Cortisol is a steroid hormone made from cholesterol. People often dub it the “stress hormone.”

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When your body feels threatened, your central nervous system (CNS) kicks in to respond, producing a “fight-or-flight” response which helps provide you with energy and keeps you alert. Cortisol also helps regulate metabolism, inflammation, and immune system activity.

While your body typically keeps cortisol within a standard range, chronic stress can lead to high cortisol levels and can increase your risk of developing various health issues like fatigue, anxiety, inflammation, and high blood pressure.

This article offers tips to help you balance your cortisol levels when daily life has you feeling burned out.

Eating a well-balanced diet that includes foods high in fiber, antioxidants, and healthy fats like omega-3s may help your body better handle stress.

A balanced, nutrient-filled diet rich in whole foods may also help lower your risk of developing chronic conditions like heart disease.

The American Heart Association recommends including the following in a healthy diet:

  • vegetables
  • fruits
  • whole grains
  • fish
  • nuts and seeds
  • legumes
  • occasional meat-free meals
  • lean cuts of meat when possible

They also recommend limiting foods high in saturated fats, trans fats, and sodium.

Read more about the signs and symptoms of too much stress.

If your idea of unwinding includes sipping a cup of tea, consider making it green tea. L-theanine is a non-protein amino acid found in green tea.

Health benefits associated with L-theanine include:

  • improved mental health
  • better sleep quality
  • stress relief
  • better cognitive function

If you don’t love the taste of green tea or the prospect of drinking 4 cups to get an effective dose, you can also get L-theanine through dietary supplements.

Read more about eating to reduce stress.

Stress can come from all directions, whether you’re overloaded by work, family responsibilities, or events in the news. And overwhelming situations can impact both your mental and physical health.

Knowing the symptoms of stress can help you recognize when it’s time to take steps to better manage it.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms to watch out for include:

  • changes in appetite
  • difficulty concentrating
  • sleep issues
  • increased consumption of alcohol or drugs
  • feeling frustrated, worried, sad, or angry

If you’re having trouble coping with stress, a licensed professional like a therapist may be able to help you learn effective coping strategies.

Chronic stress can cause inflammation in the body, increasing someone’s risk of developing health problems like diabetes, cancer, asthma, and heart disease.

One way to help reduce inflammation is to eat anti-inflammatory foods, which include foods high in antioxidants. Great foods to try include:

  • olive oil
  • leafy greens
  • nuts
  • fish
  • fruit
  • legumes
  • cocoa
  • fermented foods

Other things that can help reduce inflammation include:

  • getting moderate exercise
  • getting enough sleep
  • avoiding excessive alcohol, drugs, and tobacco use
  • keeping stress levels low

Find out about the benefits of moderate exercise.

Dealing with stress can leave you feeling drained. You may find yourself both emotionally and physically tired.

That could be because stress can affect your sleep. Research has shown that elevated stress levels may make it harder to fall asleep, stay asleep, and get good quality sleep.

When you don’t get enough sleep, you might experience a lack of energy and other symptoms, including:

  • trouble focusing
  • increased risk for disease
  • depression
  • a weakened immune system
  • inflammation
  • impaired motor skills

Reducing stress in your daily life may help improve your ability to get better sleep. Other things you can do to promote sleep include:

  • avoiding too much caffeine
  • limiting screen time before bed
  • creating a calming bedtime routine
  • exercising

Research suggests regular exercise may help you sleep better. It may also help reduce fatigue, stress, and anxiety.

The CDC recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week.

It’s also important to stay hydrated. Research suggests that dehydration can lead to a wide range of health issues, including headaches, trouble thinking clearly, irritability, fatigue, and sleepiness — all of which can make it harder to cope with stress.

Read on for ideas on how to boost your energy levels.

While cortisol is essential for a variety of functions in the body — including regulating the stress response — consistently high cortisol levels due to chronic stress can lead to health issues.

Taking steps to manage your stress levels and maintaining healthy habits like eating a well-balanced diet, exercising, and getting enough sleep, are some things that may help.

If you’re experiencing persistent health issues or chronic stress and nothing seems to help, it may be a good idea to talk with a medical professional about your symptoms.