Cortisol: What It Does & How To Regulate

Cortisol, along with adrenaline, is your body's main stress hormone which increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream and works with different parts of your brain to control mood, motivation and fear. When it comes to fear, think of cortisol as the body's built-in, slow-release alarm system. But that’s not all it does.

Blood levels of cortisol vary throughout the day, but generally are higher in the morning when we wake up, and then gradually fall until the day's end. This is called a diurnal rhythm. In people that work at night, this pattern is reversed, so the timing of cortisol release is directly linked to our daily activity and patterns.

The Dangers

Although we all know what stress feels like on a micro-level, we may not recognize it as something harmful long-term. The danger of our world's fast-paced culture is that many of us are constantly in high-stress mode. If your entire life is kicked into high gear, your body may constantly pump out cortisol causing high blood sugar, weight gain, suppressed immune system, digestive issues and even heart disease.

What You Can Do

The best exercises for reducing cortisol are mind-body practices such as yoga, meditation and breathing. Specifically, studies have shown yoga to be linked to lowered cortisol levels by means of increased resilience and pain tolerance, improved mood, and reduced anxiety.

The best time of the day to get in a mindful practice would be in the morning to satisfy our diurnal rhythms, when our cortisol levels are higher. By taking a few mindful moments each day, you will naturally feel less stressed, but also reducing the risks involved with high cortisol release.