Reducing Cortisol: A Lifestyle Approach to Managing Stress

In this video, Dr. Sten Ekberg explains how to reduce cortisol, the stress hormone, by addressing the underlying lifestyle factors that contribute to stress. He emphasizes the importance of understanding the body’s stress response and the role of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Dr. Ekberg suggests various strategies for managing stress, including aerobic exercise, high-intensity interval training, yoga, breathing exercises, meditation, mindfulness, celebrating small victories, appreciating the present moment, reading uplifting material, surrounding yourself with positive people, using essential oils, maintaining stable blood glucose levels, taking specific nutrients and minerals, stimulating the adrenal reflex points, spending time with pets, and engaging in hobbies. By implementing these lifestyle changes, individuals can effectively reduce cortisol and promote overall well-being.

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How does this happen?

Key Insights:

  • Reducing cortisol requires reducing stress, as cortisol is a stress hormone.
  • Stress has been linked to various disease conditions.
  • In order to reduce stress and cortisol, a lifestyle change is necessary.
  • The sympathetic nervous system activates the stress response, while the parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for healing.
  • The frontal lobe of the brain plays a crucial role in managing stress and turning off the stress response.
  • Ways to manage stress include pattern interrupt, brain stimulation, nutrients, and lifestyle modifications.
  • Aerobic exercise, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and recovery exercise can all contribute to reducing cortisol.
  • Yoga, breathing exercises, meditation, and mindfulness are effective practices for stress reduction.
  • Positive mindset, appreciation, and celebrating small victories help in managing stress.
  • Essential oils, adaptogenic herbs, minerals, and nutritional factors such as vitamin D, B vitamins, and DHA promote a calm state.
  • Stimulating adrenal points, spending time with pets, and engaging in hobbies can also assist in reducing cortisol.


Well, cortisol is a stress hormone, so in order to reduce cortisol, we have to reduce stress. Stress has been linked to every disease condition known to man. To truly reduce stress, we have to change our lifestyle. Today, we’ll discuss the steps to reduce stress and why they work.

Stress often starts with a trigger, such as weight loss goals. But to reduce cortisol, we have to change the bigger picture of our lifestyle. Cortisol is associated with adrenal fatigue, chronic fatigue syndrome, weight gain, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and muscle wasting.

Stress is a response from our sympathetic nervous system, the part of our brain that handles automatic body functions. It revs up our body and increases heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, LDL cholesterol, and cortisol to prepare for a fight or flight response. The parasympathetic nervous system handles digestion, healing, immune response, and reproduction. We can either activate our sympathetic or parasympathetic response, but not both at the same time.

Stress is not necessarily a bad thing as it keeps us alive in emergency situations. However, our modern lifestyle often causes chronic stress, which is detrimental to our health. We need to address the root causes to turn around the effects of stress.

Stress can be chemical, structural, or emotional. Chemical stress includes infections, toxicity, and imbalanced blood sugar. Structural stress includes lack of movement and spinal stiffness. Emotional stress refers to negative emotions like fear, anger, and grief. To fully manage stress, we need to address all aspects.

Our brain, specifically the frontal lobe, manages stress. It determines when to turn off the stress response. The frontal lobe inhibits the sympathetic response and turns on the parasympathetic response. This is how it regulates stress and healing. By understanding this mechanism, we can control stress.

Here are some solutions to reduce cortisol and manage stress:

1. Aerobic exercise: It interrupts the stress pattern, stimulates the brain, and increases oxygenation. It also reduces insulin and improves insulin sensitivity.

2. High-intensity interval training (HIIT): Short bursts of intense exercise increase growth hormone, which opposes cortisol.

3. Recover: Allow enough recovery time between exercises to let your body heal and balance stress.

4. Yoga: It interrupts the pattern of stress, stimulates the brain, and promotes flexibility and relaxation.

5. Breathing exercises: Slow breathwork balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

6. Meditation: Changing your focus increases frontal lobe activity and interrupts stress patterns.

7. Mindfulness: Make mindfulness a lifestyle habit, paying attention to how you feel and looking on the bright side.

8. Celebrate: Take time to appreciate and celebrate the good things that happen in your life.

9. Appreciate: Focus on the positive aspects of life and practice gratitude.

10. Read: Read or listen to uplifting material to interrupt patterns and change perspectives.

11. Positive people: Surround yourself with positive people who make you feel good.

12. Essential oils: Use essential oils for their scent and pattern interrupting effects.

13. Homeopathics and flower essences: Use natural remedies with calming effects.

14. Adaptogenic herbs: Ashwagandha, ginseng, and kava help calm the body.

15. Smile and laugh: Intentionally smile or laugh to change your mood and interrupt stress patterns.

16. Sleep: Sufficient and regular sleep increases growth hormone and opposes cortisol.

17. Intermittent fasting: Going periods without food increases growth hormone and reduces cortisol. However, stable blood glucose levels are necessary for optimal results.

18. Stable blood glucose: Avoid blood sugar fluctuations that can trigger cortisol release.

19. Brain and adrenal gland nutrition: Provide essential nutrients and calming substances like Vitamin D3, B vitamins, minerals, and DHA (found in fish oil).

20. Adrenal reflex points: Stimulate the adrenal points on your belly to help calm the adrenals and reduce stress.

21. Pets: Spending time with animals has a calming effect and interrupts stress patterns.

22. Hobbies: Engage in activities you enjoy to interrupt patterns and reduce stress.

23. Essential oils: Use scents or aromatherapy as a pattern interrupt and brain stimulant.

24. Positive outlook: Develop a positive perspective on life and focus on the good things.

25. Pet: Having a pet can be calming and provide companionship.

Each of these steps contributes to reducing cortisol and managing stress. Understanding the broader mechanism of stress allows us to turn stress reduction into a lifestyle. By addressing all aspects of stress, we can improve our overall health and well-being.