Stressed (and exhausted, and unable to lose pounds that seem to have appeared out of nowhere)? There’s a well-meaning culprit named cortisol that may be to blame. Produced by your adrenal glands, this “stress hormone” helps regulate blood pressure and the immune system during a sudden crisis, whether a physical attack or an emotional setback. This helps you to tap into your energy reserves and increases your ability to fight off infection.
Here are eight surprising ways to invoke stress management, which can, in some cases, cut your cortisol levels almost in half from blackdoctor.org:
Subjects who practiced Buddhist meditation significantly decreased both cortisol and blood pressure in a 6-week Thai study. Similarly, participants who meditated daily for 4 months decreased the hormone by an average of 20% in a study at Maharishi University, while levels in the nonmeditating control group actually went up slightly. Visit prevention.com/meditate to learn meditation’s other stress-relieving benefits.
Listen To Some Tunes
Music can have a calming effect on the brain, especially while you’re facing down a major stressor. When doctors at Japan’s Osaka Medical Center played tunes for a group of patients undergoing colonoscopies, the patients’ cortisol levels rose less than those of others who underwent the same procedure in a quiet room. Even if an invasive gastrointestinal exam isn’t in your immediate future, you can forestall cortisol spikes in other stressful situations–when hosting dinner for your in-laws, for instance–by queueing up background music. And to wind down faster at bedtime, listen to something soothing instead of watching TV.
Get Some Sleep
What’s the difference between getting 6 hours of sleep instead of the suggested 8? “Fifty percent more cortisol in the bloodstream,” Talbott says. When a group of pilots slept 6 hours or less for 7 nights while on duty, their cortisol levels increased significantly and stayed elevated for 2 days, found a study at Germany’s Institute for Aerospace Medicine. The recommended 8 hours of nightly shut-eye allows your body enough time to recover from the day’s stresses, Talbott says. When you fall short of the mark, take a nap the next day–Pennsylvania State University researchers found that a midday snooze cut cortisol levels in subjects who’d lost sleep the previous night.