How to Make Sure Cortisol (a.k.a Stress) Doesn’t Make You Sick

Stress can make you physically sick. Specifically, the hormone that is produced when you are stressed, cortisol.

Yesterday I spent most of the day sick to my stomach. In a can't-leave-my-house, can't-even-keep-down-toast kind of way. In the afternoon I gave up soldiering through and went to the doctor.

She gave me some anti-nausea medication and told me she thought the probable cause was stress.

So, back to cortisol. When there's too much of it, it can cause myriad health issues.

High blood sugar, high blood pressure, weight gain, muscle loss, back, head and stomach (oh, hi!) aches, trouble sleeping, and a suppressed immune system to name just a few of the issues.

If any of this sounds familiar and you think stress is the culprit, here are some simple steps you can take to help you lower your cortisol levels.

1. Get more sleep

Sleep is your best weapon against stress. And while it can be hard to switch off at the end of a busy day, getting into bed and forcing yourself to calm down and get some zzzz will help you lower your cortisol.

Having trouble nodding off? Try this trick to fall asleep in under a minute.

2. Exercise

Exercise is a wonderful stress-buster. It relaxes you, tires you out (see point one), and releases endorphins. If you don't feel like you can handle the high-pressure environment of a highly-coordinated aerobics class, try yoga, or swimming, or even just a long brisk walk outside.

3. Make a playlist

Music can definitely help you lower your stress levels. So next time you have to do something that stresses you out, cue up your favorite tunes and listen while you work. Research shows people in stressful situations who listen to music have a smaller increase in cortisol than those who don't.

4. Hang out with a furry friend

Borrow a friend's dog and take it for a walk. Give your cat a cuddle and tell it all the things that are stressing you out. (Just me?) Study after study has found that pets have magical powers are wonderful stress relievers. They also help people recover from heart attacks faster.

See, magic.

5. Chew gum

Maybe Sean Spicer is onto something? It turns out chewing gum can have an immediate calming effect, and help reduce your stress levels.  So next time you feel them rising, grab some gum.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and if you are feeling overly stressed, and think it's affecting your physical and mental health, you should see a doctor.

In the meantime? Chew some gum while taking a walk around the block with your dog, your favorite playlist, and the promise of a warm soft bed at the other end.

Sounds like heaven.