Stress and Relaxation – effects of cortisol on the body and mind

Hydrocortisone, or cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands and helps us to cope with everyday life from regulating blood sugar levels to keeping our metabolism balanced, helps with immune system as well as influencing blood pressure.

However, cortisol is also know as the ‘stress hormone’ and when we overdo it, our body finds it hard to cope and go into overdrive causing a myriad of problems ; blood sugar levels can be low telling the body to increase its intake of glucose and causing blood sugar imbalances and weight gain, we suffer from mood swings and depression, we find it hard to sleep and because we dont know how to calm down and relax.

When a threat is present we automatically are in high alert (‘fight or flight’) and this requires us to release more stress hormones; the heart beats quicker and harder , breathing is faster and metabolism is stimulated – this is how the body survives. However after the threat has gone, many of us find it hard to activate the body’s relaxation response therefore constantly maintaining a state of alert.

For example, we may switch the TV on ‘standy’ mode but energy is still being used to keep the TV at the ‘stanbdy’ mode. What we need to do is ‘switch off’ the TV , the body and learn to relax the body and the mind.

How to keep Cortisol levels balanced

You don’t have to be a Yoga teacher to know that too much stress can be serious even fatal yet many of us don’t know how to find harmony and balance in life. Fortunately there are several methods to help us restore natural levels of cortisol in the body, have fun and learn to relax. Most of them dont cost a penny but can save your life.

  1. Sing and dance – create a playlist for your favourite tracks, sing along and shake your body – trust me it works!

  2. Take a bubble bath with some lavender oils.

  3. Get some fresh air.

  4. Laugh with your loved ones.

  5. Breathe…properly and Meditate –see  Meditation below

© Sadhana Yoga Pictures




  1. Move! – be that swimming, Pilates, Yoga or hitting those weights – find an exercise that you enjoy that way you will continue with it even get a friend to come with you to motivate each other.

  2. Sleep – restful and undisturbed sleep is essential – try come slow abdominal breathing by placing your hands on your belly and follow the natural rise and fall of the chest and belly to feel that breath and slow down the mind.

  3. Write – buy a journal and write down your thoughts, moods its a private journal so no one but you will see it and its a wonderful way to look back over the years to see what you have achieved

  1. Eat well – levels of cortisol are high in the morning and low in the evening so it is essential that your break your fast well after. Create a food diary so you can see what you have eaten and if your mood affected your appetite – you may be supposed at the results but dont tear yourself up with guilt if you had a chocolate or a whole cake ; it is ok to indulge just not regularly.

Remember when we make mistakes, when we feel upset know that it is normal we are human after all, but through the above techniques we learn to recognize the signs of stress, we are less afraid, and then we give ourselves permission to be accepting of the self and others, breath properly, smile more, laugh lots, love deep and be content.

Sadhana Ali