This short guide is designed for those who have read my introduction to cortisol and would like to know a few easy ways to help treat themselves. If you would like more individualised recommendations then you may like to sign up with me for nutrition and health coaching.
Use light to signal your brain when it is time to increase production of cortisol. As cortisol levels should naturally increase soon after sunrise – try to get at least half an hour of direct sunlight as early as you can in the morning. If this is not possible you may find it useful to invest in a light box.
Keep your natural sunlight levels topped up throughout the day whenever possible, both directly in your eyes and on your skin.
Use light to signal your brain when it is time to further decrease production of cortisol. Use whatever technology you have at your disposal to reduce blue light from computer and smart phone screens as soon as it gets dark, consider buying blue blocking glasses to wear after sundown (you may also find these useful to use any time that you are exposed to florescent lighting, but other wise avoid wearing these during the day) and cover up any sources of blue or florescent lights in your house. If you can, try to avoid any screen time at all within an hour or so of bedtime.
Try to keep to a sleep schedule every day of the week, if you must change your routine at the weekend try to go to bed and set your alarm no more than one hour later than during the week. Refer to my sleep tips if you have difficulty sleeping at night.
Feed your hormones
Use food to support natural hormone production. All hormones (and your brain itself) require undamaged cholesterol and saturated fat in production. Depending on my specific recommendations for you, egg yolks, fat from organic, grass-fed animals, butter, coconut oil or MCT oil are all useful sources.
Time your carbs
Use food to help signal to your body when cortisol production should increase and decrease. For instance reducing carbohydrate intake in the morning in favour of consuming carbohydrate sources at your evening meal can increase your energy levels during the day and help you to sleep at night.
Also, be aware that hunger can stress your brain as your system registers that lack of energy as a potential emergency. If you are getting physically hungry in between mealtimes it can be a sign that you are not consuming enough beneficial fats.
Avoid the use of caffeine while you reset your cortisol cycle as it stimulates cortisol production (and be aware that decaffeinated coffee will still have some caffeine.) If you tolerate caffeine well then at least restrict intake to the hours of 9am to 1pm.
While you are resetting your cortisol clock avoid cardio exercise in favour of walking, stretching and strength training. If you are committed to cardio exercise at least make sure that you only do this during daylight hours.
Find multiple times to relax during the day – reading, crafting, sitting in the sunshine or even taking a ten to twenty minute nap (no later than 2.30pm) can be useful.
Reduce cortisol triggering situations
Avoiding stressful situations is, while often difficult, crucial in reassuring your hormonal system that the adrenals don’t need to go into overdrive producing cortisol in response to a situation that you find difficult. It is important to remember that your adrenal glands release cortisol in response to any type of stress – whether it is real or perceived.
Making a note of situations that cause you to feel stressed and avoiding or at least adapting how you deal with these where possible will help your adrenals to stand down. Stressful situations will differ for everyone – they may be job related, family related, attending social occasions, checking social media, reading / watching the news, shopping in the supermarket etc.
Create a toolkit
Many people who are easily triggered into a flight-or-fight hormonal response may need a few extra “tools” to help lessen cortisol swings.
If your triggers are sensory then you may find sunglasses, headphones, ear plugs, a hanky doused with essential oils or something suitably textural to hold to be crucial items to keep with you at all times.
If you know that you are going to be in a stressful situation away from home then pack some suitable food so that you can fuel yourself when your glucose levels start to plummet.
If there are certain times of day when you always feel particularly anxious then consider downloading a relaxation app and try to use it just before your “trigger time.”
Please check my home page if you would like to know what other conditions can be resolved with individualised health and nutrition coaching.