Stressed? Here Are 5 Ways That Could Help You

In the wake of COVID19, it’s easy for stress to become a constant state of being. 

Many of us are worried that we are going to get the virus, or if we will be able to keep our jobs, or how we will pay rent, or even about that dreaded trip to the grocery store with long lines and people. 

The unknowns that this season of life has brought have simply been stressful. 

Unfortunately, stress affects a lot more than just our mental state. 

When some kind of feeling is occuring in the mind, there is also a change in the physical processes happening in your brain and body. 

Let’s take a look at our major hormone involved in stress: cortisol. 

Cortisol is usually our friend but sometimes can become the enemy. 

Cortisol is like a built-in alarm system; it triggers our “fight or flight” response to keep us free from danger. It affects our heart, blood pressure, and breath to get us prepared to take on a threat. 

But what happens when you're under constant stress and your alarm system stays activated?  This overactive cortisol production can lead to a number of bad cognitive and body effects, including: 

  • Anxiety
  • Memory loss
  • Lack of focus
  • Sleeping problems
  • Lack of appetite
  • Digestive issues
  • Weight gain
  • High blood pressure
  • Panic attacks

Prolonged cortisol production may even cause the brain to shrink and could be a precursor for many inflammatory diseases!

Even though we can’t always control outside circumstances, like COVID19, we CAN often help control the ways in which we personally navigate stress. 

Let’s talk about 5 ways to help us reduce our stress levels, no matter what is going on around us!


#1: Get outside! 

Start simple. Did you know that sunlight is thought to increase endorphin production - your feel-good neurotransmitter (1)? Or that seeing nature can help statistically reduce stress and cortisol levels (2)?

What’s more, your body needs sunlight to produce Vitamin D, an important vitamin for mood regulation. Vitamin D works to help promote the synthesis of serotonin, another neurotransmitter associated with feelings of well-being and happiness (3). 

Do yourself a service and go outside - it could be the easiest way to feel better!


#2: Take a deep breathe

While you're outside, why not take some full, deep breaths? 

Stopping to take a few big inhales throughout the day is another quick way to help work on lowering stress levels. 

When you take a big breath, scientists suggest it could help send a signal to your brain to calm down. 

Breathing deeply can lower your cortisol levels, your blood pressure, and your heart rate (4)! 

Meditation is a great way to practice breathing, but if it feels unnatural to you, simply try breathing exercises! Here is an article by the University of Michigan that features some great breathing practices. 


#3: Get your body moving

Committing to exercise can be hard, but even just 30 minutes a day can help reduce cortisol levels and improve your mood (5, 6)! 

According to Harvard Health, any type of aerobic exercise that gets your muscles working and your heart rate up - like yoga, running, weight-lifting, even dancing - can boost your brain’s production of endorphins (7). 

Exercise also allows your mind to focus on your body in the present and can give you a break from the stressors of the day.


#4: Eat for your brain

Before heading straight for a prescription, you may want to look for natural ways that you can combat stress with your diet. 

Here are some of the foods and nutrients that studies suggest can help you reduce your cortisol levels and even improve your serotonin levels!


Adaptogens are plants that could work to help the body resist stressors. Normally in the form of herbs, roots, or mushrooms, adaptogens are common in Ancient Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine due to their powerful healing properties. 
Adaptogens work by helping to strengthen your adrenal glands and certain areas of your brain to help lower your stress reactions. Studies suggest they are able to affect your hormone production, physiological reactions, and immune response to ensure that your stress response is appropriate and not harmful to your body. 
Some common adaptogens for stress are ginseng, turmeric, ashwagandha, goji berry, astragalus, cordyceps, and holy basil. Ready to try some? Four Sigmatic is an organic coffee company that combines adaptogen mushrooms like lion’s mane, ashwagandha, and cordyceps with their drink options!
Vitamin C

In addition to giving our immune system a boost, vitamin C has shown to decrease our cortisol levels (8)!


Did you know that it’s very common to have a magnesium deficiency? One reason for this is that the soil in which we grow our plants is often lacking in magnesium, due to common agriculture practices that can strip the soil of it’s beneficial nutrients. 
Research has shown that magnesium is helpful for quality sleep as well as stress reduction. It does this by increasing GABA, a neurotransmitter for sleep that also improves relaxation (9). 
Feeling stressed and wanting to reach for some sweets? You can do that and improve your magnesium levels with a snack of dark chocolate! 
Especially in young adults, omega-3s have shown that they can reduce anxiety (10). Scientists have also determined a correlation with low omega-3s and high cortisol levels 10). 
Don’t forget to eat your fish, nuts, and seeds! 

Sipping on a hot beverage can help improve our mental state. What’s more, black tea has been shown to decrease cortisol levels (11). If caffeine isn’t in the cards, an herbal tea like chamomile can have many calming effects and can help improve your sleep. 


Did you know that 90% of your serotonin is produced in the gut??
Our guts have a completely underrated part in our mood regulation. When our gut is inflamed from unhealthy eating habits, our connection with our brain is disrupted and symptoms of anxiety occur. 
Probiotics, which are bacteria that improve your microbiome, and prebiotics, foods that feed the good bacteria, have been shown to reduce cortisol levels.
Show your gut some love with healthy probiotic and prebiotic food choices, like kimchi, greek yogurt, kefir, kombucha, bananas, onions, garlic, and leeks.
#5: Unwind with a glass of water

As simple as it seems, drinking enough water each day can actually help lower your cortisol levels (12). Dehydration can lead to higher cortisol levels, so keep a water bottle with you or set reminders on your phone to remind you to drink. 

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