From breathing in lavender-scented essential oil, to going for a kickboxing class to work out your pent up frustrations, and even sleeping with a weighted blanket to help relieve insomnia -- there are a ton of ways to help relieve stress, but they all seem to cost a pretty penny.
The good news is that we have some science-backed ways to help you lower the stress hormones in your body. The better news is that they are all free, and can be practiced in the comforts of your own home.
What are stress hormones, anyway?
Stress hormones are also known as cortisol. They are hormones produced by the adrenaline gland and influences our immune responses, metabolism, and blood pressure as part of a "fight or flight" survival mechanism that the human body naturally created to give us the energy to survive in stressful situations.
In today’s hectic world, we are dealing more with emotional stress rather than physical dangers. But our body can’t tell the difference so it continues to tell cortisol to do its job. If we don't manage to deal with stress and lower our cortisol levels, having constantly high cortisol levels can deprive us of sleep, lead to weight gain, and cause various immunity and digestive problems. Here are some simple hacks you can apply to reduce cortisol levels and feel better:
1. Sleeping an hour earlier can reduce cortisol levels by 50%
There's a reason why your parents nag at you when they check in on you at 12am and you're still up youtubing away. The benefits of a good night’s sleep cannot be overstated as it goes a long way in improving the quality of your life.
A study conducted by the Institute of Aerospace Medicine in Germany showed that helicopter pilots who slept 6 hours instead of the recommended 8 hours had an increase of 50-80% in cortisol levels. If, however, for some reason you don't manage to get enough sleep, try to take a nap the following day. It can work wonders in bringing your cortisol levels down as well.
2. Drinking black tea can reduce cortisol levels by 47%
Tea time! What's popularly seen in movies and tv drama series as the time old ladies sip tea and gossip about the neighbours. It's no wonder those old ladies are living to a ripe old age, researchers from the University College London conducted an experiment over a period of six weeks where a group of volunteers was given 4 cups of black tea every day, while another group was drinking plain water.
Both groups were given stressful tasks to complete, and while they recorded similar increase in cortisol levels, those who drank black tea had 47% lower cortisol levels an hour after completing the tasks. Those who drank water had their cortisol levels decreased just 27%.
So pick your favourite time of the day when you can be on your own, make yourself a cup of Lipton black tea in the kitchen and enjoy the silence. Try to make this your daily habit.
3. Listening to soothing music reduces cortisol levels by 66%
If you're not a fan of tea, I'm sure you are a fan of listening to music. We all know that music can stir up emotions in us, but did you know certain genres can evoke more positive emotions and lift our spirits? We can all benefit by using music as part of our stress-relief therapy.
A study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information explored the effects of instrumental music during a surgery procedure, and proved that soothing music helped the patient reduce cortisol levels by up to 66%. The types of music that are the most effective are instrumental music such as classical, soft jazz, and sounds of nature.
So, whenever you feel like you are going to explode, plug in your earphones and play some music. It helps to create a "I’m-not-going-to-freak-out" playlist on Youtube or Spotify, and make that your go-to music when you need to unwind. This is a good channel to start off with.