6 Ways to Decrease Your Chronic Stress
In today’s fast-paced, highly pressurized world, we can all agree that most of us are
mentally and emotionally strained for a significant part of each day. Maybe your ride
was late. Your meeting didn’t go as well as you’d planned. The kids are more hyper
than usual. When under long-term, chronic stress, these everyday demands and
fluctuations can begin to feel overwhelming or sometimes impossible.
Here are some concrete steps you can take to decrease your stress and give your body
and mind some much needed rest:
1. Observe Your Reactions
At its core, stress is based on reaction- an external stimulant triggers a stress response
in the brain, which then sends messages throughout the body to prepare for action. A
certain amount of this is necessary for human survival, and it’s important to remember
that stress is not inherently bad or wrong. But what happens when your stress reactions
don’t match the intensity of the situations around you? What happens when your stress
never seems to go away?
Chronic stress often occurs when the brain begins sending those stress responses too
often or at unnecessary times. Next time you feel stressed, take a moment to breathe
and observe your reactions. See if you can identify a particular source (or sources) for
your stress, whether it’s emotional, physical, or mental (spoiler alert: they’re all
2. Decrease Your Cortisol Levels
Cortisol is the stress hormone that directly relates to our perception of stress.
Unfortunately, cortisol also gets a bad rap for this exact reason.
Everyone experiences a natural boost of cortisol first thing in the morning when waking
up (generally followed by a slow decrease throughout the day). But when the brain
perceives stress, it causes cortisol levels to spike. The longer you feel stressed, the
longer the cortisol spike. And the longer the cortisol spike, the longer it takes your body
and brain to wind down after a stressful event.
Over time, this kind of cortisol imbalance can compound on itself, leading to chronic
anxiety and an inability to relax. Panic attacks often cause a sudden and all-consuming
fear of dying. This provokes an intense stress response, which causes your adrenals to
turn cortisol levels up to 100%. And once again, the longer the cortisol spike, the longer
and more difficult it is for your body to return to balance afterward.
3. Decrease Caffeine Intake
This is a hard one for those of us who already have imbalanced cortisol levels because
we’re constantly playing catch up in a seemingly never-ending cycle of stress and
exhaustion. Although coffee might give us a temporary boost that feels like real energy,
it actually raises cortisol, and makes us more sensitive and less tolerant to stress.
Avoiding stress doesn’t have to mean giving up coffee altogether. But even the
occasional choice to go half-caf or decaf will make a difference.
4. Try herbs!
Adaptogenic herbs help to buffer the stress response and lower or raise cortisol
depending on what your body needs. These usually come in the form of an herbal
powder, tincture, or supplement (check out the “Herbal Synergy” blend by Energize
Organics to find out more)! Ashwagandha or Mucuna Pruriens are two other herbs
that can help modulate and lower stress.
5. Take small meditation breaks throughout the day.
These don’t have to be elaborate or take a lot of time. Just close your eyes and
breathe for at least 30 seconds-1 minute. If you don’t meditate, a moment of silence,
prayer, or period of quiet contemplation will do. Make space for your mind and body.
6. Get more rest.
Decreasing caffeine, maintaining a healthy diet, and observing and modulating your
internal reactions will help to decrease your cortisol levels, thereby making it easier
for you to wind down and relax after a long day. If you still have issues, consider
supplementing with natural remedies- essential oils in a diffuser before bedtime, a
calming chat with a friend, or even just a cup of tea can all help promote a calming
transition into sleep.
Until next time!