apps or guided meditations to assist you in establishing a regular habit and routine of practice. These techniques can help reduce anxiety, promote mental clarity and balance cortisol production. 

Get sufficient sleep

Adequate sleep is crucial for hormonal balance and managing cortisol levels. Sleep is known to decrease cortisol levels and a lack of quality sleep can cause the body to react as if it’s in distress, therefore releasing more cortisol. Aim to establish a consistent sleep routine and aim for 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night. Create a relaxing environment in your bedroom, free from distractions and practice good sleep hygiene. If you struggle with sleep, consider implementing relaxation techniques before bed to work out a routine that works well for you. 

Regular exercise

Physical activity not only benefits your physical health but also has a positive impact on cortisol levels. Engaging in regular exercise helps release endorphins, which are natural mood boosters and stress reducers. Find activities you enjoy, whether it’s going for a run, a brisk walk, a yoga class, or strength training. It is important to note that, too much intense exercise can cause more cortisol in the body and have a negative effect, as exercise is a form of stress on the body. Therefore, it is important to listen to your body and incorporate a mixture of high and low-intensity exercises with sufficient rest. 

Build a supportive network

Strong social connections and a support network can significantly impact your stress levels. Surround yourself with positive, understanding individuals who uplift and support you. Sharing your concerns, and thoughts and seeking guidance from loved ones can help alleviate stress and promote a healthy cortisol balance. 

Everyone’s stressors and coping mechanisms differ, so it’s essential to find what works best for you. Experiment with different techniques and strategies, and be patient with yourself as you navigate the process of managing cortisol levels. By incorporating these practices into your daily life, you can regain control, reduce stress and improve your overall health. 



Written by Harriet Lidgard

Nutritionist (BSc) & Health Coach


**At Free Soul, your wellbeing is our priority, and although we pride ourselves on our expertise in women's health and wellbeing, it is important to acknowledge the individuality of each person. Features published by Free Soul are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease, or replace the advice of your GP. We always recommend consulting with a healthcare provider if you encounter any health concerns, and we’ll always be here to support you so you’re never alone on your journey.