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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Conn chapter.

It seems like there is a ton of health information constantly being thrown at us on the Internet. If you are someone who is interested in health and wellness, your feed may be full of articles and videos promoting ways to better your physical and mental health. Recently, my TikTok has been overrun by videos on “How to Lower Your Cortisol Levels.” My first thought was: what are my cortisol levels, and why do I need to lower them? On TikTok, people are free to give health advice that can sometimes be untrue, not backed by medical research, or toxic. With that being said, here is what I have discovered in my own research about cortisol levels and how we can manage them.

Disclaimer: The following article is not intended as medical advice. Do not make any major changes to your lifestyle without consulting your doctor first.

What is cortisol?

Cortisol is thought to be our body’s primary stress hormone. According to Cleveland Clinic, it is a steroid hormone released by our adrenal glands to regulate our body during times of high stress. This hormone affects almost all of our organs and tissues, and serves many purposes. Along with regulating our body’s stress, cortisol is responsible for regulating our metabolism, inflammatory response, and immune function.

Our cortisol levels vary throughout the day, and it is perfectly normal for them to be high from time to time — it is our body’s natural response to stress. However, when cortisol levels are consistently higher than normal, our bodies can undergo an array of health issues, such as fatigue, weight gain, high blood pressure, irritability, and more.

Your doctor knows best! Don’t get me wrong, I am as guilty as the next girl in thinking that Google is an adequate substitute for a Ph.D., but it is important to speak to your healthcare provider if you have reason to believe your cortisol levels are irregular — a simple blood, urine, or saliva test can be used to measure this.

How can we manage it?

Along with speaking to your doctor to eliminate any potential underlying health issues, there are thought to be natural ways in which we can lower our cortisol levels. The Mayo Clinic and Healthline offer credible, evidence-based tips on the topic. Here are a few lifestyle changes that I am trying out:

  • Prioritize getting enough sleep.
  • Fuel your body with nutritious foods.
  • Keep a journal.
  • Practice mindful breathing.
  • Focus on low-intensity exercise.
  • Nurture healthy relationships with friends and family.
  • Try certain supplements.
  • Limit caffeine intake.
  • Spend time outdoors.

The bottom line is: stress is a normal part of life that affects us every day. Over time, chronically high cortisol levels can have real health implications. Trying out different strategies to minimize stress and regulate cortisol levels may help you identify what habits make you feel your best, so you can live your life to its full potential!

Annika is a junior at the University of Connecticut studying Communication.