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So far, we’ve talked about cortisol’s role in life-threatening situations that result in fight-or-flight reactions, and we’ve talked about some of the most important things you can do to get a handle on stress and overproduction of cortisol in situations that don’t pose actual physical threats.

It may seem like a lot to take in, but it boils down to this:

The problem: Constant high-level stress and worry can trigger too much cortisol production, making us age faster, gain unwanted stomach fat, and feel too fatigued to enjoy our lives.

The goal: Prevent adrenal burnout and all of these emotional and physical repercussions by reducing stress.

Today, let’s get beyond basics and address some of the more unusual or surprising steps you can take to ease stress. As you’ll see, good self-care is more than merely another task to check off your endless to-do list—it can even be enjoyable.

A nose for calm

Aromatherapy doesn’t simply elevate mood. It can also come in handy for taming oversensitive stress reactions.

Your Cortisol-Busting Strategy: Some essential oils are particularly calming. Try bringing down the frantic feelings by adding essence of lavender, rose, orange, bergamot, or lemon to the bath. Or carry that sense of calm with you by dabbing it on your wrists.

Sleep tight

Do you have so much on your mind that you can’t shut it off at the end of the day? High levels of cortisol at night will compromise your ability to get the recuperative sleep you need.

Your Cortisol-Busting Strategy: Start slowing down your physical and mental pace long before bedtime. Turn off all electronics earlier, incorporate some calming bedtime rituals, take a warm bath, try some chamomile tea, and listen to a little quiet music or guided imagery.

Colorful foods trump starches

Have you noticed you crave high carbohydrate foods and eat more in general during stressful periods? It’s no coincidence. Cortisol production signals your brain to seek out high carbohydrate foods (after all, running away or fighting the bear takes plenty of calories!). What’s more, these extra energy stores are kept in the belly so that they’re close and ready for use in the next emergency.

Your Cortisol-Busting Strategy: Don’t give in to the cravings. Instead, relieve your hunger with flavonoid-rich foods such as berries, fruits, leafy greens, and other vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables. Not only will you skip the unnecessary carbs, flavonoids are helpful in reducing the effects of too much cortisol in your system. Good news: You don’t have to deprive yourself. Flavonoids are also found in dark chocolate!

Burn off stress—and calories, too

Even if you’re exercising regularly, stress can undermine weight-loss efforts. That’s because cortisol doesn’t just make you hungrier, it also contributes to poor muscle tone and reduced muscle mass. That’s double trouble because a lower metabolic rate limits the number of calories burned during your workout.

Your Cortisol-Busting Strategy: Make sure your exercise program includes muscle-building activity, like lifting weights or using your own body weight, such as with push-ups. Choose your exercise program carefully. If you pick a strength-builder that you look forward to doing, you’ll get double the stress-busting benefit by addressing your spirit as well as your body.

Adrenal fatigue is so common, it may be considered an epidemic. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be a permanent condition. Take steps to reduce your symptoms and your risk by addressing stress. Need a hand getting started? I can guide you through the changes and challenges ahead, giving you the hand up you need to get stress under control. Contact me at roberta@robertamittman.com or 212-686-0939.

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