The holidays can be a particularly stressful time of year, but have you ever stopped to think how that stress is affecting your health?
Our primary stress hormone, Cortisol, has a significant impact on our body and our health. During periods of increased stress, Cortisol levels rise and affect everything from immune function to cognitive health.
Let’s take a look at some of the dangers of increased Cortisol levels and how you can naturally reduce them.
Dangers of High Cortisol Levels
Cognition and Memory
If you are chronically stressed out, chances are good that you have a poor memory. This is because the area of the brain responsible for storing memories (the hippocampus) contains a huge number of cortisol receptors. When cortisol levels are high, the hippocampus becomes overwhelmed and this can cause localized atrophy. 
High cortisol levels can damage the hippocampus and cause mild to severe memory loss. This is generally only an issue in chronically stressed individuals.
T-cells are a critical piece of our immune system, more specifically in cell-mediated immunity. High stress levels cause cortisol to hinder these T-cells, preventing them from proliferating.
Cortisol also affects our inflammatory response by limiting the histamine response. Generally inflammation is thought of as a “bad guy”, which is true, sort of. Inflammation is actually a natural part of the body’s healing process, a boon to our health and immune function. Chronic inflammation on the other hand is a detriment, helping to manifest diseases and impair our immunity. [2,3]
Individuals who suffer from chronic stress are much more vulnerable to infection due to their limited immune response. The cells responsible for clearing away the infection are instead inundated with cortisol and unable to do their job.
5 Natural Ways to Reduce Cortisol
A Good Night’s Sleep
It is no secret that when we don’t get a good night’s sleep, we suffer the next day.
Studies have shown that people who had 6 hours of sleep, had 50% higher cortisol levels than those who got a full 8 hours. 
All hope is not lost though, if you fall short of the recommended 8 hours of sleep, you can help to reduce the increase in cortisol by taking a short nap.
Meditation can do wonders for our physical and mental wellbeing, it can even help combat stress!
People who meditate regularly have significantly lower cortisol levels and even have healthier blood pressure levels. 
If you are already a tea drinker, you know the calming effect it can have. Science has gone a step further to not only confirm this, but prove that regularly enjoying a cup of black tea will lower cortisol levels following an acute episode of stress. 
Listen to Music
It is quite remarkable just how profoundly music can impact our mood and even our health. Music can have a powerful calming effect, reducing stress levels and making stressful situations far more bearable. 
During the most stressful points in your day, try putting on some calming background music. You will be surprised just how effective this simple solution can be.
Laugh Loud, Laugh Often
This may not come naturally during stressful times, but try to laugh numerous times throughout the day. Studies have shown that the simple act of laughing can cut cortisol levels nearly in half! 
Author: Jeffrey Sutton contributes to numerous online health sites and publications. Having spent years specializing in natural health supplements with an emphasis on Glutathione, Jeffrey recently formulated the Glutathione enhancing supplement GSH Gold.
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