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Understanding Cortisol and the Impact on Mental Health

Cortisol, often referred to as the "stress hormone," plays a significant role in our body's response to stress. Produced by the adrenal glands, this hormone is essential for various bodily functions, including metabolism, immune response, and blood pressure regulation. However, when cortisol levels become chronically elevated due to ongoing stress, it can have adverse effects on our mental health.

Stress & cortisol
Effects of High Cortisol

So What is Cortisol?

Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands, which are located on top of each kidney. It is released into the bloodstream in response to stress, but it also follows a natural circadian rhythm, with higher levels in the morning and lower levels at night. Cortisol's primary functions include:

1. Stress Response: It helps the body respond to stressful situations, preparing it for a "fight or flight" response.

2. Metabolism Regulation: Cortisol influences the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

3. Blood Pressure Control: It regulates blood pressure by managing the balance of salt and water.

4. Immune System Support:Cortisol helps control inflammation and suppress the immune system during times of stress.

Effects of High Cortisol on Mental Health

Chronic stress and high cortisol levels can have a profound impact on mental health. Here are some of the ways it can affect you:

1. Anxiety and Depression: Elevated cortisol can increase feelings of anxiety and lead to depressive symptoms.

2. Sleep Disturbances: High cortisol levels disrupt sleep patterns, making it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.

3. Cognitive Impairment: Prolonged exposure to cortisol can impair memory and cognitive function.

4. Mood Swings: Mood swings, irritability, and difficulty concentrating can result from imbalanced cortisol levels.

5. Addiction and Cravings: High cortisol may lead to increased cravings for unhealthy foods and substances like sugar, caffeine, and alcohol.

Five Ways to Reduce Cortisol

If you're concerned about the impact of high cortisol on your mental health , here are five natural ways to reduce cortisol levels:

1. Practice Stress-Reduction Techniques: Engage in stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing, or mindfulness to lower cortisol levels.

2. Regular Exercise: Regular physical activity can help reduce stress and lower cortisol levels. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily.

3. Adequate Sleep: Prioritise quality sleep by creating a relaxing bedtime routine and ensuring you get 7-9 hours of sleep each night.

4. Balanced Diet: Consume a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while minimising processed and sugary foods.

5. Social Support: Maintaining strong social connections and seeking support from friends and family can help reduce stress and cortisol levels.

Book an Appointment

If you're struggling with chronic stress or its effects on your mental health, consider booking an appointment Julie Lorente in the Miranda office or by Telehealth. We can provide you with personalised guidance and support to manage your cortisol levels and overall well-being.

*Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is for informational purposes only and should not replace professional mental health advice. Always consult with a healthcare provider for personalised guidance.*


1. Sapolsky, R. M., Romero, L. M., & Munck, A. U. (2000). How do glucocorticoids influence stress responses? Integrating permissive, suppressive, stimulatory, and preparative actions. Endocrine reviews, 21(1), 55-89.

2. Juster, R. P., McEwen, B. S., & Lupien, S. J. (2010). Allostatic load biomarkers of chronic stress and impact on health and cognition. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 35(1), 2-16.

3. Epel, E. S., McEwen, B., Seeman, T., Matthews, K., Castellazzo, G., Brownell, K. D., ... & Ickovics, J. R. (2000). Stress and body shape: stress-induced cortisol secretion is consistently greater among women with central fat. Psychosomatic Medicine, 62(5), 623-632.

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